Sac State’s Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex and Planetarium Closer to Completion

CO Architects’ Energy-Efficient, Light-Filled Facility Offers New Teaching and Research Labs


The Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex at Sac State, designed by CO Architects, will feature a planetarium with a 2,500-square-foot dome to offer a high-tech environment for students to learn about astronomy and the night sky. Renderings: CO Architects. Click here for high-resolution images.

LOS ANGELES: The 96,631-square-foot Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex at California State University, Sacramento (Sac State), designed by Los Angeles-based CO Architects, had its ceremonial topping out event recently. The new five-story, $91.5-million building will feature a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, light-filled science facility providing teaching and research laboratories for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Set on the banks of the American River, the facility will provide indoor and outdoor student collaboration spaces and terraces, as well as teaching and research laboratories, learning studios, classrooms, a roof-top observatory, and a 120-seat planetarium. The Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex will be the university’s first new academic building in nearly 15 years, and is slated for completion in June 2019.

The new complex is located on the perimeter of the campus with State University Drive immediately facing east and bordering the site. It anchors and defines an unused edge of the campus within the university’s science and engineering precinct. “The building will become an important part of Sac State’s first impression upon visitors when they arrive in a car, on a bicycle, or by foot,” said James Simeo, AIA, LEED AP, Principal at CO Architects.

CO Architects’ façade design pays homage to the nearby American River; the concept relates to the rippling effect created when a stone is thrown into water. The location of the planetarium at the building’s inward inflection point represents the stone’s impact in the river, while the patterned window system radiates outward to emulate the ripples formed. Polished, dark concrete and spandrel glass, along with vertical and horizontal concrete bands and metal sunshades, additionally signify elements of nature.

Instructional laboratories will have large expanses of glass adjacent to public corridors in order to promote “science on display” and connect students and faculty. These corridors branch out toward the east and west from central lobbies on each floor. Filled with natural light during the day, and a soft glow at night, the open lobbies will act as the heart of the building, where students can collaborate and study in specially designed spaces. An observatory accessible from the building’s rooftop will feature a retractable roof and two telescopes to serve as a location for viewing the cosmos. The planetarium has a 2,500-square-foot dome offering a high-tech environment for students to learn about astronomy and the night sky.

The integrated landscape, featuring a man-made earth berm and native plantings, will provide opportunities for biologists and botanists to experiment and teach outside their labs. An outdoor plaza will offer shade for gathering, studying, and resting. A green roof will be accessible from a continuous ramp and stairs. This new campus public space will complement the newly expanded Student Union across from the science complex and create synergies as a campus activity node.

Targeting LEED Gold certification, the building’s shape and north-south orientation will minimize solar heat gain, increase energy efficiency, and reduce cost. Roof drains and site pavements draining to water-control devices—bioswales and green roofs—will reduce the volume of on-site runoff by 25 percent. Shading strategies, reflective roof finishes, thermal-bridging, and interior LED lighting will resist transferring heat to the building.

CO Architects collaborated with general contractor Sundt Construction, in a large-scale design-build procurement process, to track costs and optimize client value throughout the programming and design phases. This partnership influenced various ideas and decisions in the early planning stages to minimize risk for the university, while maximizing the project’s functional and aesthetic value.

CO Architects is responsible for the architecture, interior design, programming, and lab planning. In addition to Sundt Construction, the project team includes P2S Inc. (MEP engineer), Buehler & Buehler Structural Engineers (structural engineer), Cunningham Engineering (civil engineer and landscape architecture), KGM Architectural Lighting (lighting), Mei Wu Acoustics (acoustical), CPP (wind engineering and air quality), Lerch Bates (vertical transportation), Atelier Ten (energy and environmental design consultant), and Jensen Hughes (code consulting).

Los Angeles-based CO Architects is nationally recognized for architectural planning, programming, and design in the higher education, science and technology, and healthcare sectors, and works with leading institutions from coast to coast. CO Architects’ specialized expertise includes transformative schools of medicine and health professions, advanced research and teaching laboratories, and innovative clinical facilities on higher education, healthcare, and urban campuses. CO Architects is the recipient of the American Institute of Architects, California Council’s prestigious 2014 California Architecture Firm of the Year Award.