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A Center for Research Excellence with Focus on Instructional Laboratories

Jim Jonesand Jack Davis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Laboratory facilities are among the most complex and challenging projects for facilities managers, architects, and building system designers. The complexity is, in part, the result of demands for functional flexibility and growing owner and occupant concerns for Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), including health and safety concerns and energy conservation. High levels of environmental quality are achievable through proper design of the luminous and sonic environments, as well as careful design and installation of systems that impact Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Unfortunately, for complex buildings such as laboratories the system-system and system-occupant interactions are often not fully understood, resulting in less than optimal design and operational solutions.

Designing for instructional laboratories presents an additional array of challenges and issues. For example, when designing laboratories for educational institutions, one must keep in mind that: 1) their use may change over time, 2) they are often mixed-use spaces, 3) reducing operating costs is extremely important for schools and universities that often operate with fixed budgets, 4) including Environmental Health and Safety staff in the design process is equally important, and 5) how the sciences are taught should influence how the building is designed.

The evaluation of these complex interactions requires a multidisciplinary team with both the research skills and vision to comprehensively evaluate alternatives and propose solutions for Labs for the 21st century. With this in mind, this paper presents a proposed structure for a Center for Research Excellence and a research team with a focus on Instructional Laboratories. In addition to a wide range of research skills, the Center would include research facilities that allow for a variety of research methodologies. The Center would be located within a research university or universities and have the full support of the university(ies) to study existing laboratory situations and evaluate the efficacy of proposed new design and operating strategies.

Participation by a school of engineering would be desirable to evaluate systems performance, while involvement by a school of architecture would allow for design alternatives to be studied. Other disciplines such as educators, behavioral scientists and finance would contribute. The research agenda for the Center would be based on input from various stakeholders concerned with instructional labs. Support for the Center would be through funded research as well as through corporate partnerships.


Jim Jones, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. Professor Jones holds a Master of Architecture and Ph.D. from the College of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Michigan. In addition to providing graduate level instruction in the areas of Environmental Building Systems, Resource Conservation and Sustainable Design and Systems Integration, Dr. Jones has over 15 years of research experience using computer simulation, experimental analysis techniques and field monitoring of subjects related to Resource Conservation, Indoor Environmental Quality, environmental sensing and monitoring, whole building performance assessment, and systems performance assessment. He was the principal designer and developer of the Indoor Environmental Quality Lab at North Carolina A&T State University as well as the Wall Assembly Thermal Test System at the Building Technology Laboratory in the University of Michigan. He has published over 40 technical papers related to the subjects concerned with building performance and systems-occupant interactions. In addition to degrees in architecture he holds a minor in Applied Statistics.

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