This article is based on a 20 March 2018 half day seminar at Northeastern University organized by the BSA/SCUP College & University Roundtable and the BSA Committee on Research and Innovation.
Presenters included: Debi McDonald - JCJ Architecture; Bill Riley - Shepley Bulfinch; Hal Spiers - Payette; Adrian Walters - ARC; Toni Loiacano - EYP; James Newman - RMF Engineering; Jeffrey Zynda - Perkins + Will; Julian Asbury - Arup; Allan Ames - BR+A; John Swift - Buro Happold; and Michael Walsh - Vanderweil.
Laboratory design is evolving. The demands of interdisciplinary, computational and undergraduate driven research, combined with advances in technology and increasing powerful and expensive core and benchtop equipment, are driving a range of new requirements in laboratories. This list is a summation of issues that were discussed in the sessions.
Increased Technology in the Labs: Following a developing trend of more computational analysis in research and graduate labs, undergraduate teaching labs are increasingly focused on data, statistics and computational analysis. In response, new lab layouts are more flexible and adaptable to support these new uses. With services built into the perimeter, flexible lab tables support traditional lab activities plus individual or group exercises and activities.
Impact of Technology: Technology is impacting the amount of physical space required in labs. Traditionally, 40 - 50% of the overall net space was dedicated to physical lab space and 10 – 20% was dedicated to technology. Today’s labs dedicate about 30% of the net space to physical lab space and 30% to technology. While it’s about the same overall net space required, more space is dedicated to technology. As technology increases, more lab areas are becoming less “wet” and more “dry”.
Lab/Lecture Space:Undergraduate teaching labs are incorporating a lecture/teaching area near the instructor’s station to provide for combined lab activities and lecture style learning within the lab/classroom.
Collaboration: In addition to the dedicated lab spaces, an important trend in science buildings is increased space for interaction and collaboration outside the labs - both quiet spaces and active spaces. These areas include spaces for socializing, individual and group study, plus larger event/activity space. Access to natural light and food is key to attracting people to use the spaces.
Diverse Space Needs: Where the traditional scientist’s day was focused on work, sleep, play, and socializing, today’s scientist is engaged continuously in a broader variety of both academic and social pursuits in addition to these: hanging out with colleagues in lounge and kitchen areas, emailing, texting, linking, chatting, tweeting, posting, blogging, writing, discussing, creating, exercising, and napping.
Designing Space for Improved Performance: The World Green Building Council (WGBC) notes that “staff costs account for about 90% of business operating costs.” It is evident that “improvement in user satisfaction and productivity can have a larger financial implication than the savings associated with an efficiently designed and operated building.” Occupants in high-quality interior environments have an increased sense of well-being, less stress, improved concentration, engagement and performance.
Undergraduate Research Opportunities: Integration of undergraduate and graduate teaching and research is increasing as more undergraduates are looking for research opportunities, and curriculums are evolving to support this demand, putting more pressure on space.
Central Core Facilities as Collaboration Space: Integrated science is becoming a norm and core lab facilities and support spaces are becoming shared platforms for research since they have long been the overlapping areas between disciplines.
Models for Collaboration:There are a number of developing models for interdisciplinary lab layouts. In one model, multiple lab units are located adjacent to shared write up spaces, meeting spaces and open collaboration spaces to provide opportunities for enhanced interaction between disciplines, often connected by open, communicating stairs. In another model, multiple departments are distributed throughout the plan, with a variety of dispersed, shared lounge and meeting spaces, creating a collage of disciplines and uses. Another model locates clinical, educational and research areas adjacent to each other, often on adjacent floors, to enhance opportunities for increased collaboration between these units. Interdisciplinary models like these require careful consideration of the relationships between the labs themselves and the shared, social and collaboration spaces outside the labs.
Transparency:Where the traditional labs were “behind closed doors,” today’s labs are transparent, with lots of glass, providing visibility into and out of the bench space, to write up and collaboration space, and to public spaces beyond. Spaces outside the lab contribute significantly to the success of the lab itself, and to the comfort and well-being of the users. These spaces need to be carefully considered as part of the overall planning process.
Adaptability: Accessible engineering systems and adaptable lab casework are critical features in today’s labs to allow for change over time as research, and researchers, change within a space. Overall lighting, combined with integrated task lighting at the bench, provides energy efficiency, while maximizing flexibility for the individual researchers.
Hoteling: The idea of “hoteling” has become popular in work places, and is beginning to make headway in lab settings. “Hotel Space,” or shared, unassigned space, can be tables or lounge seating to provide a variety of venues for work and collaboration. It can be used as drop-in space for visitors or write up areas. Even the benches themselves can be configured to provide hotelling space.
Chemical Storage:Chemical storage and containment is a critical safety issue in many labs. A defined chemical control zone needs to be identified as part of the programming. Location and storage capacity need to be defined. Inventory must be defined in order to establish code and design options, and these inventories need to be monitored on a regular basis. Understanding the chemical waste path in a building is a key component for the design, and should be incorporated early in the process.
Engineering Systems Goal Setting:At project initiation, it is important to develop Owner Project Requirements (OPR) criteria, and to identify, prioritize and document project goals for EUI, Energy Cost, Life Cycle Cost and Carbon Emissions. Energy Models should identify the effect of each individual criteria against established goals, and help inform and prioritize decision making.
General Trends in Engineering and Building Systems:The need for overall flexibility and adaptability for building systems is mandatory in order to allow changes to researchers’ and engineering systems’ needs over time, without requiring significant changes to existing systems.
Lab Safety - Exhaust: Safe and healthy lab environments are a key consideration in the layout and design of the engineering systems. Exhaust and ventilation are critical components in the design process. Lab requirements need to be defined in order to identify an approach to exhaust and ventilation in a lab building - from point exhaust, to local exhaust and ventilation at lab areas, to roof top units, fans, and exhaust, to overall building systems. They all need to be understood as a system in order to develop the best, most efficient and most cost-effective approach.
Energy Reduction:HVAC energy consumption is high in university lab buildings. The key to optimizing and reducing energy is to understand the specific needs of the project. The selection and design of the engineering systems is a key component to optimizing and reducing energy use. Energy reduction can occur through a variety of ways, including use of filtered and low flow fume hoods, and use of control systems and occupancy sensors for building systems. Trends in the design of systems to reduce energy consumption include use of: dedicated outdoor air systems with energy recovery; 2 or 4-pipe active chilled beam systems; fan coils with ECM’s; and radiant systems. In addition to energy savings, these systems can contribute to lower floor to floor requirements.
Engineering Systems Controls:These are key to reducing energy use, and include occupancy/vacancy sensors, fume hood controls, and Aircuity systems. Additionally, energy recovery systems can greatly reduce energy use. Alternative energy such as geothermal, solar and recirculating fume hoods are effective ways to reduce energy consumption and cost. There is no one right answer, so careful consideration of the overall systems is key to making an informed decision.
Engineering Systems Reliability and Redundancy:Given the sensitive nature of research materials and processes, reliable and redundant systems capacities are critical to the success of any lab environment.
Thank you to Northeastern University for hosting this event in their new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC), and to our panel members who generously shared their insights into developing trends in lab design. There is a much to think about in designing lab environments to support groundbreaking work in learning and research. We, as planners, architects, and designers, owe it to the researchers and users of these spaces to create the best possible lab space to support these important scientific endeavors.