New "Resnick Sustainability Resource Center" Taking Shape

Mead Laboratory to be Demolished

By Snigdha Saha | Published 02/04/2021
New "Resnick Sustainability Resource Center" Taking Shape
A rendering of the new laboratory building (Caltech)

In September 2019, Stewart and Lynda Resnick pledged $750 million to Caltech to further environmental sustainability research. This donation enabled plans for a new 75,000-square-foot building on campus, dubbed the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center. On October 27th, a report to the Pasadena Design commission brought to light further details regarding its construction.

According to the report, the building will be on the east side of S. Wilson Avenue, between Del Mar Boulevard and San Pasqual Street, overlapping with the current Mead Laboratory, which will be demolished to accommodate the new building. The new building is slated to be 3 stories tall, with a basement.

The Resnicks own The Wonderful Company, which markets Fiji Water and POM Wonderful in addition to pistachios, tangerines, wine, and the mail-order flowers service Teleflora. The Resnicks are also known for their philanthropic ventures, and have been contributors to Caltech since their 2009 donation of $20 million which helped start the Resnick Sustainability Institute (RSI).

While the design is in progress, there is a focus on maintaining unity with the surrounding buildings and aligning with Caltech’s mission of “building into the future using the wisdom of the past”.

The building itself is meant to address the four goals of Caltech’s environmental research: sunlight, climate, water, and ecology. The building will be unique, in that it will not be affiliated with a particular academic division. Staff will meet and work in a unified manner through shared labs. Since no one division oversees the building, it will fall under Provost and Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering David A. Tirrell.

Professor Tirrell says that Caltech has “never designed a building with this concept in mind”. There are also plans for a “translational science facility”, to provide “translation from the academic community into the outer world” by hosting live demonstrations open to the public.

The building will also have new teaching laboratories, and Ch 3 ax, the institute’s introductory Chemistry lab will be held there as well. Until construction is complete, Caltech’s faculty is looking at building temporary laboratories to accommodate the classes currently held in Mead. With the new building and its modern facilities, Professor Tirrell hopes that the RSI will serve as an “inspiration to our own students” and that every student will be involved with sustainability from their first day on campus.

Currently, Caltech researchers in the RSI are looking at several issues in the four spheres of environment and sustainability (as mentioned above), but there is a large focus on the “sunlight to everything” problem; researchers are looking for ways to use sunlight to replace fossil fuels and also to act as a “source of new chemicals”, as Professor Tirrell says.

The RSI is also deeply integrated with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and its earth science program, with research interests in satellites monitoring environmental changes, monitoring how aquifers change, how irrigation methods can be made more efficient, and so on. The Resnick Sustainability Resource Center is intended to amplify these efforts from Caltech and JPL, benefitting both institutions and the world as a whole.

Corrections: The original version of this article listed Mr. Resnick's name as Steve. His name is Stewart. Additionally, the building will be a "translational science facility," not a "translational science society," as was originally stated.

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