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Pomona College Dedicates New Energy-Conscious Biology Building

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, will dedicate its new Richard C. Seaver Biology Building (175 W. Sixth St., Claremont) on Saturday, February 26, at 11:30 a.m. The building is one of the only college buildings in the state to be built to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building standards.

The $23.5 million biology building was designed by the firm Bauer & Wiley and built by Hensel Phelps Construction. The design achieved the college’s environmental goals by maximizing natural light filtration with large windows, light shelves and a three-story glass atrium and through the use of high efficiency indoor lighting, photovoltaic panels for solar energy, certified renewable wood, recycled construction materials, low-emitting materials (e.g. adhesives, carpet), and a thermal energy storage system that will help the college to reduce energy use during peak demands, among other features.

The result is a building that exceeds California energy-related design codes by 10 percent, yielding an estimated $75,000 per year in energy savings compared to a building that meets current Title 24 energy requirements. By early summer, the college hopes to complete a silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council's system (often referred to as LEED standards), placing the building in the top one percent of all academic laboratory buildings in the country in terms of energy-conscious design. The building opened for the start of spring semester classes in January.

“The Richard C. Seaver Biology Building will allow Pomona to continue our leadership in undergraduate science education,” says David W. Oxtoby, president of Pomona College, noting that the college sends a higher percentage of its science graduates to earn Ph.D.s than does almost any other American college or university. “The exciting part of science happens in the lab, and the new, larger research labs will allow even more students to collaborate with faculty and conduct hands-on research. That we were able to make the investment in an environmentally sound biology building is a testament to the vision and commitment of our Board and to the Seaver family, which has supported science education at Pomona for more than 50 years.”

The 46,270-square-foot, three-story building contains four teaching labs, two classrooms, four greenhouses, 15 faculty offices, instrument rooms, two student lounges, sterilizer and glass washing rooms, incubator rooms, darkrooms, walk-in cold (or warm) rooms, sterile glass transfer rooms and common-use facilities. Currently 56 undergraduate students are working with biology faculty on research projects ranging from plant physiology and genetics to molecular biology and neuroscience.

According to Biology Professor David Becker, who served as the department’s representative to the building committee, the new building was also necessitated by a dramatic change in the way biology is taught compared to 1959 when the Seaver Laboratory for Biology and Geology opened. “Even 20 years ago, biology was largely a descriptive body of knowledge that students had to memorize. Today, students learn how something works or how it came to be through experiments. Courses emphasize student application of scientific inquiry, reading what’s known, designing a hypothesis, doing experiments and analyzing their own data. This all starts in their freshmen year. In the 1950s, molecular biology didn’t even exist.”


The new biology building was named after Trustee Emeritus Richard C. Seaver '43 to recognize his many decades of exceptional service to the College as a trustee and honorary trustee. Funding for the building was made possible in large part by a gift from the estate of Frank R. Seaver ‘05, Richard's uncle, as distributed by the Seaver Institute. As the newest component of the Seaver Science Center, the Seaver Biology Building is one of many buildings on the campus that speak to the family's generosity and legacy.

Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.

Dedication Ceremony, 11:30 a.m.
Thomas D. Pollard ’64, the Higgins Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University, will be the guest speaker
Richard C. Seaver Biology Building, 175 W. Sixth St., Claremont

Biology Building Tour, Noon
Richard C. Seaver Biology Building, 175 W. Sixth St., Claremont

Symposium, 2 p.m.
Presentations from Pomona College biology faculty David Becker, Andre Cavalcanti, Karl Johnson and Nina Karnovsky.
Seaver North Auditorium, 645 N. College, Ave., Claremont

For more information about the events, call (909) 621-8141.