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Planning Processes and Challenges for Owners

Daniel L. Hightower, AIA, BBH Design
  
There is a need to improve processes for the up-front planning and programming of laboratory facilities. This is evident from a report by the National Academy of Sciences committee on Laboratory Design, Construction, and Renovation (a National Research Council committee funded by the American Chemical Society).

There are also stewardship responsibilities that must be addressed early in the planning process. Issues that are not government funded, but are critical to our nation. Issues that in some cases are mandated, in others recognized with full Federal support, and others recognized with partial support.

Both of these issues, planning and programming improvements, and stewardship responsibilities, create challenges for owners.

Challenge—Best Practices for designing and constructing laboratories:

How do you obtain the best building to meet your needs? This was the question asked by the National Academy of Sciences committee. The NRC highlighted the need for improving up front planning, and establishing good communications early in a research building project.

There are two approaches to planning and programming for laboratory facilities: The more common approach is to provide planning for the facility before the award of the Design contract, and have the Architect provide programming services; and the second approach is to complete both planning and programming prior to the Design contract. It is the opinion of the author that the latter is a more successful approach to planning research facilities. This approach allows the owner to have a better understanding of their role and responsibilities. From the beginning, the Owner must have an understanding of how they influence project costs.

Challenge—Being good stewards with respect to unfunded mandates, but also issues that haven't been considered as unfunded mandates:

What does the Owner desire/expect from the A/E in terms of Sustainability, or Healthy Buildings? These are unfunded issues, and so why would an Owner seek consideration for these issues during times when they are concerned about making ends meet? This is a challenge for society as a whole. We have the knowledge and the vision for reducing resource usage, but we lack the knowledge of how the built environment affects us.

Findings:

Challenge—Best Practices for designing and constructing laboratories:

  1. How do you obtain the best building to meet your needs? This was the question asked by the National Academy of Sciences committee. And of course the answer to the question is the Owner wants a quality project…one that meets their needs, that is on time, and within the budget…but it is more than this…it is a project that follows a process, a road map, that allows the owner to make difficult decisions…choices leading to a compromise in design due to budget constraints or program changes…a process that allows for change. My experiences with NIH, and more recently with the University of Kansas Medical Center, have shown the benefits of early planning and programming, and creating the processes that allowed for good design.

  2. There are two approaches to planning and programming for laboratory facilities: The more common approach is to provide planning (including needs assessments, budget, and scheduling) for the facility before the award of the Design contract, and have the Architect provide programming (more refined needs assessment, budget, and schedule) services; and the second approach is to completing both planning and programming prior to the Design contract, with the Architect providing verification on the programming. Experience has shown the latter to be the preferred practice for laboratory facilities.

  3. From the beginning the Owner must have an understanding of how they influence project costs. The time when the owner has the greatest influence for the least cost is in the beginning…with the cost increasing over the life of the design process and the owner's influence decreasing…where design changes can be made up to design development for limited cost, but beyond this point, cost can increase dramatically.

Challenge—Being good stewards with respect to unfunded mandates, but also issues that haven't even been considered as unfunded mandates:

How do we create the desire of Owners to give consideration to the issues of Sustainability and Healthy Buildings? EPA and the Department of Energy have done an excellent job of highlighting this issue…they have developed useful tools, and marketed the need for their use. They have supported such programs as Labs 21, and the Green Buildings Council.

There is a need to expand the sustainability challenge…our need to design and build efficient laboratory space. This requires looking at the program needs with a goal of building minimal space. Often we design and build more space than is required. In laboratory facilities we need to look at how programs can be flexible, as well as how they can share space. This is particularly true for laboratory support space. This is a very difficult issue to address with User groups who have concerns about sharing space, but more importantly sharing equipment. The benefit of designing space in this manner is two fold, saving resources to construct facilities and their operations. An example of how this can be accomplished is the design of the new KU Biomedical Research Center.

I would like to offer another challenge….our need to be concerned with how the Indoor Environment affects our health? We are lacking "hard research" by the Medical Research Community with respect to how our built environments affect our health. We need Indoor Air Quality standards, that can be incorporated in to guidelines and codes…as well as building operation certification…and monitoring programs. An example of this is our programs for the provision of potable water, and sewer systems.

Labs21 Connection:

The first challenge of doing more planning up front allows the owner's representatives to promote the "Labs21 Approach" to designing sustainable facilities…to educate the consumer on the benefits of being good stewards.

The second challenge of being good stewards with respect to sustainability and healthy building issues is a view of expanding current Labs21 initiatives, and starting a new one that should follow the "Labs21 Approach," ….our need to be concerned with how the Indoor Environment affects our health. We are lacking "hard research" by the Medical Research Community with respect to how our built environments affect our health. Yes, we have codes and standards for Life Safety issues, but I contend that life and death issues are different from health issues. We have "soft research" on the issue, and this was how the standards for our indoor air requirements were established…the development of the Comfort Zone, and the number of air changes. Since the Oil Embargo of the 1970's we have turned the indoor environment into a living conduit, and at times reduced life support while increasing pollutants. Corrections have been made, but these are based on Best Practices advice and not Medical Research.

Biography:

Daniel L. Hightower, AIA, is an architect with BBH Design, the firm's Director of Programming and Planning. In previous positions he has been the Director, Facilities Management, for the University of Kansas Medical Center; the Associate Director, Division of Engineering Services, for the National Institutes of Health; and the Senior Technical Advisor for Architecture and Engineering for the US Public Health Service. He helped write the AIA Guidelines on Biomedical Research Laboratories, and the AIA Guidelines on Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities. He has served on the White House Building and Construction Committee, and chaired the National Academy of Sciences committee for Architecture and Architectural Engineering, and the NAS committee for Building Design and Construction. He received his B.S. in Building Design and Construction from Pittsburg State University in 1971 and his M.S. in Architectural Engineering from the University of Kansas in 1974.

 

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