By: Matt Herbert and Marvin Kemp,
Design Collective Inc.
The 18th-century poet Robert Burns wrote the familiar line: “The best- laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang
aft agley.” Translation: Existing lab models often don’t work.
Existing lab models developed for
new college and university science and
technology buildings often reflect Burns’
That’s because there’s no single model
for a modern science and technology
building. There are several planning
schemes that have proven effective, but
no one perfect solution for all buildings.
In today’s rapidly progressing technology world, every science and technology
building must be a new customized
design solution: a vision for your institution’s next science and technology building that will prove genuinely useful.
Effective planning for science and
technology buildings follows a conceptual
line of thinking that begins by creating a
vision that uniquely supports the institution’s mission and defining the budget, as
well as developing a design that features
A VISION THAT SUPPORTS THE
Major new science and technology concepts typically feature several competing
The university president may see a new
science and technology building as an opportunity to put his or her stamp on the
campus by, say, consolidating a program
distributed across multiple locations into
one large, state-of-the-art building.
An ambitious dean may want a facility
capable of pushing their research program into a higher position among life
science programs in the U.S.
Department chairs might envision lab
facilities capable of attracting researchers
from other institutions with a particular
kind of high quality research space.
The campus architect and facilities
director will weigh in with their competing visions for the project. Depending
on their longevity at the institution, they
too may want to put their “stamp” on the
Experienced architects that have been
through several large science and tech-
nology projects can help to bring these
competing voices, agendas and visions
That’s one of the chief reasons for
bringing these firms on board early. They
will need appropriate time to absorb the
institutional mission and the competing visions of stakeholders and decision
makers. Their expertise will come in
the form of effective listening and then
leading the design efforts in a way that
enfranchises all of the stakeholders.
Effective listening ranks as a top skill
important to everyone involved in planning
and programming a new building—from
the aspirational vision of top executives to
the micro-day-to-day activities of the users.
Listening and really hearing the needs of
the stakeholders is a vitally important quality for the process to unfold toward success.
WHAT’S YOUR IDEAL
It’s important at this early planning
stage—envisioning the project—for ev-
Instead of a new facility, flexible spaces permit relatively quick reconfigurations of existing spaces.
Image: Tom Holdsworth
In a practical example, technological changes have reduced research time spent working at a wet bench while
increasing time spent elsewhere using computer models to work out conclusions. Image: Tom Holdsworth