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10/30/2009 07:00:00

Caltech Opens "Green" Building Offering New Opportunities in Information Science

Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology combines multiple academic efforts under one roof

Pasadena, Calif., Oct. 30, 2009-New ideas in architecture will foster new ideas in information science as the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) opens its groundbreaking "green" building, the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology.

Designed by Los Angeles architectural firm Frederick Fisher and Partners, the Annenberg Center will serve as home to interdisciplinary research and instruction that address the growth and impact of information as it relates to all scientific and engineering practices.

Researchers in this emerging academic discipline come from five of Caltech's six academic divisions. The aim of the new facility is to bring physicists, biologists, engineers, and computer scientists together to foster collaboration and interdisciplinary research and teaching.

"The choice we made to bring together researchers from across disciplines has already led to new research and hiring practices," says Ares Rosakis, chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) and Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering at Caltech.

In a move to help cultivate the potential wealth of new ideas, the building was created-inside and out-with sustainability in mind.

"A workplace should be a source of inspiration," says Rosakis. "As with other newly renovated Caltech buildings, the innovative design of this building inspires its residents."

The building-one of three new "green" constructions on the Caltech campus-is seeking a gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The coveted designation would be a result of the building's water and energy efficiency (30 percent reduction in water use; 28 percent reduction in energy use); use of recycled materials (more than 20 percent of materials have recycled content and have local or regional origins); and indoor environmental quality. The bamboo found throughout the building adds to the list of sustainable materials in use.

The construction of this state-of-the-art building was funded primarily by a $25-million gift from the Annenberg Foundation, founded in 1989 by Walter H. Annenberg and later led by his wife, Leonore. The foundation encourages the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge, exemplified in the new building by its cross-disciplinary structure.

Funding also came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr.

"Information science will provide the intellectual foundation for the exploitation of information across diverse disciplines," says Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau. "It will result in the education of a new generation of leaders and the creation of innovative scientific, technological, and business models. The Annenberg Center will be the catalyst for this bold venture undertaken by the Caltech faculty."

Other highlights of the new building include

  • quantity and quality control for storm water;
  • individual HVAC controls and operable windows; and
  • a minimum of 75 percent of spaces with daylight access.

Faculty members are housed on the second and third floors of the Annenberg Center, where offices are designed with floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of the exterior views. Each of the rooms in the building has sensors that save on the use of energy for lighting, heating, and air-conditioning.

Spaces within the building include

  • 16 faculty offices, with an additional four for visiting faculty;
  • 16 studios for students;
  • 14 postdoctoral offices;
  • 33 graduate-student offices;
  • 14 administrative offices;
  • two lounge areas;
  • three kitchens;
  • five classrooms;
  • an auditorium;
  • a computer lab; and
  • a conference room.

The second-floor atrium contains unique bamboo screens, a staircase, and a skylight that gives the area an open feeling conducive to casual, collegial collaboration.  

The building uses furniture of classic and contemporary design to create an inspiring and inviting atmosphere. The lounge area has a spiral staircase connecting its two levels, and creating a spacious open area with an abundance of natural light.

The exterior landscaping of the Annenberg Center follows Caltech's goal to improve campus sustainability by including a multitude of native drought-resistant plants and hardscaping.

For a visual tour of the center, visit

Written by Jon Weiner