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Design Commission to Review Caltech’s Plans for New 75,000 Square Foot, 3-Story Sustainability Resource Center

Published on Monday, October 26, 2020 | 4:53 am
The proposed Resnick Sustainability Resource Center planned for the Caltech campus. (Rendering courtesy Caltech)

The city Design Commission on Tuesday will hear a preliminary report on construction of the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center, a 75,000 square foot, three-story structure planned for construction on the Caltech campus.

The building is a byproduct of a $750 million pledge to Caltech by Lynda and Stewart, owners of the Wonderful Company, to support research into the most pressing challenges in environmental sustainability, according to Caltech. The building is set for construction on the east side of South Wilson Avenue, between Del Mar Boulevard and San Pasqual Street.

The commitment will also establish a permanent endowment to support the work of investigators across Caltech’s academic divisions and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which Caltech manages for NASA, in four core research initiatives focused on pressing issues. These initiatives include the development of efficient solar fuels and a smart electricity infrastructure; measurement, modeling, and potential mitigation of climate change; the effective management of water resources; and the creation of ways to improve soil fertility in a changing climate.

The Resnick Sustainability Resource Center is intended to amplify and expand the efforts of the Resnick Sustainability Institute (RSI), established at Caltech in 2009 with a gift from the Resnicks and a matching gift from Gordon and Betty Moore.

The meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

According to the Caltech Master Plan, buildings north of the San Pasqual alignment should be designed in accordance with the principles that have made the campus successful.

“These principles do not imply architectural monotony, but rather an active engagement with the present,” according to a staff report included in the Design Commission’s agenda. “That is, after all, Caltech’s mission — to be building into the future using the wisdom of the past.”

In the spirit of this mission, the report continues, “buildings should be designed as imaginative architectural visions, whether contemporary in design or reminiscent of the original buildings. However, they should also be designed as part of a larger whole to be interconnected with hardscape or landscape bordered courtyards, paths, and open spaces.”

The report includes several potential design issues and calls for

continued efforts to study ways to further accentuate the building entries, exploring ways to unify the building with the character of surrounding buildings, while retaining the unique expression and sustainability features that relate to the activities that will take place within it.

According to the city staff report, 16 trees would need to be removed. The report did not say if the trees are protected by city law.

The report calls for a tree inventory that accurately and clearly indicates the species and size of all trees in the vicinity of the construction site. Private tree removal permits may be required if any trees proposed to be removed are protected by the city’s Tree Protection Ordinance.

Any protected trees proposed to be retained in the vicinity of the construction site will also require a Tree Protection Plan to identify protection measures to be installed prior to and during construction and ensure compliance with the city’s tree protection requirements.

The report also looks at refining the building’s loading and receiving area to ensure it is visually screened from street view and as integrated as possible into the overall design character of the building.

To view the meeting, visit

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