Lab Trends 2020
Michele R. Brooks, LEED AP | Director of Life Sciences at OL+
Christopher T. Doktor, AIA LEED AP | Principal at OL+
Designing for laboratories comes with a unique set of needs and considerations. ‘Collaboration’ is still a driving force in lab design, as younger scientists come out of an educational model which makes use of teams to create solution focused environments.
Working with clients in the biotech, pharmaceutical, therapeutic, manufacturing, and cleantech fields, OLSON LEWIS + Architects assesses and responds to the unique needs of each challenge. Over the last 30 years, changes in the industry have addressed flexibility, sustainability, and collaboration. The evolution of lab design is also being influenced by rapid changes in technology.
TECHNOLOGY AND COLLABORATION >>
The paths to discovery have been revolutionized by technology, including smaller more powerful instruments, computer analysis, and robotics. Laboratories of the future will be required to provide the Research & Development (R&D) professional with the right environment and services for innovation and creativity.
Technologies link scientists in new ways. Collaboration in the physical environment has become more important. Changes in the R&D business model have resulted in employers pushing researchers to get products to market faster, which has led companies to find value in housing scientists near one another, as well as close to other disciplines such as manufacturing, marketing, and sales.
There has been a movement towards more plug-and-play collaboration space within the labs themselves. Digital technology is being incorporated via video and virtual conferencing, which caters to the incoming generation, who are more inclined to share information than their predecessors.
COMMON AREAS >>
Kitchens, cafes, and break spaces that are centrally located and comfortably furnished encourage connections. Gathering spaces allow for interdisciplinary synergy, while building office culture.
COMPANY CULTURE >>
Companies differ in culture and business processes, both of which drive design decisions. Having said this, there are across-the-board trends that are being universally adopted.
COLLABORATION IN THE LAB >>
The current trend is for more collaboration inside the lab itself. Visual communication tools are used to encourage and promote group discussion. Many life science companies have a global presence, with partners at other sites. The use of video monitors within the lab provides scientists at all locations with a real time connection. The sharing of ideas can be as simple as write-and-wipe wall surfaces. With technology, the notes can be digitized to create an electronic record of the brainstorming sessions.
WORKSPACE FLEXIBILITY >>
The pendulum has swung from the large “ballroom” labs to smaller-scaled “neighborhood” labs, promoting deeper collegiality.
Planning open module labs with flexible benches has been a focus in lab design for the past few years.
Designers encourage lab users to avoid overpopulating with casework, and instead allow more floor space for larger equipment.
Planning for flexibility in the built environment goes beyond the flexible services infrastructure. Flexibility is driven by adapting the building to the evolving needs of the users.
Fast moving scientific discoveries, as well as company mergers and acquisitions, have prompted the move towards more flexible lab design. These are labs, which can be easily adapted with in-house facilities staff, to accommodate changes in personnel or science research.
SHARED SPACE >>
Shared labs are now more common due to the growth of incubator facilities which allow start-ups and small companies access to expensive equipment that they could not afford to own themselves. Our project for North Shore InnoVentures (NSIV) which is an incubator facility, includes two shared labs, a makerspace, collaboration & common areas, as well as private and open offices.
Natural daylight is generally preferable in a laboratory. Locating labs with access to exterior windows is a good first step. However, not all labs require or want natural daylight, so during the discovery process, designers identify the user needs.
The demand for energy efficiency, has begged the question “do researchers still need the claimed 100 foot-candles (fc) of light on the bench?”
The integration of LED fixtures has allowed designers to reduce foot-candle requirements by 35% while still maintaining full lab function. Direct/Indirect pendant light fixtures are still preferred, offering a balance between energy efficiency and visual acuity.
Our project with (NSIV) included several labs, one of which is a beta site for a new LED lighting program from Sylvania. The quality of light is superior to their other labs and gives the impression of natural daylight.
With a growing emphasis on sustainability and resiliency, clients are more sensitive to the use of green & recycled materials.
The latest information on PVC has resulted in the design community shying away from this material. At all stages in the life-cycle of PVC (manufacturing, use and disposal) toxins are released which have detrimental ecological consequences.
PVC free Vinyl has taken the lead as the go-to material for flooring. Vinyl tiles provide flexibility and cost-effectiveness, especially in their ease of individual replacement.
Designers are now recommending a tiled version of Marmoleum – a linoleum flooring made from recycled sawdust, which is manufactured in a less environmentally offensive manner – as a preferable, cost-effective, sustainable solution.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are gases that are emitted into the air from products or processes which may be harmful by themselves or when combined with other gasses. Because of this, Low- (or no-) VOC coatings, especially paints, are used throughout labs. Whenever possible, designers specify alternate finishes to epoxy coatings on the walls.
There is also a trend away from the use of epoxy floors, except in special lab conditions.
For a more efficient, flexible laboratory with greater worker satisfaction; we look forward to guiding you through the process of planning your lab.
Contact Michele or Chris