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Science in the City: The Urban Laboratory Building

Chris Leary and Jeff Salocks, The Stubbins Associates

With attention to the issues of green laboratory design focused on energy efficiency, one of the most often overlooked opportunities for developing sustainable laboratory buildings begins with selecting an appropriate building location. Urban laboratory buildings demonstrate many environmental benefits including revitalizing underutilized, and often contaminated former industrial sites, adaptive reuse of underutilized buildings, convenient access to public transportation, efficiencies of centralized utilities, and compact and walkable communities. However, urban laboratory buildings are also challenging design problems requiring unique solutions including real estate development pressures, regulatory processes, neighborhood concerns, utility infrastructure, safety and high-rise construction, security, and service access. This presentation will demonstrate, with a discussion of issues and case studies, that urban laboratory buildings offer advantageous opportunities for research with less toll on the environment. Case studies will include a new global research headquarters for an international pharmaceutical company, a speculative laboratory building development, and a master plan for extending the campus of a major urban medical school.


This presentation will communicate the following lessons learned and gathered data (with issues and case studies):

  • Energy consumed by, and environmental impact of, a laboratory building,
  • Energy consumed by, and environmental impact of, commuting to a lab building,
  • Issues associated with building on a previously 'disturbed' site,
  • Issues associated with a 'high-rise' laboratory building,
  • Benefits of working in an urban community,
  • Benefits and challenges of connecting to an existing utility infrastructure,
  • Regulatory and neighborhood challenges and solutions,
  • Urban security and service access challenges and solutions.

Labs21 Connection:

The topic of "urban laboratory buildings" expands the considerations of an environmentally sustainable laboratory building far beyond the usual the narrowly-focused individual building criteria of energy consumption, pollution and construction materials. Many well intentioned buildings successfully address these green building technologies while ignoring larger scale negative environmental impact from inefficient land use planning, suburban sprawl, habitat destruction and pollution from automobile-dependant transportation. Developing laboratory buildings in urban environments offers many opportunities to consider the environmental impact of the building in a larger regional context. However, urban buildings also present certain challenges, all of which can be overcome. This presentation will identify and quantify the environmental opportunities of urban laboratory development, and also identify challenges and solutions.


Chris Leary has led design teams for many of the firm's large-scale urban 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 including SCUP and Laboratories for the 21st Century. In addition, he is the Director of the Stubbins Associates High-Performance Green Building Design Group.

Jeff Salocks has over 20 years of experience as an architect and designer specializing in the programming, planning and design of laboratory and research facilities for universities, institutional, healthcare and corporate clients. At present he is the Director of Laboratory and Research Facilities at The Stubbins Associates in Cambridge Massachusetts and has recently designed new research facilities for the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research and Elixir Pharmaceuticals. He has also programmed and/or designed new laboratory facilities for academic institutions such as Brown University and Dartmouth College. Mr. Salocks holds a BArch degree from Pratt Institute and is a member of the American Institute of Architects. He speaks frequently on the subject of laboratory design for such national organizations as SCUP, Project Kaleidoscope, National Council of Research Administrators and Society of Research Administrators.


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