The Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences (TCES) is a distinctive partnership between public and private institutions of higher education in two states.  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 provides 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 research stations, will be a resource for the members of the Lake Tahoe communities.

Because of the synergistic environment that is being created, and the environmentally friendly quality of the structure, the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences is one of the most important venues in the world for the study and development of solutions for the problems created by developmental pressures on fragile ecosystems.

Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe straddles the state line between California and Nevada. The Lake is located 6223 feet above sea level on 193 square miles and is the largest alpine lake in North America.

Sierra Nevada College

Sierra Nevada College (SNC) is a small liberal arts college located in Incline Village, Nevada on the northeast shore of Lake Tahoe. Several years ago, the institution began building a new campus on 20 acres of forest land in the heart of Incline Village. This new campus provides dormitory facilities, classrooms, and the state-of-the-art Prim Library and Learning Resource Center for a current undergraduate population of 320 students. Major academic programs include Business Management, Computer Science, Environmental Sciences, Fine Arts, Humanities and Psychology. The institution is also a pioneer in cross-disciplinary studies that include Entrepreneurship and Entertainment Technology.

Following the opening of Prim Library in 2004, the next phase of the Campus Plan was to build a science facility. The Desert Research Institute (DRI – the research arm of the University of Nevada system) and the Academy for the Environment at the University of Nevada, Reno became strategic partners and lessee of space in the facility.

Partnership with UC Davis

The University of California at Davis has conducted research at Lake Tahoe for the past 45 years, commencing with the pioneering work of Dr. Charles Goldman. Most of the current policies of conserving and improving the water quality of Lake Tahoe are based on its extensive research and analysis. In 2003, UC Davis completed a fund-raising drive for the construction of a critically needed new laboratory for the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC). However, the university was faced with substantial challenges in finding a location at the lake for a facility.

In 2004, representatives of Sierra Nevada College approached the administration at UC Davis with a proposal that they join in an interstate, cross-institution partnership and locate their new laboratories in a 45,000 square-foot science facility to be built on the SNC campus. After considerable negotiations involving both institutions and the University Of California Board Of Regents, a Memorandum of Understanding was approved. This memorandum provided for UC Davis to become an equity member in the facility to be known as the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences.  It also stipulated that university personnel would utilize approximately 40% of the facility for TERC’s laboratories and offices and for the Thomas J. Long Foundation Education Center.

Laboratory and classroom facilities available to Sierra Nevada College allow it to increase its undergraduate enrollment substantially. Recently, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (part of UC San Diego) and the University of Nevada at Reno have expressed interest in participating in the TCES.

Platinum Rated Green Building

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), in cooperation with the National Science Foundation, maintains a Center for Building Performance. It also organized a university/ industry/government partnership in 1988 called the Advanced Building Systems Integration Consortium (ABSIC). Its members are prominent leaders in the creation of high-performance buildings, utilizing principles of renewable energy sources, sustainable materials, and integrated systems to promote high performance “green” buildings.

As a member of the ABSIC Consortium, Sierra Nevada College has been working closely with Carnegie Mellon and other partners in the design of the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences. In early 2005, the Trustees of the college decided to work to achieve a Platinum certification for the building from the U.S. Green Building Council ( The rating and certification system established by the Council is known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and the “green” construction standards are the first independent national standards of their kind. Ratings range from Certified, to Silver, Gold and Platinum. To date, only thirteen buildings in the United States have achieved the Platinum status. None of these buildings are a laboratory facility.

Recognizing the significance of having the Tahoe Center for Environmental Science become a Platinum building, a major donor stepped forward and agreed to fund a portion of the additional steps required for Platinum Certification. The TCES facility is nationally recognized as a high-performance structure, demonstrating building technology, design and construction of the future.