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Bringing Laboratories into the 21st Century: A Case Study in Adaptive Reuse

Antony Mikulic, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Colin Sakinofsky, S2F Pty Limited

This presentation will demonstrate and explain the opportunities and lessons learned from the redevelopment of old and outmoded buildings and the transformations into leading edge research facilities.

Antony Mikulic will introduce the presentation from a client's perspective. As Manager of Capital Works and Sustainable Environment for Australia's national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Antony is responsible for upgrading and maintaining the Capital Works to support research. With over 57 sites around Australia and the world, and more than 1,200 buildings, the challenge and experience of converting many older buildings into modern facilities will be demonstrated and explained through primarily two case studies.

Colin Sakinofsky, Director of S2F Pty Limited, one of Australia's foremost Laboratory Designers will support the presentation from a consultant's perspective and how they need to respond to a clients needs of a Brownfield site, the requirement to reuse and adapt old buildings rather than start with a Greenfield site. Colin's focus is on designing research facilities capable of "dynamic change" to keep up with the ever changing demands of research technology and thereby maintain proper principles of sustainability.

Case Study 1: CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, New Biotechnology Building.
Complete upgrade of a 1950's building into a modern state of the art Agri-research Genetic facility whilst maintaining partial occupancy and operation.

Case Study 2: CSIRO Entomology.
The upgrade and improvement of a cluster of buildings that date back to 1928 and the organisations requirement to provide a Biotechnology facility to support Entomological Research.

As the client, Antony will present the reasoning, rationale, and advantages of this project.

Colin will then present as the consultant the approach that was undertaken to satisfy the client's objectives through "Design by analysis":

  • The vertical and horizontal integration analyses of three "disparate" buildings.
  • Managing the physical containment (BSL-2) barriers constraints across three buildings.
  • Cross-contamination innovations in open plan laboratory planning.
  • Linking three administrative areas outside the laboratory environment in a seamless manner.
  • Outline the ESD initiatives.
  • Seeking a logical balance of capital expenditure against ESD objectives and adaptive reuse of existing buildings.

Following on from Antony's outline of CSIRO Entomology, Colin will explain how we worked collaboratively to achieve the technical design solutions in response to the clients needs. In addition, Colin will then illustrate another case study on an existing Brownfield site (non-Greenfield) where the needs of a more complex and technologically driven solution was required to an "in-fill and connected" building in an established Biotechnology Precinct.

In order to put the Australian Regulatory environment into context for a largely American audience Colin will outline the primary differences between American and Australian regulations with respect to containment and laboratory codes and how this impacts on the design solutions.

Case Study 3: Childrens Hospital Westmead Clinical Sciences: Design by Analysis - Part 2

  • How international research success in vector gene transfer translated into government and bequest funding.
  • Maintaining operations for existing laboratories and building new expansion on a tight site.
  • Complex precinct constraints.
  • Complex technical solutions for a transgenic animal facility and human applications laboratory.
  • Generic open plan biological research laboratories.
  • BSL 2 barriers and bridges.
  • Vertical and horizontal integration.

Labs21 Connection:

Like Labs21, CSIRO is dedicated to the pursuit of sustainable, high performance, and low-energy laboratories that will:

  • Minimise overall environmental impacts.
  • Protect occupant safety.
  • Optimise whole building efficiency on a life-cycle basis.

Adaptive reuse of an existing building is seen as beneficial in minimising the impacts of construction. The embodied energy of the existing structure can be realised in continuing and recycling its life.

A very demanding agenda is required for designers of recycling buildings into state-of-the-art research facilities, to provide a facility that is energy efficient, through its base needs and its operational flexibility; to providing accommodation that is safe for its use, through design and adaptability as well as ensuring quality of the environment with understanding of the impact of quality of Indoor environments, energy efficiency, and workspace environs. Such desires contribute to the value of the building not only as contributors to sustainable design but to also reduce overhead costs.

One of key attributes to achieving sustainable design that is flexible and reconfigurable is the application of generic open plan design solutions.

The case studies will illustrate this aspect and how the engineering services design supported these principles. In addition to this, the presentation will illustrate how the use of Overhead Reagent Shelves (that do not break the bank!!) offer maximum flexibility when coupled with loose benching and mobile casement design.

Integrating new and demanding laboratory support such as BSL 3/Cleanroom Tissue culture rooms into an existing building is a challenge, how this is achieved and operational even before the bulk of the construction was completed will be demonstrated.

The joint presentation will illustrate how understanding the science, has enabled the client and the designer to develop generic designs that manage cross contamination in an unconstrained manner without onerous application of protocols and procedures including the use of GMOs.


Antony Mikulic is the Manager of Capital Works and Sustainable Environment for CSIRO. Prior to joining CSIRO Corporate Property in 1999, Antony was Principal of his own architectural design firm, specialising in designing of laboratories, diplomatic buildings, and child care facilities.

Antony is a registered architect with degrees in Environmental Design and Architecture. He has previously headed up a construction business, as well as a computer business as a distributor and trainer for CAD systems.

With a strong background in laboratory and sustainable design, he brings strong credentials and beliefs as Manager Capital Works and Sustainable Environment to Australia's premier research organisation. Leading a team of architects and engineers, he delivers research facilities that are world class, whilst minimising their impact on the environment.

Colin Sakinofsky is an Architect working as a Specialist Laboratory Designer for S2F P/L. S2F is a multi-disciplinary design consultancy firm specializing in complex highly serviced buildings such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, Biotechnology and research and animal laboratories.

Colin's projects include an extensive and diverse range of laboratory facilities across Australia and overseas in China, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Singapore, India, and Taiwan.

Colin has designed a considerable number of research facilities to BSL 1, 2, 3, and 4 levels of containment, and for science research focused on: infectious diseases for humans and animals, with animal species varying from rodents to 600 kg ruminants (cattle) and primates; entomological models; and human applications laboratories for vector gene and cell transfer to Sterile BSL 2 and 3 conditions.

Some of these projects include: Queensland Biosciences Precinct; Childrens Hospital Westmead Clinical Sciences Building; CSIRO Entomology Biosciences, Sydney University Central Rodent Facility; Agresearch and Massey University Research and Animal Holding Facilities in New Zealand; University of Queensland and DPI Centre for Advanced Animal Science; and Johnson & Johnson Analytical & Pharmaceutical Development Centre of Excellence, India.

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