The design of the Powerhouse Science Center includes the rehabilitation of a former PG&E power station. The empty building sits prominently on the banks of the Sacramento River at 400 Jibboom Street and is visible from Interstate 5 and the American River Bike Trail. Once complete, the center will serve as the regional hub for informal science education, exploration and promotion in Northern California. The project is targeting a U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification rating of Gold.
The power station was designed in 1912 in the Beaux Arts style by architect Willis Polk and was formally closed in 1954. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, California Register of Historic Places and the Sacramento Register of Historic & Cultural Resources.
As a premier regional science center, the reuse of Power Station B will celebrate the building’s advances in early 20th century energy production. Consisting of reinforced concrete and steel boiler and turbine rooms, the bipartite layout will house a new multi-level structure that includes the science center entrance, main vertical circulation and supporting services such as toilet rooms and elevators. Inside the large open volumes, a new intermediate floor will be added to increase exhibit space. A basement level will augment where piping and crawl spaces used to exist. Rehabilitation of the significant historic features of the power station will be integrated with distinct but complementary contemporary architecture reflecting current technology.
The project is in the final stages of a $40 million capital campaign. It has received funding from both State and local government, as well as numerous private donations. In April 2011, a California State Parks Nature Education Facilities grant of $7 million was awarded to the Powerhouse Science Center. In December 2011, Aerojet Rocketdyne committed $1.5 million for the new Aerojet Challenger Learning Center. The Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District (SMUD) and Pacific Gas and Electric, Co. (PG&E) are both major sponsors. In May 2014, the Sacramento City Council voted to provide $7 million in support over 20 years, followed by a $6.8 million commitment from Sacramento County. On June 21, 2016, Sacramento City Council approved an additional $850,000 for remediation of existing hazardous materials in and around the historic building.
Interior project renderings by West Office Exhibit Design.