Distributed by Withee Works
“First, I loved not holding
the sock over a trash can.
I stayed dry and I didn’t have
to lug a mop and bucket
around because there was
no mess. Second, it was
easy to drain. Lastly,
we had a shower
that wouldn’t turn
off so I was able
to pump the water
out into the sink
while the cart was
filling up and
trying to turn the
EHS Coordinator – Texas A&M University
In this scenario, the open lab is designed much more
flexibly, with fewer constraints on what it must do
to keep people safe. We can isolate the materials and
machinery that require the highest amount of air changes
by the HVAC systems. When we remove these from the
open environment and contain them in small spaces, the
mechanical systems only need to work harder within a
smaller square footage of the floor plate.
Resilient thinking to protect the lab investment
The realities of operating labs in the 21st century require
designers to anticipate and provide a new standard of
readiness and resilience. Climate-related events such
as hurricanes, flooding and drought, along with rising
threats from digital incursions, data hacking and cyber
terrorism, are now part of this design equation.
Every lab designed for future resiliency and safety must
include greater capacity to withstand power failures and
other external risks. Conventional engineering designs
might provide enough fuel in the emergency generation
system for 24 hours. With flooding threats rising as we
experience more intense weather events, this contingency
ignores the reality that when streets become flooded and
fuel sources cut off, 24 hours is not enough time.
Placement of electrical and mechanical equipment,
redundancy for critical IT infrastructure, and
increased occupant safety and security design are key
considerations for the long-term management of risks.
With the capital cost of building labs among the higher
per-square-foot cost of any building type, investing in
resilience is a strategic and a practical necessity.
Because research is itself ever changing, why would we
ever imagine that there’s one static design solution? What
we know is that today’s accepted design parameters
is going to change. Designers will increasingly need
to respond to the business and educational needs of
researchers by providing new solutions for future
adaptability, efficiency and resilience.
A typical academic flex lab setup at Brown University offers many of the
same advantages as the commercial variety but is often under pressure
to meet a more customized research need while still offering institutional
adaptability. Image: Raj Das