Laboratory design has evolved a great deal since its beginnings. From brick buildings filled with small closed rooms, to towers whose facades sparkle with high-tech glass, filled with modular and flexible labs—design continues to evolve. Though buildings change, the fundamental questions remain the same: what objectives drive lab design, how can these objectives be achieved, and what is the price of that achievement?
The LDN survey shows that 70% of the respondents viewed sustainability within laboratory design as a positive trend over the past three years—with only 11% citing it as a negative trend. 72% of LDN respondents also indicated their clients see sustainable features as a “high” or “moderate” priority for new building or renovation projects, with only 27% claiming that it is a low or unmentioned priority. 75% of the respondents rated energy-efficiency requirements as a positive trend as well, with only 15% viewing it as a negative trend.
The respondents from R&D Magazine said that, if they had no budget constraints, they would place a “high” priority on energy-efficient HVAC (47%) and lighting (53%). These user-side respondents also rated energy-efficient systems (52%) as “very important” features in any lab environment.
Alternative energy systems (66%) and alternative building materials (58%) were viewed as “very” or “somewhat” important for labs by the respondents of R&D Magazine. The respondents from LDN believe even more strongly that they represent a positive trend in laboratory design (76%). LDN respondents said they’ve seen significant improvements in advanced energy systems during the past 10 years (44%), and that over 70% of their clients now see these features as a “high” or “moderate” priority in projects. In other words, sustainability is hot, wanted, and needed.
According to Reed, “Sustainability is becoming an expectation rather than an aspiration.” Such an expectation brings the need to be open-minded and experimental regarding new technologies that may not have been tried in laboratories before.
Accompanying the positive trend toward lab sustainability is the issue of whether projects need to be LEED-certified (or certified by some sustainability guideline). 52% of the LDN survey respondents felt that LEED (or alternative) certification has been a positive trend during the past three years; 15% believe it has been a negative trend; the remainder haven’t seen much impact one way or the other. The respondents said clients view LEED certification as a “moderate” (37.5%) or “high” (30%) priority.
Some clients may be unsure how certification would dovetail with regulatory needs, such as FDA stipulations; others may be embracing the general notion of “green” but not the idea of third-party verification. Given the enthusiasm of people on the design side and the uncertainty of people on the client side, this is a topic that will clearly require thorough discussions during the planning process for any lab construction or renovation job.
While the debate over sustainability certification will continue, “green” laboratories are undeniably becoming more and more prominent. And the idea of flexible, transparent laboratories that nurture interaction is also becoming the norm.
Once most researchers were sequestered in private (and often dim) rooms crowded with fixed furniture. Today’s labs have embraced more open, transparent and flexible plans, which can lead to many benefits including the most sought after: collaboration.
“Making buildings transparent [is one of the most important recent trends] in laboratory design,”says Rietz.
“By making laboratories transparent, people can actually look in and at the laboratory and see the science in action.”
Allowing people to see into laboratories, especially in academic buildings and government labs, could give the public an incentive to become more involved in whatever form of science is being done there. Showcasing science enhances public knowledge and appreciation for an organization’s mission and work.
Transparency also benefits lab users. Internal glazing allows researchers to keep an eye on their own work and that of their neighbors when they are not actually inside the lab. Such visibility enhances creativity and collaboration among scientists. In addition, transparent or translucent windows and walls promote the penetration of daylight deep into a building, with positive effects on mood and morale.
Although there are trends such as renovations instead of building, and the willingness to experiment not covered in this article, these trends all boil down to one objective if achieved: the lab of the future.
So, what was on the respondents’ list for their ideal lab? The user respondents longed for labs with more experiment space, lower operating costs, energy-efficient designs, flexibility for movement and within the lab, modular planning, and open labs. The lab designers longed to see labs that are carbon-neutral, open, aesthetically pleasing, plug-and-play, flexible and energy-efficient.
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