more territory for their lab. When their
research project ends, or is moved, the
time and cost of changing out the fixed
materials is in someone else’s hands.
Asking the right question of the right
person is the best way to accomplish a
healthy balance on flexibility needs. In
the example of mobile casework, the question is best asked of the institutional client rather than the researcher, since they
have an ownership outlook and will likely
take the long-term view.
SET TING CONTINGENCIES
To allow for a responsible management
of cost and risk factors on the LSL II project, the collective team collaboratively
planned for contingencies to counter the
lack of information and equipment delays.
These contingencies are a projection of
cost, and are based on the available information about an equipment item’s likely
parameters of cost and material support.
For example, for the entire design phase
of the UMass Amherst project, ARC worked
without the benefit of knowing what the
make, model and magnet specifications
would be for the facility’s MRI equipment.
The date for identifying this equipment
kept slipping and, as it did, other decisions
needed to be made in the absence of critical
information. Through thoughtful planning
CREATIVELY ADDRESSING COST AND
With the Basis of Design in place, the
entire team, including the client, can look
at individual user requests and equipment
development in a more objective and
quantitative way. ARC finds providing
information in response to the “what if”
questions is often a way to reach practical
and creative solutions.
A key decision point for managing cost
and expectations is the level of flexibility needed. Determining the appropriate
adaptability for a new lab space comes
down to agreeing on what’s the right
amount of flexibility for the specific users
and the potential for future changes in lab
ARC approaches this question by collecting information from multiple sources and seeking benchmark examples from
other facilities to draw on. The reality is
no one can afford total flexibility. The
more options designed for flexibility, the
more cost is added to the project.
One of the most talked about areas of
flexibility is the issue of selecting fixed
or mobile casework. This decision goes
to the heart of the flexibility issue. If you
ask a PI whether he or she needs movable
casework, the answer is likely fixed. From
the PI’s point of view, fixed casework
affords the opportunity to carve out
LSL II representative floorplan showing Level 3 with hospitality and conference space off the main lobby on left and
patient spaces. Image: ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge
tingency schedule was established within
the overall project timeline to ensure final
installation of the MRI.
Relevant to MRI placement and operation is the design and location of surrounding facilities and materials. Because
of the powerful and sensitive magnets
in the MRI, ARC needed to continually monitor decisions on the large duct
banks for power supply that were slated
to be in an adjacent area. A data center
was proposed to be sited next door to the
MRI, which added further complexity.
Shielding for nearby elevators and electronic equipment would be required. In
the contingency, the design team went
beyond the MRI equipment itself to
include all tertiary considerations with
cost and time attached.
Clear and shared contingencies allowed
the team to maintain a “watch list” of
open and unresolved issues that the team
can continually monitor and update as
new information arrives. The schedule was
updated to inform all team members of a
change in status.
Keeping a fixed schedule on track
while navigating the unknowns is never
an easy course for lab designers. To be
successful in managing through the
ambiguity, it helps to know the science
implications of key decision
points, and to build trust
with the client by continu-
ally advising and commu-
By following a continuous process that utilizes a
Basis of Design framework,
a system for updating information and cost data and a
balancing of needs and budget through creative contingencies, the team can keep
a project within its vision
Bryan Thorp advises clients on strategy, planning,
budgeting and design for life
science and lab projects.
Adrian Walters specializes
in science and technology
projects, working with clients to develop research and
teaching environments that
differentiate today’s institutions and corporations.