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Adaptive Reuse of Existing Buildings to Laboratories

Don Posson, PE, CIPE, Kling
Chris Leary
, AIA, The Stubbins Associates, Inc.

The most sustainable laboratory project is one that reuses or renovates an existing building shell to improve the performance of the building as a whole. There are many examples of renovating existing laboratory buildings to improve their overall energy performance and functional efficiency. Although these renovations are challenging, they are generally straightforward renovation projects as the building shell and infrastructure were designed for a laboratory function.

A much greater challenge, however, is to convert an existing building that was not originally utilized as a laboratory to a laboratory function for either research & development, manufacturing, or for teaching. These adaptive reuse projects are extremely challenging and require a significant focus on upgrading the building envelope to not only meet current energy codes but also to deal with the more stringent space temperature, humidity, and pressurization requirements of a laboratory. Also, because the floor-to-floor heights of the buildings and the building volumes available were not originally designed for the typically laboratory infrastructure provided, and the design solutions for the building systems must be carefully and creatively integrated between architecture and engineering.

The presentation will focus on theses design and construction challenges and will provide several case studies where these challenges have been successfully addressed.


The lessons learned from the four case studies presented will focus on the following aspects of adaptive reuse projects:

  • Building Envelope Upgrades
  • Building Character Transformation
  • Options to work with less than ideal existing column bay spacing and floor-to-floor heights
  • Structural Vibration Concerns
  • Utility Distribution Concepts
  • Utility Service Upgrades
  • Additional service requirements for lab buildings
  • MEP Systems Appropriate to Adaptive Reuse Facilities

Labs21 Connection:

The approach suggested by this presentation is important because it embraces one of the most fundamental sustainable principles of recycling or reusing existing facilities in-lieu-of building new, and in doing so working diligently to meet the energy performance and functional performance strategies promoted by Labs21.


Don Posson, PE, CIPE, has over 18 years of experience specializing in HVAC, plumbing and fire protection systems design for laboratory facilities. Don is currently employed by Kling as an Engineering Design Principal, working on the planning and design of R&D facilities for the federal government, corporate biotechnology laboratories and university teaching/research facilities. Don is a LEED™ 2.0 Accredited Professional and has been involved with the planning and design of numerous sustainable design projects, including the first LEED™ Platinum certified building. He has presented case studies and sustainable design methodologies at conferences and meetings hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council, the AIA Committee on the Environment, the Construction Specifications Institute, Laboratories for the 21st Century, and the Sustainable Washington Alliance. Don is currently guest lecturer and studio critic for a comprehensive architectural design studio at the University of Maryland, incorporating advanced technology and sustainable design.

Chris Leary, AIA, has led design teams for many of the firm's large-scale projects since joining The Stubbins Associates in 1992, including laboratory and research facilities for the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research, Boston University Medical Center, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His particular interest is in the area of Building Performance and Sustainable Design. Chris is a LEED™ 2.0 Accredited professional, and is currently working on several LEED™ registered projects. He is an experienced speaker on the subject, and has participated in several conferences. In addition, he is the Director of the Stubbins Associates High-Performance Green Building Design Group.


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