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Addressing Change Quickly: Reinforcing Sustainable Ideas

Daniel Watch, AIA, Perkins & Will

After 9/11 laboratory design changed significantly. Labs are now required to change quickly and affordably to support research teams in addressing crises such as terrorism, outbreaks, and other potential disasters. There is a need for efficient, cost-effective lab conversion and modification, as well as sustainable design for many architects and clients designing laboratory facilities. The combination of sustainable ideas with quick-changing labs is successfully being developed at CDC's new building for the NCEH.

This presentation explains in detail new casework models that are flexible, affordable and re-enforce research teams' need to create their own research spaces. The docking stations and service carriages are discussed with the support of a cost study. Information describing the creation of "wet" zones for hoods and sinks is presented, as well as the rationale behind equipment zones that allow researchers to determine the final design. The presentation also addresses the importance of locating pump cabinets and cylinders in the interstitial space in order to afford more bench space in the labs.


In planning and designing benchwork and cabinetry to achieve sustainable laboratory concepts, we discovered that researchers are more than willing to look at new casework models, especially those models that give the scientists more efficiency and flexibility.

Another finding that grew out of our goal to design high-performance laboratory space is that interstitial space has many more benefits than just acting as a mechanical service area for the engineering staff. By locating pump cabinets and cylinders in the area, this often underutilized area is capable of freeing up bench space in the laboratories. More options for ceiling design and support spaces leads to more efficient labs.

Also learned was that casework manufacturers are looking for new ideas and are very willing to work with design team. Creating the most efficient, flexible, and cost-effective laboratory becomes the number one goal.

Labs21 Connection:

Principles of the Labs21 Approach to laboratory design are implemented in several unique ways for benchwork and cabinetry in CDC's new building for the NCEH. Creating adequate, flexible research space is always a challenge. Moving pump cabinets and cylinders out of labs, freezer room, and research corridors and into interstitial space allows for much more bench space in the laboratories. Fixed casework zones—fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, and sinks—accommodate the more changeable service carriages and docking stations. Incorporating single corridor to labs and single corridor in main open labs maximizes bench space and lab efficiency.

In the area of engineering services, the design allows current and future occupants to buy what they need, when they need it, where they need it.

The presentation demonstrates how a sustainable approach to laboratory design—and specifically, for benchwork and cabinetr—results in added efficiency and continued improvement throughout the life of the building. The focus is on one essential element in the overall design of a high-performance, low-energy laboratory.


Daniel D. Watch, AIA, Principal, Perkins & Will Architects, is a LEED™ 2.0 Accredited Green Building Professional whose significant international experience and history of award winning design provides Perkins & Will and its clients a unique talent. He heads the design efforts in Perkins & Will's Science and Technology division and is the author of the book Research Laboratories, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. in 2001. He has recently served as guest lecturer on laboratory design to the National Institutes of Health, Harvard University, Research Triangle Park, and the Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Other recent projects include: NASA Space Center Testing Laboratories at Cape Canaveral, Florida, American Museum of Natural History Genomics Labs in New York, UTMB National Biocontainment Lab, Seton Hall Science Building, FAU Charles E. Schmidt Science Center, North Carolina State College of Engineering, and six new laboratory facilities in China.


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