At Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, green doesn’t simply mean the forest where this top-notch liberal arts facility is located. Green is a calling — an ideology — and it is shared by not only the college, but also its business partners. Indeed, they all see the green technology incorporated in the new Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences as the embodiment of an auspicious alliance.
With a student body of close to 300 undergraduates, the school has embarked on a historical partnership with the University of California, Davis, including a collaborative effort with the Desert Research Institute and the University of Nevada, Reno. The union of these entities provides a platform for scientific research to better understand alpine lakes and the preservation of the environmental quality of these important resources — think Lake Tahoe.
According to an executive summary provided by SNC, the facility also will offer 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.
Borne from the earth
Constructed at $27 million and containing 45,000 square feet, the building is a mind-boggling structure utilizing the newest concepts in green technology. It is constructed of concrete and steel, wood and stone.
The landscaping utilizes native plants as well as all of the rocks and soil excavated from the site. The result of this? No irrigation will be required to keep the plants healthy. All of the trees removed from the building’s footprint were milled on site by a local Incline Village firm, Sierra Woodworking.
Sierra works regularly with natural soft and hard woods. According to Ron Kmetovicz, who worked on the project for Sierra, the 13,000 linear feet of native pine and fir that formerly grew here now graces both the interior and the exterior of the TCES. “It’s incredible,” he says. “When you look at the building, the wood used in it is the same wood that once grew there.”
Some of the innovative practices incorporated within the structure include a gray water system used to collect water from rainfall and snowmelt. The water is sterilized by means of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and recycled for use in the building’s toilets, reducing sewage conveyance by more than 50 percent.
Water warmed both in a co-generator and in the boiler combine to heat tubing embedded within the cement floor, while solar panels collect the sun’s rays for additional heating. Thermal water tanks sitting on the roof at night cool thousands of gallons of water, which in turn are used to chill the interior.
LEED-ing the way
Working closely with Carnegie Mellon and other partners in the design of TCES, college trustees decided to strive to achieve Platinum certification — the highest of three standards — from the United States Green Building Council. The rating system is known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
To date, TCES is only one of 13 buildings in the U.S. to achieve Platinum status. Recently, state officials gave the final go-ahead to a measure that provides tax abatements of up to 50 percent for green buildings in Nevada meeting LEED certification standards.
SNC interim president Larry Large credits Turner Construction, U.C Davis and architects Lundahl & Associates, among others, for bringing the project in on time and under budget. Large said construction began in May 2005 and was completed in August 2006.
“The mission of the building is all about sustainability,” he says. “It would be a complete gaffe not to align it with the green movement. This kind of construction with this kind of purpose will assure public accountability. We’ve reached a tipping point where the public expects corporate America and government to advocate and execute favorable environmental policies.
“This is a leadership opportunity by example … The old bromide says, ‘Let’s make a difference.’ And we have a chance to do that.”
Richard Rubsamen, chief financial officer for the school, says the design phase was complete more than two years ago. “Davis is a 42 percent owner of the building,” he says. “It’s on a separate parcel, but part of the 20-acre campus. TCES sits on 1.4 acres. Eventually, it will cover 400,000 square feet, but an additional $30 million to $50 million is needed.”
Clifford Kunkel, Turner Construction Co.’s project executive, says his role was to ensure delivery of the building, making sure it met or exceeded the expectations of the college.
“This building represents what is possible if the client, designer and the builder truly believe in the green building concept; it is state-of-the-art with respect to sustainable, green construction.”
With palpable enthusiasm, Large says: “We will have visitors of the highest rank examining this building. It will be scrutinized by very sharp minds; we’ve established a baseline. We’re excited as a demo project; we’re equally excited about what it means to our educational conquest. This kind of collaboration is a win-win.”
|© Copyright Reno Gazette-Journal, a Gannett Co. Inc. Newspaper.