perimeter and two lab benches inboard. When
we look at the approach to mechanical systems
for these types of labs, they’re a one-size-fits-all
proposition. At a minimum in the U.S., 1.5 cfm/
sf (often erroneously referred to as 8 to 10 air
changes per hour) of make-up or outside air is
required in spaces in which there is chemical use.
This outdoor air needs to be heated or cooled;
and depending on the project location, this
could amount to 75% of the energy use in a lab
building. Many projects have been designed to
much higher air change rates, some as high as 2
cfm (without a performance-based need), only
compounding the energy usage end problem.
What if we started to look at the programmatic
functions in a typical biomedical research or life
sciences lab at a finer level of detail? We used the
BSB as a vehicle to question and improve upon the
previously described model. We started with the
most basic analysis of the function of each component of the lab environment described above.
The primary function of the write-up desk area
is documentation of the research occurring in the
surrounding lab environment. In an academic
setting, these desk spaces frequently become, in
essence, offices for postdoctorate researchers and/
or graduate students. Why do we need to condi-
tion, supply and exhaust 1.5 cfm/sf of outside air
to an office? In addition to the functional aspect,
who doesn’t enjoy a cup of coffee while writing up
data or a grant application? Since food and drink
is prohibited within the lab environment, write-
up stations are restrictive in their practical utility
when placed within the lab. We find this layered
and transparent zoning strategy better promotes
collaboration, given that researchers are spending
less time in the lab at the bench and more time in
tissue culture suites, or analyzing computational
data at their writing desk.
The lab bench was, at one time, the heart
of the research environment. While it’s still an
important component, functional usage studies
indicate it’s no longer the primary workspace. As
much of the research is now completed in more
specialized spaces, we have the opportunity to
revisit the robustness of the lab bench spaces.
Lighting is critically important at the benchtop
for accurate research, and is often provided at
50 footcandles (540 lux) at the worksurface
via overhead direct or indirect lighting. With
a non-targeted lighting scenario, electricity is
wasted by “over-lighting” the space where it’s not
required or desired (Figure 2). On the services
side of the lab, one must question traditional lab
design. Given the usage trends observed over a
large section of projects, this becomes a signif-
icant potential target to reduce first-costs and
consumption over time.
Enclosed functional spaces, such as tissue or
cell culture, and procedure spaces have traditionally been located within the inner portion of
the floorplate. Because researchers are spending
more time in these spaces, and some research
positions are solely located there, is a location
with limited access to natural light and views
the best environment for scientific discovery?
We challenged rather aggressively the traditional
approach with the planning of the Biosciences
Research Building, by locating lab support, particularly tissue culture, along the perimeter with
access to natural light.
PART TWO: THE APPROACH
We began our analysis by addressing the “
one-size-fits-all” approach to design. The cross-sectional zoning and planning of the BSB was
critical to its ability to reduce energy consumption, while simultaneously increasing density
and efficiency of the labs. The project approach
began with separating the program into low-,
medium- and high-intensity use zones. By creating a functional and physical separation of the
low-energy use areas from the medium- and
LaboratoryDesign|MAY|JUN 2014 43
continued on page 44
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