A flexible floorplan at Brigham and Women’s Building for Transformative Medicine in Boston allows research and clinical spaces to be located on the same level, helping
maximize collaboration between disciplines and advance discovery. All images: NBBJ
HOW RESEARCH LABS ARE CHANGING TO ACCOMMODATE NEW COMPUTATIONAL PARADIGMS.
Learning from tech workplaces
Workplaces around the world are volving as organizations like Apple, Google and Amazon seek
to design offices that increase collaboration, integrate new technologies and
help employees work more efficiently.
This ethos is now making its way to the
buildings where scientists and researchers
work. Here’s why:
RESEARCH IS GOING DIGITAL
The methods scientists use to conduct
research are changing. Labs are traditionally divided into three segments:
clinical work, “wet” lab spaces (lab
experiments using liquids) and “dry” lab
spaces (labs using computers). Analysis
and discoveries are becoming increasingly computation-based, or dry, compared to traditional wet laboratories.
From 2013 to 2015, the National
Institutes of Health’s dry research funding
for networking and IT R&D increased 40
percent, growing by $200 million (2013
~$525 million; 2015 $729.7 million). 1
The past decade has seen an explosion
in data-intensive life sciences, including
genomic research and medicine centering
on healthcare customization and treatments based on patient DNA sequences.
The focus on data and computing in science fields is creating a shift in roles. There
are close to twice as many dry bench scientists—including computation, informatics/
clinical outcomes and clinical scientists—
than wet bench scientists working today.
Dry labs also require about 20 percent less
space, at a little under 100 sf per person versus close to 125 sf per person in a wet lab.
Data creation, metadata (data about
data) management and data curation are
increasingly becoming the domain of the
scientist. Lab benches are drying out.
INNOVATIONS REQUIRE COLLABORATION
Social network modeling and studies
show that collaboration, not just within
teams but between teams, is crucial to
increased productivity, idea generation
and effective communication. 2 The
denser and less siloed the social network,
the more creative the lab. New or repurposed science workspaces have a responsibility to accommodate these findings.
Translational research and medicine,
a biomedical field that blends research,
clinical work and community health
efforts, is becoming the norm. 3 Carrying
research from theory to implementation is now happening all in the same
space. Research is becoming increasingly
cross-disciplinary and interdependent.
From a design perspective, distance
matters. Visual transparency between
wet and dry labs is critical to supporting interdisciplinary and serendipitous connections by helping increase