03/09/2010 08:00:00

Adaptable, New Building is Catalyst for Discovery

Caltech Opens the Schlinger Laboratory for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

To facilitate the ever-evolving advancements in the chemical field today, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is opening the new Warren and Katharine Schlinger Laboratory for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

The state-of-the-art, sustainable Schlinger Laboratory will provide a custom-designed, adaptable facility for a number of Caltech's chemists and chemical engineers.  The laboratory will house research groups in synthetic chemistry and chemical engineering, enabling new research in catalysis, materials, and the atmosphere. 

The laboratory has been named in honor of Warren and Katharine Schlinger, benefactors of the Institute for more than 60 years. Support for the building and its research was provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Will and Helen Webster, Victor and Elizabeth Atkins, the John Stauffer Charitable Trust, Barbara Dickinson, and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.

Jacqueline Barton, chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Arthur and Marian Hanisch Memorial Professor, states, "We are excited to bring together chemists and chemical engineers under one roof for new discovery and innovation.  This new laboratory is a realization of the vision of Warren and Katharine Schlinger to create a state-of-the-art facility linking chemists with chemical engineers."

The Science

Synthetic chemists Brian Stoltz, the Ethel Wilson Bowles and Robert Bowles Professor of Chemistry, and Sarah Reisman, assistant professor of chemistry, along with their research groups, will focus on the design of new catalysts and new routes to the preparation of pharmaceuticals.  Jonas Peters, the Bren Professor of Chemistry, and his group will conduct research designing new catalysts that may be critical in solar energy conversion. Richard Flagan, the Irma and Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemical Engineering and professor of environmental science and engineering, and John Seinfeld, the Louis E. Nohl Professor and professor of chemical engineering, will conduct research in atmospheric chemistry, focusing on aerosol processes and the control of air pollution.  Julia Kornfield, professor of chemical engineering, and her research group will characterize new polymers with broad applications in everything from liquid-crystal displays to intraocular lenses.  The Schlinger laboratory will also house the Center for Catalysis and Chemical Synthesis, led by Nobel laureate Robert Grubbs, the Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry.

The Facility

The 62,300-square-foot, four-story Schlinger Laboratory blends innovative research design elements with contemporary and classic elements.  Expansive glass facades on north and south sides of the reinforced concrete structure are enhanced with one terracotta accent wall at the building's west entrance.  

The laboratory features a "green," eco-conscious design, furthering the campus-wide commitment to sustainability.  The facility is on target to obtain gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, which requires projects to meet stringent energy and water efficiency standards.  The Schlinger Laboratory has been designed with energy-conscious equipment and lighting, for a 28 percent reduction in energy usage and a 30 percent reduction in water usage.  The building utilizes locally derived and recycled building materials.

Maximizing the natural lighting in the new laboratory was an essential design element for the chemists.  Expansive, floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate 90 percent of the labs and conference rooms in the building and provide engaging, panoramic views.

Designed with flexible lab space, research areas can be adapted or reconfigured for specific uses.  Each of the highly specialized research areas was custom designed to meet the distinct specifications of the resident professors. The laboratory also offers an abundance of ventilated chemical fume hoods, providing a high ratio of workstations per student or researcher.

Throughout the building, contemporary stainless-steel components complement the classic maple cabinetry and millwork, much of which was custom built by Caltech carpenters.  Caltech painters also assisted on the project.  Recycled slate boards from the early 1900s were utilized as the main writing surfaces in the conference rooms.  Caltech electricians installed the computer network and data systems.

"The Institute is recognized for having made some of the most significant scientific achievements of the past century in chemistry and chemical engineering—with three Nobel laureates in chemistry currently in residence.  The Schlinger Laboratory will help to position Caltech for continued leadership in this critical area, helping to shape the future.  Warren and Katharine Schlinger's steadfast dedication and commitment to scientific achievement, particularly at Caltech, are exemplary and visionary," states Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau.

The architectural firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, known for leadership in sustainable design, was selected for this project.  The award-winning firm has designed diverse, high-end laboratories and academic facilities throughout the nation, ranging from biotechnology centers to software engineering institutes.

The building features

  • Six faculty offices within two faculty suites
  • Office space for over 100 postdoctoral and graduate students
  • A 50-person undergraduate teaching classroom/faculty conference room
  • Multiple interactive lounge areas
  • A central recycling room
  • Individual office climate control and auto-sensor lighting
  • A dual-glazed curtain wall system for window shading and reduced heat gain
  • 70 German-engineered Waldner fume hoods  (total capacity 110)
Written by Deborah Williams-Hedges