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Planning for the Unknown: How Do You Build a 50-year Laboratory When You Can't See the Science 10 Years from Now?

Karl K. Jonietz and Kenneth Stroh, Los Alamos National Laboratory


The presentation will provide participants with a means of gathering data to reconcile the sometimes-conflicting objectives of right-sizing laboratories, support services, and utilities with quickly changing research methodologies. The presentation will illustrate how strategic planning techniques, including scenario development, can by used to supplement conventional architectural programming to produce more flexible yet sustainable laboratories.

The key attributes of the Labs21 Approach, setting energy and resource goals, viewing the building as a whole, and right-sizing systems, require knowledge of the future that is unavailable in many fast-changing areas of science. Scenario forecasting techniques were developed to aid business in making long-term predications in areas of significant uncertainty. By applying these techniques, one can narrow down the range of likely outcomes to better define new laboratories and reduce life-cycle cost and energy and resource consumption.


Using the proposed Fuel Cell National Resource Center at Los Alamos National Laboratory as an example, the authors will show how a carefully orchestrated effort involving scientists, technicians, architects, and owner representatives has led to the development of a design that will be responsive to changing research methodologies for years to come. Merging conventional strategic planning techniques from business with architectural planning has led us to a refined laboratory design that focuses on planning future energy needs, minimizing life-cycle waste production and promoting the long-term use of the new facility.

Labs21 Connection:

Planning from a whole building approach sometimes is in conflict with preserving flexibility to allow for low-cost upgrades as scientific and analytic methods change. If one right-sizes too forcefully one may create a building that has only limited life, paradoxically prompting building replacement earlier than would otherwise be required. We believe that use of planning methods developed by business for forecasting over long periods of time or when key variables are subject to wide fluctuation can be successfully adapted to help provide information relevant to sustainable laboratory design.


Karl Jonietz is a consultant to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has been the CEO of a technology company, the president of a college, and a consultant in strategic planning. He has selected factory and research sites, built laboratories, factories and offices in the US, France, Ireland, Belgium, and England. His academic background includes an MBA from Boston University and an MPA from Harvard.

Ken Stroh is the Program Manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory for hydrogen, fuel cell and transportation programs. He has worked for more than 25 years at the Laboratory on energy systems design, analysis and testing, with a focus in recent years on fuel cells. Ken received the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles Medal from the Department of Commerce and the Society for Automotive Engineers in 1998 for Government/Industry Teamwork on fuel cell power systems. He holds B.S, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University.

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