Campus: Sonoma State University -- July 23, 2001

Environmental Technology Center Set to Open Aug. 17 With a "Brain" and a Nod to Ancient Practices

It has a brain.
It uses the sun to save and generate energy
It is a "building that teaches."

Sonoma State University will dedicate its long-awaited Environmental Technology Center on Aug.17 as the $1 million building is officially opened to the public.

This state-of-the-art facility is one of only a handful of buildings in the world designed specifically for the study, research and teaching of sustainable design and environmental technologies. It evolved from an alternative-energy center built on the campus in the 1970s to this 21st century "hands-on" environmental science laboratory and classroom.

The 3 p.m. Friday ceremonies will feature comments by SSU President Dr. Ruben Arminana, U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey and State Secretary of Education Kerri Mazzoni.

Dr. Rocky Rohwedder, an environmental science professor, will provide an overview of the vision for the building as well as the historical development of this state-of-the-art facility.

"By blending together the wisdom of nature with the latest thinking in environmental science and technology, we have designed a building that teaches a simple lesson -- you can build beautiful, functional spaces to live and work that have far less impact on the planet while saving significant amounts of energy and money."

Current ETC director Dr. Alexandra Von Meier, an environmental science professor, will discuss future uses of the building and provide insight into it's importance.

The grand opening will also feature student-led tours of the building, live jazz, food from the adjacent EarthLab organic gardens, and local wines.

The ETC is a 2,200 square-foot building that is outfitted with a building management system that automatically opens and closes windows, adjusts light shelves, shades and venetian blinds to control and utilize natural sources of light and heat.

This allows the ETC to save 80% of the energy that would be used by a typical building that met California energy codes and relied on the use of conventional air-conditioning and heaters.

Facing south and using ancient principles of passive solar design, the structure collects and distributes warm and cold energy through a configuration of concrete walls, rammed earth walls, hot water tubing in
the floor and strategically placed windows.

The objective of the building is to serve as a demonstration center, a teaching space, and a laboratory for researching energy efficient technologies and design. It was designed in a participatory process by SSU faculty, students, and design professionals from Sonoma County and around the country.

Conceived as a "Building That Teaches," the facility illustrates state-of-the-art energy efficiency and environmentally-responsible design made accessible to students, professionals, and the general public.

Many of the construction materials were made from recycled products, such as recycled glass tiles in the bathroom, crushed sunflower seed work counters, recycled plastic lumber among others.

The concrete slab floor is the first of its kind in the U.S. to replace half the usual amount of Portland cement with rice hull ash and flyash, waste products from power plants. Portland cement production is responsible for about %5 of the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Funding for the project amounted to $458,920 from Sonoma State University, $370,650 from the National Science Foundation, $215,000 from the Petroleum Violation Escrow Fund administered through the California Energy Commission, and $12,000 to date from private donations.

Architect for the ETC was George Beeler of AIM Associates. The structure was built by McCarthy Building Companies.

The university is planning regular public tours of the ETC soon. Workshops and seminars with building, design and construction professionals are also being scheduled. For more information on tours and other ETC programs, call (707) 664-2577

Contact information:
Dr. Rocky Rohwedder, Environmental Science professor, (707) 664-2249
Dr. Alexandra von Meier, ETC Director, (707) 664-2430

Digital photos and illustrations of the process of energy conservation within the ETC are available upon request.

A PDF file and other fact sheets can be found at

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