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Changing Laboratory Paradigms and Innovative Planning and Design

Charles L. (Chip) Calcagni, AIA, and Paul Whitson, AIA, DBCC architects p.c.


Lab design is changing. New goals and outcomes require a different environment that challenges researchers and responds to the new ways researchers are being called upon to provide results. Our presentation will facilitate the continuous exchange of ideas between the end users and the design team as the boundaries of current scientific investigation is being pushed beyond the norm. Using three distinctly different examples where innovative planning for beta facilities resulted in the construction of laboratories that foster the free and open exchange of ideas in a clinical environment, we demonstrate approaches that support the next wave in the laboratory of the future.


Case Study 1: The changing paradigms of researchers and clinicians and evolving technologies demand new planning strategies for the lab of the 21st century. Three labs of the 20th century offer examples of planning visions for innovation, flexibility and technology.

For the Institute of Reproductive Medicine and Science at St. Barnabas Medical Center, an allusion to religious architecture provided a model for working space that concentrates and organizes the equipment and bench space required to do IVF work. The resulting "micro-chapels" provide intimate workspaces for the embryologists in close proximity to the procedure rooms, and can be assigned to coincide with the surgical scheduling.

Case Study 2: The novelty of the automated clinical chemistry assay equipment at the Automated Lab at Memorial Sloan-Kettering mandated a flexible lab environment. The modular nature of the lab equipment suggested the use of systems furniture for lab benches and accessioning areas and an open plan for future installations.

Case Study 3: At WM Keck Center for Neuroscience at Rutgers University, rethinking mechanical systems technology allowed the construction of a unique environment for researchers to explore the nature of spinal injury and its treatment. By creating down draft tables that work in conjunction with laminar airflow, 3 distinct research modalities could exist in this lab without walls.

Labs21 Connection:

DBCC designers help our clients establish goals, track performance, and share results for continuous improvement. A free and open exchange with our peers at Labs21 will raise the bar industry wide. All three projects cited in our presentation reflect a planning approach that permits flexibility / sustainability. The program challenges of all three projects were to plan solutions that embrace flexibility and are thus inherently sustainable over time. A central design issue from conception to completion of each project was how and where to allow for areas of potential change and demonstrate measurable results afterward.


Charles (Chip) Calcagni, AIA, currently a principal with DBCC, works on every aspect of even the most complex projects for both private and corporate clients. Throughout his 19-year career he has devoted himself to incorporating design excellence into advanced healthcare technology, including the Neuroscience Laboratory at Rutgers University and the Automated Laboratory at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center.

He worked with prominent design-oriented New York architectural firms Mitchell/Giurgola and James Stewart Polshek and Partners prior to joining DBCC. He devotes himself to incorporating design excellence into advanced healthcare technology. Mr. Calcagni's projects are characterized by a high level of personal interaction with clients and staff alike. Using an approach that makes the user an integral member of the project design team, Mr. Calcagni helps to direct the client toward positive architectural decisions. By studying and understanding the interrelationships of people within clients' institutions, he creates viable solutions that in many cases exceed the expectations of the project users.

Paul Whitson, AIA, focuses primarily on health care design, and his experience includes a wide range of projects for clients including: Saint Barnabas Health Care System, Mount Sinai, The Hospital for Special Surgery, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers and others. Mr. Whitson currently leads the team responsible for projects at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Under his guidance, DBCC has completed more than 35 projects over the last four years. The scope of programs includes research and laboratory space, offices, pharmacies, medical practice space, public areas, chemotherapy infusion suites and the chief planning role for the recently completed Sidney Kimmel Center for Prostate and Urologic Cancers at MSKCC. His experience lends depth to his understanding of the architectural process. His involvement extends through all phases of a project from Master Planning to Construction Administration.

Mr. Whitson's continuing interest in sophisticated architectural design defines a balance between the technical and expressive elements of projects. Under his direction, the implementation of complicated programs satisfies client needs through the creation of elegant spaces. He became a principal at DBCC in 2002.

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