The 2018 Laboratory Design Conference kicked off Monday, April 23, with a focus on evolving technology and research as part of this year’s theme,“The Future of Lab Design: Innovations & Strategies.”

The three-day event took place at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel in Philadelphia, Pa., with a record attendance for this 17th annual event. Informative sessions, panels and forums were geared toward those involved in the planning, designing, engineering, constructing and operating laboratory facilities. The highlight of the Conference was the reveal of the 2018 Laboratory of the Year award winners at the conclusion of the day on April 23. An all-new community engagement forum, “Mentoring the Next Generation of Lab Design Professionals,” capped off the agenda on April 24. Guided tours of innovative Philadelphia laboratory facilities were offered to attendees on April 25. 

The Laboratory Design Conference began with the opening Keynote Address, “The Lab of the Future: Designing ‘Effective’Labs,” delivered by Daniel Wentzlaff of Nissen Wentzlaff Architects and Dario Tonelli of Laborplaner Tonelli AG. Wentzlaff and Tonelli examined how the speed and scale of scientific research surpassed our cognitive abilities some time ago, with accessible knowledge doubling every four to five years. Scientists believe we are only just entering into a new digital age that will bring unthinkable innovations and challenges.

The Keynote was followed by a General Session, “The Next Generation of Animal Research Facilities,” presented by Josh Meyer, AIA, of Jacobs Consultancy. A laboratory and vivarium planner for more than 30 years, Meyer explained how animal research facilities are going through a metamorphosis, with an inside look at the latest trends and issues in vivaria design. The focus of this General Session was a virtual tour of recently completed and in-design animal facilities that will graphically demonstrate the transformation of vivaria. Attendees learned about the impact of translational science and medicine on animal research facilities; how to create animal research facilities that respond to the needs of researchers, staff and animals; and the impact on typical laboratory building design from many standpoints.

This General Session was offered as part of the Marketing Trends and Innovations track, which explored how budget, technology and flexibility all factor into the future of lab design. The other tracks offered were Lab Design Strategies, which offered advice and helpful tips to those involved in the design and construction of lab facilities; and Sustainable Lab Design, focusing on energy savings and being “green.”

“These three tracks offered our attendees the opportunity to explore the topics that best align with their personal and professional interests,” said MaryBeth DiDonna, Editor of Laboratory Design. “We are excited that the Laboratory Design Conference was able to accommodate a wide range of sessions that address the many different concerns of those in the lab design/build industry.”

As part of the Lab Design Strategies track, Brent Amos, AIA, LEED AP, of Cooper Carry and Luis Carrazana, Associate University Architect for research and clinical programs at the University of Virginia, discussed “Cutting-Edge Boomer Building Renovations: Transforming the Labs of the Past into the Labs of the Future.” The fast pace of change is challenging lab building owners to do more with less while staying ahead of evolving research and instructional requirements. These same owners are also frequently saddled with “Boomer Buildings”—aging buildings constructed between 1950 and 1970. This presentation identified methods that owners, lab managers and designers can implement to maximize existing space while ensuring that facilities are state-of-the-art, efficient and comfortable for their occupants.

Through the lens of a case study of the University of Virginia Health System campus, attendees came away with solutions to the challenges that arise when renovating facilities built between 1950 and 1970. This presentation provided a deep dive into the key takeaways from this cutting-edge renovation project, with particular emphasis on how the adherence to ambitious goals from the start of the project enabled a successful design outcome. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their own experiences and the challenges associated with “Boomer Building” lab renovations.

The Sustainable Labs track kicked off with a presentation from Chris Ertl, AIA, LEED BD+C, of CRB. Ertl’s discussion, “Lab Sustainability: Ten Things You Can Do Now for Big Impact,” talked about how limited resources and demands to do more with less can make being more sustainable can seem out of reach. Up-front initial costs and the fact that buildings will be occupied during any changes can be a hindrance to many green efforts. However, labs are the typically the single greatest user of energy and resources and even small efforts can provide extensive savings over the remaining life of your laboratory facilities.

This session showed several low-cost, easy-to-implement steps that can be taken immediately to get the most out of your STEM facilities. Ertl presented ways departments are increasing students per sections and sections per week in existing spaces. Several small changes in lab systems which have major impacts in operational costs savings will be showcased. The session detailed 10 low-cost high-impact strategies that an institution can implement to reduce operating costs for its lab buildings—and for an immediate impact in the reduction of the operating costs of its labs.

Opening day of the 2018 Laboratory Design Conference continued with further discussion into this year’s theme, “The Future of Lab Design: Innovations & Strategies.” The afternoon featured more breakout sessions and expert insights from leaders in the field of lab design. The day’s events concluded with the annual reveal of the Laboratory of the Year winners, and presentations from the teams behind these groundbreaking buildings where they offeredan exclusive look at what makes these prize-winning facilities so unique.

The afternoon began with the second General Session, “Moving Towards the Light: Collaboration and Productivity in Tomorrow’s Laboratory,” delivered by Cynthia Walston, FAIA, LEED AP, and Robert Benson of CannonDesign. Walston and Benson demonstrated how the style of work in the research field today is drastically shifting from individual, heads-down work to a more collaborative and innovative style that sparks connection and interaction among researchers. Laboratory designers are promoting open, flexible and collaborative lab and office spaces to increase discovery and productivity.

This General Session, as part of the Marketing Trends and Innovations track, explored how organizations are managing this change, how to judge if productivity has measurably increased, how to figure out the highest priorities in space accommodations for such work, the biggest challenges faced and how to tell if end users are satisfied with the changes made. Attendees were able to take from this session a developed knowledge of strategies for successfully presenting new workplace trends to users, as well as the results of post occupancy surveys from lab users.

“Our second General Session provided inside knowledge about how the labs of today are changing and evolving to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” said MaryBeth DiDonna, Editor of Laboratory Design. “Flexible design and collaboration is essential to making sure that research and technology continually evolve to meet current needs.”

Further discussion on flexibility and teamwork will be offered in “Planning Science Facility Collaboration Spaces,” presented by Cynthia Labelle, AIA, and Michael Reagan, RA, AIA, NCARB, both of Stantec Architecture Inc. Part of the Lab Design Strategies track, this session explored how contemporary science facilities are increasingly integrating both formal and informal interaction and collaboration areas into their Space Program. Labelle and Reagan explained how productivity can be measured in spaces like these, and how the character of these spaces compares to more formalized learning spaces.

Also part of the Lab Design Strategies track, “The Challenge for Architects: Electron Microscopes Belong on the Moon”—delivered by Brian DiLuiso, AIA, and Chip Calcagni, AIA, of E4H Environments for Health Architecture—described how health-focused academic research centers in the U.S. are investing in the electron microscope in order to understand cell structures at the subatomic level to improve diagnostics and further clinical trials. The challenge, therefore, is to design and construct a space that can house an electron microscope when planning a highly technological research facility. Outfitting a facility for this microscope technology requires deep coordination with the manufacturer, as the very stringent set of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC requirements—coupled with room dimension and power outlet configurations—pose challenges for its placement. The role architects and designers are playing to support scientists who are transforming the understanding of cellular architecture and what triggers cancer and other diseases makes meeting this challenge all the more satisfying.

Aimee Smith of RWDI delivered “High Performance Buildings: Focus on the Health, Well-being and Comfort of Occupants,” as part of the Sustainable Lab Design track. This session explained the value of promoting the health, well-being and comfort of occupants to achieve a high performance building with reference to the WELL Building Standard®. Attendees gained insight into the benefit of considering the performance of the roof scape from a holistic perspective to address challenges from both noise and air quality conditions.

Meanwhile, Jinhee Lee, CDT, and Michele Pollio, AIA, of HERA Laboratory Planners presented, “Take the Pain Out: Smart Design to Create Ergonomic Labs.” This session, included in the Lab Design Strategies track, explored the ergonomic considerations beyond the furniture requirements and describe why such considerations are so critical in laboratory design. Lee and Pollio further detailed helpful strategies to integrate ergonomics into the design, give detailed information about life cycle cost considerations, and helped attendees learn to determine the best time to implement the human factor in the design process.

"How to Attract, Motivate and Retain Top Scientists," presented by Christopher Small of Clark Nexsen, explained how laboratory facilities can create a vibrant culture where scientist converge and thrive, and how to create collaboration zones and activities adjacent to the lab where ideas are exchanged and discovery can occur. Additionally, he advised on how to design spaces that encourage keeping the scientific workforce healthy and motivated, and how to design amenity filled facilities without increasing the project budget and decreasing the lease-ability.

A case study of Brown University’s new Engineering Research Center was examined in “The Integrated Project Delivery Method: Implementing Flexible, Integrated, High Performance Lab Design,” offered by John Swift, Jr., PE, CEM, LEED AP BD+C, of BurroHappold Engineering; Lloyd Fisk, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, of Research Facilities Design; and Mark Davis, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, of KieranTimberlake. The speakers explained how the design of the building united a disparate set of legacy buildings making up the SOE complex. Another topic of discussion-how the laboratory design strategy focused on the creation of highly flexible convergence research laboratories, designed only after construction of the building had commenced. The design team will also describe how the project was designed to meet very aggressive energy use targets—and how the design process supported meeting those goals.

Monday was capped off by the highlight event of every Laboratory Design Conference—the reveal of the Laboratory of the Year winners. This annual international competition receives entries from the best new and renovated laboratories. Entries were accepted from a wide variety of laboratory types, including research, quality assurance/control, teaching, software development, environmental, clinical, forensic, and testing and standards. A panel of experts—architects, lab designers, equipment manufacturers, engineers and construction professionals—analyzed each entry and recognized those they felt were most deserving as Laboratory of the Year. Team members received their awards and gave presentations to the audience.

The Laboratory Design Conference is proud to award the 2018 Laboratory of the Year awards to:

• 2018 Laboratory of the Year: CJ Blossom Park, Suwon, South Korea. Submitted by CannonDesign.

• 2018 Laboratory of the Year—Special Mention: Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building, Metropolitan State University of Denver. Submitted by Anderson Mason Dale Architects.

“The announcement of the Laboratory of the Year winners is the high point of the Laboratory Design Conference,” said Bea Riemschneider, Editorial Director for Laboratory Design. “The experience and enthusiasm from both our entrants and our judges represents the very best of the lab design community.”