The Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex is one of three Sacramento State buildings and programs that have received sustainability awards in 2020 from the California Energy-Efficiency and Sustainability Conference. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)
By Dixie Reid
Students are taking a determined role to help Sacramento State achieve full carbon neutrality by 2040 – five years ahead of California’s deadline – and their efforts are tops among the state’s colleges and universities.
Sacramento State’s inaugural Student Climate Change Summit, held April 19 at the University Union, has won the award for Best Practice in Student Sustainability from the 2020 California Higher Education Energy-Efficiency and Sustainability Conference (CHESC).
It’s one of three sustainability awards Sac State received at CHESC, presented virtually July 6-10 from UC Santa Barbara.
More than 250 university and college students from throughout the Sacramento region attended Sac State’s Student Climate Change Summit, an offshoot of the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change and the Univerisity’s official 2019 Earth Day event.
The commission is a joint initiative by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, both of whom spoke at the summit.
“The summit was held during the day on a Wednesday, so it’s incredible that so many students took time from school, work, and their families to attend,” said Rachael Dal Porto, who organized the event with fellow Sac State student Moiz Mir. “It really speaks to the intensity of this issue and how much students care to have their voices heard.
“We are aware of the climate crisis and the very limited timeline we are on, so it’s important that we act and that we hold those in power accountable,” she added.
Sac State also won a 2020 CHESC best-practice award for the overall sustainable design of the Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex, and the sustainable-transportation award for Parking Structure 5 (PS5).
The $91 million Science Complex, which opened in August 2019 and is certified LEED Gold, features state-of-the-art labs, low-flow water fixtures, a living roof to control stormwater runoff, divider walls fashioned from fallen campus trees, additional wood harvested from responsibly managed forests, and indoor LED lighting that dims automatically as natural light increases.
PS5 has the University’s first tire-inflation station, a bike compound for 100 two-wheelers, 54 electric-vehicle charging stations, carpool/clean-air vehicle spaces on multiple floors, and the infrastructure for photovoltaic solar array.
The built-in occupancy-sensor system alerts drivers to the number of available parking spaces via a signboard along Arboretum Way and on the Sac State app. Inside the structure, overhead LED lights indicate open and filled parking spots ahead. Students no longer circle, looking for a sometimes elusive parking space, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
The $42 million structure opened in May 2018. In March 2020, it became more than just a place to park vehicles.
After Sac State moved all instruction online and closed most campus buildings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Division of Information Resources and Technology (IRT) sprang into action to convert PS5 into a drive-in wifi “hot spot” for students needing reliable internet service.
“Both PS5 and the Tschannen Science Complex are exceptional projects that were designed to support student success, first and foremost, while also prioritizing sustainable solutions and minimizing environmental impact,” said Jonathan Bowman, vice president for Administration and Business Affairs.
“Sacramento State’s deeply rooted commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship is exemplified by the awards bestowed to us by CHESC.”
CHESC each year brings together the CSU, the University of California, California’s Community Colleges, and private and independent colleges throughout the state, to share best practices.
The conference highlights cutting-edge research, successful curriculum development, operational programs, and community partnerships.
In 2019, Sacramento State won two CHESC awards: for the waste reduction program at the Bioconversion and Agricultural Collaborative (BAC Yard) and for leveraging student research to reduce campus water usage by replacing manual faucets with automatic infrared types, which saves 1.2 million gallons annually.