Our expert laboratory designers attended and presented recently at the 2019 Laboratory Design conference in Orlando, Florida, where the Lab of the Year award winners were also announced. Two inspiring projects were included, with special recognition going to University of Texas at Dallas Engineering and Computer Science West. The overall winner was MIT.nano, a brand-new nanotechnology facility at the Massachusetts Institute of technology.
We came away inspired and ready to take on the challenges our clients face when designing modern laboratories to meet the needs of science research and learning. Here are the five big ideas from the conference that stood out to us.
1. Researcher wellness is priority No. 1 to recruit and retain top talent
The modern scientist is rightfully demanding more out of his/her research environment. Often, traditional methodologies and long-lasting beliefs of laboratory design are not the right fit of the fast-changing, constantly innovating institutions of today. Our own Steven Copenhagen and Toni Loiacano discussed three case studies where traditional lab planning ideas were replaced by innovative lab design strategies — helping these organizations create dynamic and boundary-less environments to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity. The case studies were:
2. Smart labs give a huge advantage to analyzing building performance
Smart buildings are nothing new, but technology in the laboratory environment is more robust and abundant than ever before. Jeffrey Zapfe from Acentech and Jorg Scholvin from MIT presented on the Laboratory of the Year 2019 winner, MIT.nano, a brand-new nanotechnology facility at the Massachusetts Institute of technology. To prevent future performance degradation, MIT.nano is using a real-time and continuous live monitoring of the building’s environment so that any issues can be proactively identified and fixed.
3. Excellent design can help our clients achieve higher national research rankings
Expertly designed laboratories can boost a research institution’s ranking by focusing on key factors within the ranking process. Brian Kowalchuk of HDR discussed how creating a successful, iconic research facility can positively influence ranking factors such as grant funding, commitment to growth, peer recognition, distinguished faculty and alumni, and many others.
4. Designing sustainable laboratories are no longer an option – it is a priority
With an increased focus on the bottom line, organizations are constantly searching for money-saving solutions for their largest energy-consuming building assets. Often, laboratories consume the most energy due to air change rates and specialized equipment. Many presentations covered novel concepts that could be introduced in laboratory environments. Punit Jain from CannonDesign presented on Webster University’s Interdisciplinary Science Building where unique stormwater management features and an existing chilled water loop system won the project an ASHRAE award for innovation.
5. We need to start thinking about the next generation of laboratory designers
The final session of the conference focused on the future with a panel discussion about the next generation of laboratory designers. The panel included Patricia Larrabee from Facility Logix, Punit Jain from CannonDesign, and Victoria David from DLR Group. Preparing for the next generation of lab designers requires current professionals to mentor and train those passionate about lab design. They discussed topics like diversity, training programs, professional development, recruitment and a call to action to create local chapters of I2SL and AIA Knowledge Communities for Lab Design to enable exposure for emerging professionals as well as get involved in the schools.