Central commons space rendering. Image: Perkins Eastman
By Evan Weremeychik, AIA, LEED AP, Perkins
Rapid technological advances, scientific leaps and the influences of modern culture are some factors that have many institutions
scrambling to update or replace outdated research
facilities. Concurrent with this shift in research
and how it’s conducted is a move toward collaborative, multidisciplinary research. Leveraging the
cross-pollination of ideas between diverse groups
often leads to extraordinary results. Combined
with increased competition for talented researchers and an infusion of research leaders from the
younger generations, these factors have resulted in
significant changes to the research environment.
These factors demand that designers re-think
their approach to scientific spaces, and requires a
synergy of all design goals and support elements
that will result in flexible spaces capable of standing the test of time.
The evolution of research processes and
techniques will continue to produce rapid
changes that challenge the functionality of
the built environment, causing researchers to
quickly reach the limitations of traditional
static lab environments. The result is often
the costly reworking of existing research
spaces to adapt to the changing need. In the
design and construction of modern research
facilities, “flexibility” has become the buzz-word for dealing with this paradigm shift.
However, flexibility is a mandate more easily stated than achieved; each project has a
unique convergence of factors with no one-size-fits-all solution. While creating flexibility has focused on adaptable lab furniture
systems with quick disconnect utilities, true
flexibility must take a wider view, looking
beyond the wet labs to a more comprehensive
full program analysis.
A successful flexible project is one that
adapts to the needs of its researchers, functioning efficiently long into the future.
Owners are more aware of the continuous
evolution of research and how it’s conducted, requiring a more thoroughly considered
approach to new construction or renovation
projects that can adapt to new developments.
Additionally, in an effort to compete for
grant money and the best researchers, clients are
inspired to build functionally efficient facilities
with enticing amenities and a pleasant work
environments. Challenging ingrained lab design
assumptions, combined with progressive design
thinking, can minimize waste and redundancy
to maximize construction or renovation dollars
while creating recruitment facilities that stim-
ulate research evolution, promote self-sustain-
ing activities and prepare for and support an
uncertain future. The various technical, creative,
financial and cultural factors at play require an
adept design convergence that begins with a true
understanding of the parts and how they con-
nect to create a greater whole.
While it’s critical to understand the client’s
goals and the specifics of each project at the
outset, several key issues contribute to overall
flexibility and highlight the evolution in the
design of research environments.
PROPORTIONAL PROGRAM SPACE DISTRIBUTION
A key asset of a flexible environment is having
True flexibility furthers science
Image shows proper interior collaboration space. Image: Dero Sanford