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Highest Level of Green

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A tour of the new Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences (TCES) in Incline Village yields two lessons: one on what’s good for the earth, another on what’s healthful for humans. Fresh air circulates through classrooms and labs, water left to chill outside at night cools the interior on hot summer afternoons, and natural light glows in the halls and the high-ceilinged main atrium. Meanwhile, out of sight, solar tiles on the roof provide $22,000 of electricity each year, insulation made from recycled blue jeans holds warmth in the winter, and low-flow water fixtures – as well as toilets filled with captured rain and snowmelt – reduce the building’s water demand by 65 percent.

'You can actually feel the benefit of the building when you’re in it,' said Phil Jordan, a docent in the new center.

On July 25, Sierra Nevada College and the University of California, Davis, announced that their new laboratory, classroom, and interactive science museum has qualified for a 'LEED Platinum' certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. 'LEED' stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. There are five tiers of recognition available under the LEED program. Of them, a Platinum certificate requires the firmest commitment to environmentally sustainable building design.

To receive a Platinum certification, the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences needed to earn at least 52 'credits' in five key areas of human and environmental health. Those areas consisted of: sustainable site development, water and energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

The builder, Turner Construction of Sacramento, minimized environmental impacts during construction by recycling 85 percent of the construction waste and by putting any disturbed soil and rocks back into the landscaping and design of the building. Trees removed from the construction area were milled on-site and the wood was used for construction.
Recycled materials from farther afield also became part of TCES. The veneer in the building began its life in commercial walnut groves, and the outdoor walkways consist of TREX – a durable substance made of recycled plastic grocery bags, reclaimed wood, sawdust, and stretch wrap.

To supply 10 percent of the building’s electricity, Integrated Design Associates of San Jose installed 875 solar panels burly enough to withstand the heavy snow loads of Tahoe winters; but TCES also requires less energy in the first place. For example, a heat exchange system harnesses warmth escaping from the roof of the building and uses it to pre-heat domestic water in the basement. On the whole, TCES requires 60 percent less electricity than comparable buildings in similar climates.

In addition to the low-flow faucets and rainwater-filled toilets, TCES designers conserved water by landscaping entirely with native plants that don’t need to be watered.

TCES officially opened on October 14, 2006, and is located on the Sierra Nevada College campus. Sierra Nevada College and U.C. Davis co-own the building. The Desert Research Institute and the University of Nevada, Reno, lease office space inside it.

'We envision the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences building as a blueprint for future projects,' said Sierra Nevada College project manager and former trustee Jim Steinmann.

Sierra Nevada College offers tours of the green features of the building every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. 775-881-7566

 
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August 9, 2018