Compared to industrial and residential construction, labs are expensive as they are highly complex in nature. The end goal to constructing a functional lab is to provide valuable research results. At the heart of a lab is the research conducted and, as a result, lab owners can’t compromise research efforts by overlooking key aspects of the workspace—such as safety, comfort and sustainability.
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This month's issue of Laboratory Design Newsletter features articles on commissioning labs for energy savings, next-generation engineering labs, fast-track project delivery, incubator lab design, fire alarms in animal facilities, forensic lab design and more. The issue also includes news notes, new products and new projects.
The process of scientific investigation—in the simplest of terms—is one of trial-and-error. Researchers test proof-of-concept and then reposition their focus based on data. The idea is to fail quickly, to get to the desired result sooner. The design process is similarly iterative. Solving for user’s needs and anticipating challenges often requires a search and discovery approach to the built environment.
Not long ago a prospective client called and asked if it would be feasible to incorporate a state-of-the-art, full-body research magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite into a new building. After a review of the finished building plans, we quickly determined not only was the building design not ideal for MRI use, but it would be impossible without extensive and expensive design changes.
Partnerships between universities and businesses are nothing new, but these partnerships have become especially relevant in the face of increasing economic pressure and global competition, the need for interdisciplinary approaches and the growing complexity of the problems need solutions.
The design of labs for sustainable construction and operation has become a major driver in the A/E/C industry over the past 10 to 15 years. These days, most lab clients are looking for sustainable design approaches at a minimum—and third-party certification, such as LEED, in many cases.
Simulation centers are often located in the basement or unused space of hospitals, universities and research centers. In some cases, they are a facilities best-kept secret, as they provide a wealth of learning and activities to prep workers for real-world situations. Most are also architecturally nondescript.
The increased pressure for undergraduates to gain research experience prior to graduate school has led to more students requesting participation in a lab environment throughout their undergraduate career. Undergraduate institutions are now faced with the challenge of finding an environment where faculty can succeed in their individual research endeavors, as well as teach these future scientists in their research labs.
In the past decade, the expansion of research focus areas in engineering has undergone a transformation. The demands of engineering labs present challenges for institutions because most occupied spaces were conceived during an era with radically different needs and required services.
Much equipment used in nanotech, physical and biological sciences can’t function properly if subjected to vibrations that exceed small threshold values. As a result, lab designers are faced with the challenge of developing designs where vibration disturbances are within acceptable limits to further science.
A well-designed lab facility will deliver a powerful combination of safety, functionality, efficiency and responsible use of resources. Most owners strive to achieve these goals in any new lab project or major renovation or addition. Performance can be documented by commissioning: third-party testing of the facility’s major mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems before a new or renovated project is turned over to the owner.
In the past decade, the breadth of research focus areas within engineering has undergone a monumental transformation and expansion. Payette has investigated these transitions at many levels—from small-scale highly technical research lab designs to multiple institutional master plans.
When done right, fast-track construction delivery methods can bring enormous benefits to the owner and the entire project team. They can significantly reduce the overall project design and construction schedule. Poor execution of a fast-track project will most certainly lead to problems, cost overruns, adversarial relationships and schedule delays.
Flexibility is critical when considering the future of science, research and lab environments. However, research needs down the road are difficult to predict, and flexibility is hard to define. Yet, reducing a facility’s flexibility may mean the loss of spare engineering capacities/infrastructures, services planning and space for anticipated growth and fit-out.
Research science startups face similar decisions and crises any new business venture might. The volatile marketplace demand for breakthrough research and the rigors of nurturing a new business make early-stage decisions crucial, even perilous. The startup’s first dedicated research lab represents a major investment of capital, and to invest wisely, leadership should ask itself a few fundamental questions.
Creating an environment for optimizing the control of outside factors in vivarium facilities is critical to the success of reliable research outcomes. Animal responses are directly impacted by their environments—by air, access to food and water, light cycles and noise. Acoustic separation to isolate animal areas from noise and minimizing intrusive sounds into animal-occupied spaces is desired.