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Builders stand on part of the Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex with the Planetarium to the side and Hornet Bookstore in the background, as work on the complex nears completion in advance of a fall 2019 semester opening. Photo by Andrea Price
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Science Complex remains on target for fall 2019 opening


Dixie Reid

“The new Science Complex will exemplify its theme of ‘science on display’ through the open, glass-rich design that will provide the opportunity for students to see science in action and engage in hands-on experiences.”

Interested in supporting the Science Complex or Planetarium with a gift?

Check here to find out how. csus.edu/giving
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A grassy roof terrace thriving on captured storm water. Low-e window glazing that allows for abundant natural light but repels summer heat. Tables, benches, and lobby walls created from campus trees that were felled for a natural-gas pipeline upgrade. A shady and inviting patio.

These and other “green” features make Sacramento State’s Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex one of the most sustainable buildings under construction in the California State University (CSU) system.

The complex, which opens for classes in fall 2019, surpasses the state’s Title 24 energy code standards by 27.5 percent. It was designed to achieve LEED Gold certification.

“LEED Gold is hard to get in a science lab building that requires so much energy to operate effectively,” says campus project manager Tania Nunez. “Some of the LEED points will come from the design of the exterior precast-panel skin system and window fritting patterns that reduce glare and cooling costs. But much of what we do isn’t as easily visible.”

The 96,631-square-foot building with views of the Guy West Bridge over the American River will put science on display with glass-walled and state-of-the-art biology and chemistry research and teaching labs. Hallways will be airy and light-filled. Two large telescopes will stand permanently beneath a retractable roof in the fifth-floor observatory, and exterior pedestals can hold five smaller telescopes for special nighttime-viewing experiences.

Sacramento State will celebrate the Science Complex’s grand opening Sept. 18 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, guided tours, and demonstrations by student clubs. Visitors will be able to view “science on display” as they pass by the sparkling, glass-walled labs filled with student scientists at work.

Sure to be the heartthrob of the Science Complex is the 2,500-square-foot planetarium nestled in the crook of the five-story main building. It was designed to seat 90 people for “sky shows” and 120 for lectures.

The planetarium, a resource for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, is expected to engage 15,000 schoolchildren and members of the general public annually.

 “The new Science Complex will exemplify its theme of ‘science on display’ through the open, glass-rich design that will provide the opportunity for students to see science in action and engage in hands-on experiences,” says Joanna Mott, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

CSU allocated $71 million for the Science Complex. Sacramento State is tasked with raising $20 million to support applied research spaces and programs. 

The building bears the name of
Tschannen (pronounced “shannon”), the immigrant real estate entrepreneur whose $9 million donation to the project was the largest single gift in Sac State’s 72-year history. Many naming opportunities remain, including the chance to “adopt” a seat in the planetarium – and help to build an endowment – for just $1,000.

Following the groundbreaking in September 2017, construction has continued on time and within budget.

CO Architects teamed with the University and Sundt Construction for a design-build partnership to deliver the Science Complex.  


Dixie Reid


Dixie Reid has been a writer for Sac State since 2012 after decades as a newspaper reporter. A Texas native with the accent to prove it, Dixie is crazy about “dear friends, big dogs, good books, great food, day trips, baking cookies, California sunshine (and fog), and kind people.”