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Governor on Hand as Caltech Breaks Ground on New Sustainability Center

New construction built on $750 million donation from philanthropist Stewart Resnick

Published on Thursday, May 5, 2022 | 6:12 am

Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo, Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum, philanthropists Stewart and Lynda Resnick, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Caltech Provost David Tirrell and RSI director Jonas Peters, Bren Professor of Chemistry break ground on the Resnick Sustainability Center on Wednesday, May 5, 2022. [Photo courtesy of Caltech]
California Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday sang the praises of Caltech and the state of California while Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo went further and asserted his oft-repeated refrain that “Pasadena is the center of the universe,” as both helped break ground for Caltech’s new Resnick Sustainability Center.

Said Gordo, “I’ve often said, ‘If you want to learn about the universe, you go to Caltech. And if you want to explore the universe, you go to JPL.’ That’s why Pasadena is the center of the universe.”

Expanding on Gordo’s theme, Newsom said that “California has more scientists, more researchers, more Nobel laureates, venture capital, patents, than any place on the globe.”

“This is a remarkable place — this conveyor belt for talent,” said Newsom. “Caltech is a dominant part of that. Thank you, all of you, for being part not just of this moment but all the moments that created the institution.”

Newsom and Gordo were among several speakers at the ceremony, along with Caltech President Thomas Rosenbaum, Caltech Provost David Tirrell and billionaire philanthropist Stewart Resnick.

The 79,500-square-foot project, on the western edge of the Caltech campus, was made possible by a $750 million pledge from the Resnicks to Caltech. The 2019 gift is the largest in the Institute’s history and among the largest ever for environmental sustainability research.

“For Lynda and me, this is an incredibly significant investment,” said Resnick, speaking on behalf of himself and his wife. Together, the couple own The Wonderful Company.

“Caltech has always been a place where we humans turn in moments of extreme vulnerability for reassurance when the ground moves under our feet—to help us comprehend terrible scenes of fire and drought here in the west,” resnick said. “We put our faith and the entirety of our support into the brilliant minds at Caltech. The achievements that will emerge from this sustainability institute, housed in what will be this world-class center, will help make our world safer, more healthy, more sustainable, and a better home for generations to come.

When completed in 2024, the Resnick Sustainability Center will open new figurative portals to sustainability in the realms of research, education, and societal impact, according to Caltech.

According to Caltech, the future Resnick Sustainability Center will provide equipment, space and resources divided among several research centers that support the core initiatives of RSI; house a science and engineering facility that will provide enough space to scale up and test early-stage technologies for potential translational impact and a solar roof, where photovoltaic devices can be tested under real-world conditions; and act as home to all of Caltech’s undergraduate chemistry labs.

The new center is expected to also provide faculty and students across campus with access to state-of-the-art instrumentation and technologies to advance environmental solutions, according to Caltech.

“Caltech is exploring new avenues in sustainability research and education that we couldn’t imagine a few years ago,” said Tirrell. “The Resnick Sustainability Center will be a magnet for scientists and engineers — including students who will be the scientists and engineers of the future — who want to solve some of the planet’s most pressing problems.”

The future Resnick Sustainability Center, which will serve as the physical hub for the Institute’s sustainability initiatives, was designed by the Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign and will incorporate a variety of sustainable materials and features, putting it on track to earn LEED platinum certification, the highest level of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system.

Rather than housing the offices and labs of individual faculty members, the new building will provide specialized equipment, space, dedicated staff members, and resources that will be accessible to research groups and innovators across Caltech. Dedicated research facilities and instrumentation have also been designed to support the core initiatives of RSI: Sunlight to Everything, Climate Science, Ecology and Biosphere Engineering, and Water Resources.

For instance, the center will house a translational science and engineering facility that will provide agile space to scale up and test early-stage technologies for potential translational impact, as well as a solar roof, where photovoltaic devices can be tested under real-world conditions.

“Caltech’s outsized impact derives from its small and hence intimate environment, our remarkable students and faculty, and access to extraordinary facilities run by brilliant research staff. The Resnick Sustainability Center brings these key ingredients together under one roof, laser-focused on developing technologies that will address the challenges of climate change and stewardship of our precious resources,” said RSI director Jonas Peters, Bren Professor of Chemistry.

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