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The Green Evolution: One Firm's Sustainable Laboratory Design Journey

Caroline Spigelski, Diamond and Schmitt Architects, Inc.

This presentation will provide an overview of institutional research facilities designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc. over the past two decades, demonstrating how the growing importance of sustainability has affected the firm's approach to the design of laboratory building.

The projects under discussion include three urban infill projects at universities situated in the downtown core of two Canadian cities and two suburban campuses. The first of these projects is the 300,000 square foot University of Toronto Earth Sciences Complex, completed in 1988. This project occupies a city block and demonstrates that a large project can be integrated into the urban fabric and increase density without detrimental effects on the neighborhood.

Another infill project at the University of Toronto involved situating a new 3-story, chemistry research facility on the roof of an existing 2-story building. The 55,000 square foot Davenport Building addition at the Lash Miller Chemistry Laboratory Complex, was completed in 2000 with minimum disruption to the facility below and represents a significant improvement in energy efficiency and working conditions in a pleasant, collaborative environment, which has proved to be one of the faculties best tools for recruiting new research staff.

The University of British Columbia's Life Sciences Centre represents the current state of Diamond and Schmitt Architects exploration of sustainable design concepts. This 575,000 square foot building, scheduled for occupancy in August 2004, embodies all of the principles of the Labs21 Approach. The project has a target of LEED™ Gold certification.


The major lesson learned during the projects above and culminating in the UBC LSC is that the cost of an integrated design approach, embodying sustainable principles, is far outweighed by the savings in operating costs over the life of the building.

Using resources, such as the Seattle lighting lab, which was employed to test daylighting options using virtual, scale model, and full size lab mockup and extensive use of energy modeling at every stage from initial site planning and massing design to envelope, mechanical and electrical systems design ensured appropriate consideration of first time capital expense against life cycle costing models.

At the UBC LSC a unique system to provide a low cost, less material intensive interstitial floor above the 85,000 square foot vivarium was developed. This system uses traditional residential framing techniques using metal components and fiberglass faced gypsum board, both with a high recycled content, within an 18' floor to floor basement space. This allows independent access to all mechanical and electrical systems serving this barrier facility.

Labs21 Connection:

  • Sustainable approach to brownfield site, site remediation, demolition and construction methods specified to encourage recycling, lessen environmental impact and dovetails into building commissioning to insure best possible air quality from demolition to occupancy.
  • Lighting controls, ceiling heights, and finish treatment were used to reduce capital and operating costs.
  • Zoned offices have cascading air supply (offices to lab) which reuses relatively clean office exhaust air to create negative pressure in the lab areas reducing the need for exterior conditioned air.
  • Lab air supply is handled with VAV (variable air volume) controls interconnected with controlled fume hood operations for greatest efficiency to offset 100 percent lab air exhaust requirement.
  • An Automated Building Management System is augmented by occupancy sensors that work in concert with the VAV system to monitor and further reduce energy consumption.
  • Two large atria offer the benefit of less perimeter envelope while increasing lab access to natural daylight.
  • Condensor water loops and exhaust heat recovery systems serve to reduce energy consumption.
  • Dual flush toilets and waterless urinals are being used to reduce water consumption, relatively clean process water is being recycled for other uses.
  • Typical lab floor mechanical runs are centralized in the plan, allowing lighter branch servicing of the perimeter. In addition to providing serviceability & future flexibility, the resultant 12' high lab ceilings increase daylighting and views.


Not available at this time.


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