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Sierra Nevada College TCES

Site characteristics or focus during construction or remodel: 

The Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences (TCES) is built on the lake campus of Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village. It is a distinctive partnership between Sierra Nevada College and UC Davis, in collaboration with the Desert Research Institute and the University of Nevada at Reno. It provides a world-class center for scientific research in the understanding of alpine lakes and the preservation of the environmental quality of such important resources. 

The facility will also provide an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to associate with and study under some of the leading scientists in the fields of environmental science and environmental policy. In addition, it is intended that this research facility— through the use of interactive exhibits—will become a resource for the members of the Lake Tahoe communities. 

Sierra Nevada College’s Trustees decided to pursue Platinum LEED certification for the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences. This building will be the 14th Platinum certified building in the country, and will be the only Platinum building in the world to function as a working laboratory and classroom. 

Because of the synergistic environment in the center and the environmentally friendly quality of the structure, the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences will be the most important venue in the world for the study and development of solutions for the problems created by developmental pressures on fragile ecosystems. 

Because Incline Village gets 300 days of sunshine a year, the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences includes features that maximize solar energy as well as other energy saving and efficient features, including an apparatus to collect rain and snow-melt for use in toilets, a thermal water tank, a co-generator, and many others. 

One of the challenges of locating a building in the Tahoe area is the high snow loads that impact building design and construction and what can be placed on the roof. Many solar systems are not able to withstand Tahoe’s 280 pounds per square foot snow load requirement. The TCES was able to find a roof tile solar PV company (Open Energy) that has a solar PV roofing tile that will withstand the high snow loads and produce ample solar electricity. 

Building Construction Type: 

TCES is built using concrete, steel, and wood (milled on-site). 

Site Use and Protection Measures Before & During Construction (LEED Cat I): 

Sierra Nevada College has currently identified 57 LEED points of the 52 needed for Platinum status. The construction site is located next to a Tahoe Area Rapid Transit regularly scheduled bus route, with a bus stop directly across the street from campus at two different locations. The Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences includes bike racks, showers and lockers for those who wish to bike to the center. SNC has designated dedicated carpool parking spaces and already has a carpool policy in place. SNC has demonstrated that 50% of the site area does not fall within the building footprint and has been restored by natural vegetation. It has certified that the open spaces will be conserved for the life of the structure. Additionally, the college has calculated that there will be no net-increase in storm water management issues and exterior lights on the outside of the building have been designed to mitigate light pollution. 

Outdoor & Indoor Water Efficiency Measures in Project (LEED Cat II): 

The landscaping around the center utilizes native plants. All rocks and earth moved for building footprint are utilized in the landscaping. As a result, no irrigation is required. All trees removed from the building footprint and cleared for fire protection were milled onsite and used in construction. The graywater system that is installed in the center collects water captured from rainfall and snowmelt, sterilizes the water using ultraviolet rays from the sun, and utilizes it in the toilets. SNC calculates that this system will reduce sewage conveyance by more than 50%. SNC also installed water efficient fixtures and faucets that will reduce water consumption by 20%. 

Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Measures Used in Project (LEED Cat III): 

The TCES has a certificate from Sterling Planet that certifies its Solar Photovoltaic (PV) renewable energy production over the life of the system. We have also installed a compressed natural gas (CNG) pump located behind the structure. UC Davis and Sierra Nevada College will utilize CNG vehicles, which are clean burning and emit less harmful emissions. The vehicles will reduce output of our carbon monoxide and particulate matter by 90% and our nitrogen oxide output by 50%. 

Space & Water Heating Systems: 

TCES has a co-generator that recovers heat from exhaust to heat the building. It is estimated that the co-generator cuts our carbon impact of our electricity by two-thirds. The center also has radiant heating concentrated in the floor. Water heated from the co-generator and the boiler flow through special tubing embedded in the floor warming the concrete around it and the rest of the building. 

Thermal water tanks have also been installed on the roof with a primary function of cooling water. Each tank holds 10,000gallons of water that is chilled at night from the outside temperatures alone. Radiant panels are located throughout the ceilings of the center. 

Passive and Active Solar Features: 

The TCES has a 31.5 kilowatt Solar Photovoltaic (PV) system composed of 900 SolarSave PV roof tiles built into the center’s roofing system. There are nine Open Energy 3,500 watt inverters to complement the system. The system is expected to produce 4,400 kWhs per month for the building. The center has also installed light shelves on the south-facing side of the building that reflect sunlight into the building with a reach of up to thirty feet. Light shelves are one of the most energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies that cut down on the building’s consumption of electricity. Additionally, the center has installed a pre-water heater tank on the roof to heat water using sunlight. 

Green Materials & Green Measures Implemented in Project (LEED Cat IV): 

The TCES uses blue jean insulation that is an example of a recycled product that would otherwise be waste. SNC also utilized Trex material for exterior walkways. Trex is comprised of recycled plastic grocery bags, stretch film, reclaimed wood, and sawdust. 

Indoor Environmental Considerations Used in Project (LEED Cat V): 

Venting towers recycle the air blown through the heat recovery units on the roof throughout the building. This technology significantly reduces electrical consumption. 

Subjective Evaluation/ Design Considerations: How well has the structure achieved its design goals? What would be done differently the next time? 

Sierra Nevada College set out to build the most green and energy efficient laboratory and classroom facility in the US. They are thus far very pleased with the results. 

Date of construction or completion: 

August 21, 2006. Grand Opening Celebration scheduled for Saturday, October 14, 2006. 

PROFILE PROJECT: Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences 

OWNERS: Sierra Nevada College, majority owner, UC Davis, minority owner. Building tenants include the Desert Research Institute and University of Nevada, Reno. 

SIZE: 45,000 sq. ft. 

DESIGNER: Lundahl and Associates 

DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: August 2005 through August 2006 

BUILDER: Turner Construction 

Tags: New Construction
Passive Solar
Solar Photovoltaic
Water Conservation

Mail can be sent to: SiGBA P.O. Box 4245 Truckee, CA 96160

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