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Environmental science center set to open on time

Emma Garrard / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza / Jim Steinman, trustee and volunteer facility planner for Sierra Nevada College, gives a tour of the college's new Environmental Science Building, scheduled to open on Aug. 21.
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INCLINE VILLAGE – More than 100 laborers and sub-contractors are working overtime – up to 10 hours a day, six days a week – to keep the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences on track to open on Aug. 21.

“Classes are scheduled to start on Aug. 21 at 7:30 a.m.,” said Jim Steinmann, board trustee for Sierra Nevada College and volunteer facility planner for the science center.

The center, a bi-state and multi-university collaboration, is a $33 million project funded by private, state, federal and foundation funding sources.



The 45,000-square-foot facility was designed to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“To my knowledge there are only 13 other buildings in the world to have achieved a LEED platinum rating,” Steinmann said. “We’re pushing the envelope (on environmental design).”




In order to achieve the rating, both the design of the building and the act of its construction must abide by strict guidelines.

“It takes a lot of work to save the earth,” said Steinmann, “and it is a challenge because doing it right is complicated.”

Among the attributes helping the building attain its design rating is its planned use of sunlight.

Windows are arranged to allow maximum light filtration, and the floor plan is designed to reflect as much of the natural light that enters as possible.

Some 900 photovoltaic (solar cell) tiles on the roof are designed to generate 32.5 kilowatts of electricity. More than enough to keep lights on in the building designers said.

Hanging wires and newly framed walls indicate things are starting to come together. On the second floor of the building, a long section of floor space indicates the area where state of the art laboratories will be installed. The laboratories, in keeping with the environmental theme of the center, will be outfitted with resource-saving equipment.

“We will have beakers that hold 20 drops of liquid so that we generate grams of lab waste rather than pounds (like most labs),” said Chuck Levitan, a science teacher at SNC for more than 20 years. “It is good for the earth and saves us a ton of money too.”

Contractors on site are tasked with recycling everything from dry wall and concrete to uprooted rocks and plants as the building takes shape.

Keeping track of the pounds of recyclable material is part of the design requirement and requires constant monitoring, said Elaine Jason, a commitment project coordinator for the building.

“We have to be on them constantly to give us the paperwork,” Jason said. “Some of the material, like the drywall, has to be hauled down to Sacramento for recycling since there is no closer facility.”

In addition to Sierra Nevada College, the building will provide a facility for the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, the Desert Research Institute (DRI), the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), Carnegie Mellon University and the RAND Corporation, among other research partners.

Of notable importance to these academic institutions is the design’s emphasis on common space.

“We want to create a community where the various researchers are forced to talk and interact,” Steinmann said.


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