to be extremely flexible, capable of changing as research projects/teams change. Most
casework in today’s labs is mobile, including
mobile sinks and fume hoods. The issue of
how often spaces may be adapted or modified is determined more by the culture of the
institution than anything else. There are some
research organizations that purchase mobile
furniture and rarely move it, and then wonder
why they have it in the first place. Then there
are those that within their culture and business model emphasize quick change and collaboration among their people and teams. The
latter is the desired model to help institutions
be more competitive and cost effective.
Institutions around the world are developing newer, more effective models to work
together that U.S. groups need to learn from.
For example, new research centers in developing companies can’t afford to store much
in their labs and have implemented “
just-in-time” services. This means that most labs will
carry enough supplies in the space to support
seven days of work. For medium-term storage
of up to 30 days, shared rooms are provided in
a central location either on each floor or elsewhere within the building.
Similarly, some R&D organizations are creat-
ing virtual spaces for researchers and their teams
to communicate with peers at other campuses
across the world. The spaces most conducive to
these interactions are virtual break and confer-
ence rooms. In fact, with the rapid advancement
of technology, some organizations see these
virtual meetings occurring almost anywhere in
their facilities whether by laptop or smartphone.
Over the past year, there has been an
emphasis on big data in the business world and
academia. Yet in the research field, the most
significant big data success story arrived more
than 10 years ago with the advent of genome
mapping. Now research teams from around
the world have direct access to the Internet
and data developed through genome mapping.
Today, that data availability is driving many
areas of research, and hopefully within the
next decade we will see some important discoveries that have evolved from the genome
study. Usually it takes 12 to 15 years from initial idea to market, with a very difficult path
In other areas, interactive technology and
support equipment are evolving in noteworthy ways. For example, touchscreens are now
replacing whiteboards and are designed for
mobility. This allows the touchscreens to move
from one area to another, which encourages
research teams to change their spaces quickly
to support their team-based work.
Changing with the times:
Developments for biomedical
continued from page 3
This new model minimizes walls and doors to
allow for easy access and transparency. When
needed, people can have private conversations
in offices where the glass walls can be covered
for privacy. Spaces and furniture are designed
with brighter colors and for comfort.
The design team of the NIH PNRC II building looked to this new model of workplace
design when tasked with housing scientists
from 10 institutes under one roof. The new
building features interior glazing and full
transparency to encourage collaboration and
communication among the researchers across
disciplines and research teams. The building
further encourages this collaboration by utilizing flexible lab architecture that can change
over time and accommodate diverse research
approaches from cell culture to computer
science. The completed design also centers
on a shared atrium and meeting areas where
building users can interact. The result delivers
a welcoming and efficient environment suited
to the pursuit of innovation and discovery.
OFFICES AS DRY LABS
At NIH PNRC II, as elsewhere, there’s a significant transition from fume hoods to computers, and
from wet labs to dry labs. The dry labs—and many
wet labs—don’t need to be based on the traditional
rigid lab module. The labs are now more innovative
with a wider range of layouts and furniture based
primarily on a 10-ft office module.
This shift provides an opportunity to make
researcher offices additional dry lab space.
Offices no longer serve as mere refuges for libraries of books. These areas should be fully utilized
as areas for computer-based research or areas
for collaboration with other building users. This
can be a significant development in efficiency, as
much research is now carried out on computers.
FOCUSED ON TEAM RESEARCH
To make the most impactful discoveries and
ensure greater strides in the fields of medicine
and research, the more successful research
institutions have very clear areas of focus and
don’t try to spread themselves thin with a wide
range of research programs. There are fewer
programs and more focus on strategic research
With these strategies in mind, buildings are
becoming much more transparent, and people are encouraged to look in and see what’s
going on. Additionally, lab space is designed
NIH Porter’s three conference/meeting spaces are
contained within colorful stacked box structures that
overlook the facility’s enormous atrium. The glass
walls remind occupants of ongoing activities and
opportunities for collaboration.
The atrium of the NIH Porter building (which contains
neuromedical research programs) connects two lab
buildings built in separate phases. Occupants of the
two buildings circulate through the atrium, encouraging informal collaboration among teams.