The science of collaboration
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room and auditorium to encourage informal
interaction. Nooks set along the walkways
provide collaboration spaces for small ad hoc
teams. Exceptionally wide hallways allow
teams to create “living rooms” where people
can work together. Although collaboration
spaces are well used, building population has
grown over the years, so many spaces have
been walled off to make room for additional
office space. Recently, the facility incorporated
hoteling spaces that will allow affiliate faculty
who aren’t consistently at the Institute to share
Similarly, NREL recognized the importance
of working with a wide range of industry
stakeholders and disciplines that include,
but are not limited to, utilities, system integrators, technology developers, state energy
departments, universities, private companies,
government agencies and other national labs.
NREL developed the ESIF with those users
in mind, as well as promoting a collaborative
culture internally for their scientists. At ESIF,
external partners can move in and develop or
test emerging technologies in NREL’s labs as
multidisciplinary experts work side-by-side.
To do this, the centrally located data center is
strategically fused to the Insight Center, which
is where researchers and partners can visualize
experiments performed in the labs (Figure 1).
Nearby, huddle rooms, conferencing space,
restrooms, vertical circulation and casual
interaction space attaches the data center to
the high-bay lab spaces, promoting movement
Although there has long been an assumption that these spaces allow people to interact
more, encourage collaboration and foster
innovation, there has been little empirical
research on the topic. Researchers at the Univ.
of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research
recently compared two buildings at the
Univ. of Michigan North Campus Research
Complex to explore the relationship between
space and collaboration. Their research
concentrates on a new spatial metric, Path
Overlap, or the measure of the extent to which
individual researcher’s daily circulation routes
intersect. The study creates simple paths for
each researcher, using four anchor points: the
office, lab, nearest restroom and nearest elevator. Paths are mapped on the assumption that
people will prefer the shortest travel distance.
Preliminary results indicate that for every
100 ft of zonal overlap in lab proximity and
Figure 4: Group collaboration space near open communicating stair at UC Berkeley Energy Biosciences Building.
Figure 3: Organizational strategies for collaboration areas.