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Laboratory Design spoke with Ben Elliott, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate with Lord Aeck Sargent. Ben specializes in the planning, programming and design of science facilities.

LAS recently announced a partnership with Katerra, a technology company revolutionizing the design and construction industries. The partnership will help Katerra expand its design expertise, capability and U.S. footprint, while sharpening its focus on innovation across the spectrum of architecture, landscape architecture, planning, preservation and interiors.

Laboratory Design (LD): What made you decide to pursue your career?
Ben Elliott (BE):
My dad was a mechanical engineer and my mom a math teacher, so being analytical was in my genes. Luckily, I was also encouraged to explore other interests, and I always found myself drawn to music, art and languages. I had a good friend with similar hobbies, and he and I decided to get high school work-study jobs with architects. Aside from thinking it was a good fit for slightly nerdy kids who liked to sketch in study hall, we knew virtually nothing about the profession. For me it just clicked—I loved the studio environment and collaborative chaos that I found there, and I immediately set my sights on architecture school. My buddy quit after a week and ended up going into the military.

LD: Is there a particular facility you’ve worked on that stands out in your mind? What is it and why do you remember it?
BE:
The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State immediately comes to mind. I worked on Buildings A and B and, even though more than a decade has gone by since Building B was completed, I still take a lot of pride in the projects and what we accomplished. The vision was ambitious and the projects were challenging—we knew that our work mattered and from the top down there was a huge amount of support and enthusiasm. The continued success of the Biodesign Institute over time has been great to see.

LD: If you had to do something else for a living, what would it be?
BE:
I’d be a pilot. My grandad was a captain for Delta and would on occasion take me to the airport with him. I remember sitting in the cockpit of his 747, surrounded by the lights and roar of the engines, and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. While my job certainly provides me a lot of time to hang out in airports, I still get a bit jealous that the pilots get to fly the planes.

LD: What’s a common misconception about your line of work?
BE:
I frequently find that many of our clients don’t realize how interested we are in their work and the degree to which we want to understand the intricacies of what they do and how they do it. The best science buildings are so much more than a pretty wrapper around the labs. While as architects we can’t help but be somewhat motivated by the “look” of things, the real excitement comes in finding creative ways to solve complex problems—particularly if our efforts can improve how our clients do their work.

LD: If you were an animal, what animal do you think you would be and why?
BE:
Definitely one of my dogs. I’ve got two pugs and they wake up happy, enjoy just about every aspect of their typical day, and when the lights go out they go to sleep. They’ve got it made!

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