A buzzword thrown around in lab design is commissioning. But truly how important is this process to meeting end goals? My answer: extremely. Building commissioning is the process of verifying, in new construction, all building subsystems to achieve an owner’s project requirements as intended by the building owner and as designed by the building architects and engineers.
Flexibility in research labs has been a universal goal in recent years. Components that...
The typical lab building is an energy hog. These buildings house complex environments heavy on...
As a building type, labs have historically been the most energy-intensive facilities. This poses a tremendous challenge when designing lab buildings as net-zero energy consumers. A few prototype lab projects with net-zero energy intent do exist, usually with unique conditions of light lab programs and/or favorable climates.
The competitiveness of U.S. high-technology manufacturing in the global marketplace has become an increasingly serious topic in current political and economic debates. Meanwhile, while still ranking number one in many measures, U.S. universities see declining trends in research grant funding, and are urgently searching for new models of collaboration with private industry.
I recently returned from a trade show where a number of manufacturers showed me their high-performance (low-flow) fume hoods. There were claims of energy savings ranging from 40% to 80%. These savings sound great, but I had to ask myself: Does this really fit with my experience? Can we really get these kinds of savings just from using high-performance hoods?
The landscape of lab design is rapidly changing, and labs themselves have changed drastically over the past few years. For instance, laptops and large monitors that facilitate spontaneous meetings and discussions are now in most labs. With the onset of lab design, before computers, the focus was on benches, fume hoods and workstations. But the way researchers work in labs has changed with the advent of the computer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.