by Leslie Ashor, Director of Lab Design, Woods Bagot
Principle 3: Diverse Typologies
Laboratories can be classified based on functional requirements, and primary laboratories can be conceptually designed to reflect those requirements. By identifying the applicable “themes” or “styles” for a building, the spaces can be developed following a similar pattern that reflects a standard, but with nuances for each type applied. This concept allows spaces to be interchanged during planning as well as in future renovations. Typologies may be based on hazards, such as biological, chemical, electrical, radioactivity; they may be based on cleanliness levels required, or specific environmental conditions, vibration control, security, and a wide range of project-specific drivers. Identifying the laboratory types required, and finding a uniting design for as many as possible, will provide the highest degree of adaptability for the life cycle of the building.
Once the standard typologies are developed, it is possible to arrange the laboratory building in a manner that provides functional zones. This zoning might locate all vibrational sensitive laboratories together by floor or by stacked zones, to minimize the most robust structural areas; similarly, the most service intensive laboratories could be clustered by floor or by stacked zones, to allow maximum flexibility within a designated area but not over the entire building. This functional zoning concept predetermines where particular functions are likely to be focused, and concentrates appropriate flexibility in response. This notion also reflects a trend of blurring disciplinary boundaries, by collocating spaces based on use, rather than departmental use.
Principle 4: Time and Space
As Ben Franklin said, “Time is money”, and for our purposes time represents schedule and budget, and space is area and volume. Every project has constraints of some type, such as existing building space, site constraints, zoning envelope, project and construction budget, and project timing. Developing extremely technical laboratory space while responding to all the influences of “time and space” requires a highly experienced, well-coordinated team effort. Compared to a similar sized office building, a laboratory building can cost 2-4 times as much per square foot to construct, depending on complexity and laboratory type. Making every square foot count is essential when that square foot cost $200-1,000; an emphasis on efficiency and intelligent planning is critical to ensure the client gets the best use of their time and space, this would include efficient workflows as well.
From an operating cost standpoint, a laboratory can cost 5-10 times as much as a comparable office in energy usage alone, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (IISL), who have been tracking energy data for almost 20 years. Placing a priority on sustainable design is more than the right or popular thing to do, it can prove very cost-effective as well. Additionally, identifying means to make rapid change possible (see Principle #2 Nimble) without waste by minimizing demolition not only reduces landfill use, but lowers secondary construction cost and disruption. And in laboratories, time is money.