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 building itself is an award-winning certified platinum LEED showcase, open to the public.
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.
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 44% of the facility for TERC’s laboratories and offices and for the Tahoe Science Center. The laboratory and classroom facilities available to Sierra Nevada College allowed it to increase its undergraduate enrollment substantially.
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 worked 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 (www.usgbc.org). 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.
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, the first platinum LEED certified laboratory building in the country, is nationally recognized as a high-performance structure, demonstrating building technology, design and construction of the future.