Diagram of sidehouse, lab supply, open lab and office. Image: NXL Architects
can afford to do the R&D on innovative
design strategies that deliver them better
more adaptable buildings at lower capital
and operating costs.
• Heavy, vibrating equipment is
housed on an entirely separate structure,
and no longer needs to be isolated and
then accounted for in the design with
• Reduced construction schedule since
mechanical equipment can be installed as
the building rises, instead of waiting until
the building is topped off.
• Horizontal and generally
unidirectional distribution of HVAC
ductwork and valves is easier to install
and service, reducing capital costs
(and incidentally lowering the cost of
perceived risk during tendering as it is
more easily understood and predictable—
so tendered prices are lower).
• Flexibility for the future. No
immovable areas on the floor plate.
• Reduced energy usage. Utilities can
be right-sized for program areas.
• Ventilation can be demand-based for
the compartment it directly serves.
Ultimately leading to:
Reduced costs and improved efficiency
of floor plate
• Reduces risk-pricing for Mechanical/
• Improves ability to change floor plate
and reconfigure when needed, projected
to be cost neutral.
Since all the equipment within a sidehouse is co-located with stairs and even
elevators, this means that labs, support,
offices and open workspaces can connect
in a much more dynamic environment.
Not only does a sidehouse reduce the
overall footprint of a lab thanks to space
saving mechanisms, but it creates the flex-
ibility to reconfigure a floorplate to suit a
future need, at a much lower cost and most
importantly, without the down time that
larger reconfigurations would require. We
have successfully applied this approach to
even more highly serviced buildings with
another unilateral-sidehouse vivarium
about to begin construction, and a bilat-
eral-sidehouse (bookending the program)
biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility
currently in late stage design and are finding
that the approach simplifies even the most
complex buildings. That is why we believe
that more Science and Technology buildings
should consider leveraging sidehouse utility
distribution strategies to create a more
dynamic, successful lab environment—one
that enables adaptability and flexibility to
meet research needs for years to come.
Jay Levine is Principal with NXL
Architects in Toronto. www.nxl.ca