I had a friend at college whose house was so enormous that his parents bought a photocopier just because they didn’t have enough furniture to fill all the rooms. So, in their eyes at least, the only solution to having too many rooms is not to move to a smaller house, but to dedicate a room the act of photocopying, which is, of course, a much-needed task in a domestic setting.
What is the moral of this story? Well, it’s that with all things considered, and when one thing boils down to another, some buildings are just absolutely fucking massive. But even my old friend’s house pales into insignificance compared to the Vehicle Assembly Building of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
NASA’s VAB: wow, you could fit at least three photocopiers in there
Constructed during the Apollo space program and completed in 1966, the VAB is the world’s largest single-storey building. So despite standing an impressive 160m tall—that’s 64m taller than London’s Big Ben clocktower—this skyscraper isn’t divided into floors, but is just one really big hollow concrete box. And by really big, I mean REALLY big.
The VAB covers eight acres, and there’s 3.6 million cubic metres of space inside of it—a million cubic metres more than the Great Pyramid of Giza. Or, to put another way, if you were to fill the Empire State Building with water, you’d be able to empty it into the VAB three times and still have room left over.
Its outer walls needed 6,000 gallons of paint to cover them, on top of which is displayed the world’s largest American flag: an immense 64 × 33½ metre stars and stripes, so large that the blue portion alone is about the size of a basketball court.
Yes, this thing is huge. So huge, in fact, that there’s one more eye-popping fact to add to this list: inside its colossal walls, the VAB produces its own weather.
One of the problems with being a big hollow box in the middle of the Florida sunshine is that the air inside of the VAB gets extremely hot and humid—to the extent that rainclouds often form just below the ceiling.
So to offset the risk of it, y’know, raining indoors, the VAB has a special moisture-reducing air-con system in place that’s apparently so powerful, it only takes about an hour to replace all of the air in the room. And not even my college friend’s house had one of those.