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...
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.
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.
The Midwest can boast of a new 60,000-sf crime lab (which shall remain unnamed). Designed by Crime Lab Design (CLD), this facility has been a long time coming, and is a good reminder of the virtue of patience. Even in good economic times, the facility would’ve faced two significant challenges to begin with: First, justifying the project to a wary state government; and second, securing funding from that government.
Is it possible to design a learning and research center that maximizes efficiency while accelerating interdisciplinary discovery that often happens within informal spaces outside classrooms and labs? Colleges and universities are recognizing the need to provide informal research and learning places in addition to flexible labs and classrooms.
Adaptability and flexibility are key ingredients to successful lab planning and design. As the technology changes, so does the nature of the research and the ways in which researchers use the space. Labs, though equipped in a more complex and technical manner, are ultimately workplaces. Like open offices throughout the corporate world, labs are transforming into open work zones supported by collocated specialized equipment.
Academic institutions are seeing significant shifts in pedagogy in response to advances in digital technology. Universities are capitalizing on this paradigm shift to take many areas of study beyond traditional text books, physically engaging students in a more meaningful way and connecting them to opportunities in the marketplace.
Science is evolving: It’s becoming more translational and multidisciplinary in nature. Just as science evolves, so do lab environments. Most lab environments are now designed more open and not just for one discipline—biologists may work next to chemists, or chemists next to physicist, and so forth. However, the landscape of researchers in a lab environment has also evolved.
For so many clients, building new ground-up lab space isn’t an option. From an economic standpoint, the duration of new construction doesn’t serve the immediate need; and often, an appropriate site is unavailable. In our dense urban centers, the desire for researchers to be co-located with their peers and their heroes, makes the competition for space a real challenge.