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Engaging Laboratory Operations for Significant Improvements in Sustainability

Joe Phillips, CUH2A


Laboratories differ from nearly all other facility types in that they are designed to handle hazardous materials. In addition, under the surface of experimentation and discovery, most laboratories are required to facilitate material and supply chain management. Done well, the results are invisible. Done poorly, no other design feature can compensate for materials management deficiencies. This presentation examines the impact of materials on project size, performance, environmental compliance and design configuration. It demonstrates a holistic organizational approach to materials management is necessary to realize the greatest environmental savings. Specific recommendations and areas for examination will be given to the audience for them to apply to their own facilities or projects with the intent of reducing materials use in labs, reducing facility storage and "warehousing" costs, and improving control over supplies and hazardous wastes.


Based on at least two project case studies, we have found that significant reductions can be made to the 10-15% of building area dedicated to operations support space. The key methods for this reduction is supply chain mapping, looking for delays and "warehouse" stops, and just-in-time procurement, allowing the scientific customer to utilize the supply vendor as the warehouse instead of the support space or, worse, lab as storage area. We have found simple changes in project planning and design changes to laboratory furnishings can facilitate the improved performance described. The overall result is a "right-sizing" of the project, reducing the use of natural resources and resultant energy, and less expensive lab furnishings for the necessary activity of materials management. A key finding is the involvement of operations and procurement professionals in the planning and design stages to determine how their methods and needs can be synergistically merged with the requirements of the scientific staff.

Labs21 Connection:

  • Minimize overall environmental impacts.

Materials management and supply chain tracking have great influence on the overall environmental impact. Fewer materials are necessary for smaller buildings, to be sure. There is also resulting energy savings associated with a smaller footprint. But more importantly, effective supply chain management can have a powerful cascading effect to reduce the supply and waste burden of the modern laboratory. This is a holistic approach at looking at the operational requirements of labs and revamping them to translate to improved environmental performance.

  • Establish goals, track performance, and share results for continuous improvement.

This presentation shares uncommon ideas and results that have been routinely overlooked in the planning and design of laboratory facilities. It presents novel ideas that are readily applicable to labs for immediate improvement in environmental monitoring of a site's hazardous materials. Applied to the planning and design process, they have the capacity to improve the environmental responsiveness of a lab facility.


Joe Phillips is one of CUH2A's senior advisors in research facility planning and design. Nationally recognized for his expertise in this field, his focus is on integrating the human activity of science and discovery with the laboratory. A former research scientist and laboratory director, Joe fully appreciates his client's financial, technical, and operational needs, and how these requirements influence the capital project process. His leading-edge project experience clearly demonstrates this skill in the creation of safe, productive and adaptable facilities that enhance the quality of life within the laboratory.

A widely published author on laboratory and research facility planning and design, Joe's expertise includes biological containment, product discovery and development, biomedical research, and analytical services, Joe also lead's CUH2A's sustainable design development of projects. Recent publications include contributions to The Anthology of Biosafety, Environmental Design & Construction, Pharmaceutical Engineering, Today's Chemist, and Laboratory Design Newsletter. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry from Bucknell University and M.Arch. from the University of Colorado and has 15 years of experience in clinical and forensic toxicology. He has been working with CUH2A on projects worldwide since 1992.

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