own specific needs. Remember that your lab
may be someone else’s in two years, and funds
used to re-customize that space are then not
available for science.
Today’s trend in most organizations, both
institutional and corporate, is to provide
more open and flexible space, rather than
the highly defined turf boundaries of the
past, and to provide isolated spaces only for
compelling safety or environmental reasons.
The mobility of scientists, especially in
academia, precludes excessive customiza-tion, and most organizations prefer not to
redesign labs just before occupancy because
the investigator has moved to another institution.
Imagine yourself as a visitor, potential staff
member, donor or investor in your organization who is touring the building to observe the
• Recall the last renovation of your lab, and
what physical features would have made it
easier. Consider what minor modifications you
could achieve safely yourself, without facilities
• Think about the way your organization
should balance science, time and money to
meet its goals.
CHALLENGES AND REWARDS
Having a clear understanding of the user
representative’s roles and responsibilities,
and following these five guidelines will not
only help the designers articulate and apply
your goals, but will also make the lab design
process rewarding and interesting. Your input as a good user representative is essential
to the project’s ultimate success.
Erik Mollo-Christensen, AIA, is a Principal
at TK&A Architects. A lab and vivarium design
specialist, Mollo-Christensen is a project manager of advanced technology facilities.
For government-funded programs, space
efficiency and a high net/gross ratio will be
most advantageous for an organization. For
private users, lab space is often leased, and
the efficiency of rented space is critical to
the economic survival of the company. This
translates into new layouts, and especially
into open, flexible or shared space. Although
the physical surroundings are important,
keep in mind the balance between space and
science when thinking about success.
• Think about the best lab you’ve ever visited, and what features distinguished it.
• Notice where people interact most frequently, and think about how this works in
other building types.
• Look in the bottom drawer of your lab
casework, and think about whether those items
have been touched in the last two years. Consider whether you need fixed casework at all.
TAKE THE INSTITUTIONAL VIEW
The best user representatives balance the
broad goals of their organization with their
cals and especially equipment information
is essential. The designers need to provide
spaces for offices, seating, benches, equipment, utilities and any necessary support
spaces or amenities. If you don’t have all the
facts, or are predicting the future, make the
most rational guesses you can, or suggest
the project team assemble an experienced
• Confirm head counts with management
to be sure the organization will support your
• Find the current equipment manuals for
all analytical equipment in your lab.
• Notice the type and voltage of the electrical outlet for your most essential piece of
equipment—the designers will need this kind
of exact information as well.
Today’s labs often involve layouts and features that differ from traditional labs, and
the economics of building and operating lab
space have become strong drivers of design.
The “collaboration corridor” at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine connects private offices and touch-down meeting spaces with the dry/computational lab,
offering clear views of the activity in the wet lab.
The dry lab, or computation space, at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine looks much like a modern
open-plan corporate office. Areas of respite and writeable back-painted marker board glass adjacent to the large
“collaboration corridor” allow for impromptu discussion and a change of scenery.
16 LaboratoryDesign|JAN|FEB 2015