Skip to main content Skip to main content

Use-Based Lab Design - Making Your Labs Work for the Way You Actually Work

A Post-Occupancy Assessment of Systems Sizing, Flexible Design, and Lab Operations

Wendy E. Burke and Bruce Cooper, Ph.D., LEED® AP, Linbeck Group, LP
Jane Baughman, AIA, LEED AP, and Cynthia Walston, AIA, FKP Architects, Inc.

The Laboratory Innovation and Implementation Council is a multi-firm consortium founded to bring innovation to laboratory design, construction and operation from a total solutions perspective, from the building shell to the smallest individual operating system. The Council emphasizes several operating principles promoting sustainability, right-sizing of systems, human-centricity, constructability, and lifecycle management.

We are conducting post-occupancy observations of labs at Rice University, Texas Children's Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Center to determine if "innovative" labs function as expected, both from a systems sizing perspective and with respect to floor plan and services. We are gathering the following data:

  • Actual use of the space.
  • Percent of time dedicated to intended and unintended uses.
  • Use of support systems for intended and unintended purposes.
  • Assessment of penalties associated with relocating activities from unintended uses.
  • Ratio of planned to unplanned activities.

In addition to observation studies, we are gathering data to evaluate the impact of lab design on research productivity, looking at one "innovative" lab facility each of six different university campuses. Statistical analyses will assess correlation between lab design and tendencies of occupants to (1) produce more papers and (2) engage in interdisciplinary collaboration.

Taken together, our studies address the following questions:

  • Do occupants of "flexible" labs publish more papers than they did in more traditional facilities?
  • Do their papers have more diverse authorship?
  • Do occupants share and effectively manage joint assets?
  • Do occupants use lab space as intended?
  • How frequently has "flexible" space changed in configuration or accommodated new occupants?

The study will be completed by mid-June 2006. We will present conclusions on: the relationship between space design and occupant behavior, the impact of "flexible" design on collaboration, and the cost and environmental implications of current popular lab design choices.

Labs21 Connection:

Our study is unique because our conclusions are observation-based and rooted in reality rather than assumption. The data we gather will help both designers and owners make optimal choices about the features of their labs, and improve the balance of cost, functionality, safety, environmental impact, scientific creativity, and user comfort.

Our intent is to challenge certain commonly accepted design approaches and promote the most appropriate, most cost-effective, most energy-efficient design basis for modern labs. Noteworthy aspects of our presentation include:

  • Post-occupancy observations and interviews that capture relationships between design and behavior.
  • Relationships between behavior and energy consumption.
  • Evidence of actual use of facilities upon which to base future design approaches.
  • Identification of strategies to right-size systems and prompt occupants to their appropriate uses.

This Council and this study support several Labs21 principles, and will present conclusions on the following:

  • Using lifecycle costs in decision-making.
  • Employing strategies to optimize lab infrastructure design and improve energy efficiency.
  • Promoting energy efficiency in lab operation and training.


Wendy Burke is the Manager, Client Development for Linbeck Group, LP. She manages the company's business development, marketing, communications and branding activities. She has held a variety of positions in several high tech industries, including software and strategy consulting, all serving the life sciences industry. She began her career at Merck Research Laboratories. Ms. Burke holds two BA degrees from Brown University and an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. She is the primary organizer of the annual Life Sciences Real Estate & Facilities Conference and is the author of a series of reports profiling the space requirements and consumption trends of Houston's life sciences industry. She founded and chairs the Laboratory Innovation and Implementation Council, a multi-firm consortium dedicated to driving innovation in lab design and construction.

Bruce Cooper, Ph.D., is a Team Manager at Linbeck Group, LP and provides extensive research expertise in complement with construction management. With 18 years in biochemical research, education and administration at Rice University combined with over 8 years construction experience, he brings to the team a unique understanding of the needs required for research and educational facilities. Prior to joining Linbeck, he managed Rice University user interests in several projects including a complex renovation of Keck Hall, a 1925 structure, into a modern biosciences research and education facility. Dr. Cooper is LEED accredited, and holds a doctorate in Biochemistry from Rice University and a B.A. from Kent State.

Jane Baughman is a Project Architect at FKP Architects. She received a Bachelor of Architecture with a Minor in Anthropology from the University of Houston in 1992 and is a registered architect. Her studies included the completion of an ethnography which focused on government housing architecture and its effect on their inhabitants. This study included a two week stay as a resident of a government housing unit located in Houston Texas. She is a LEED accredited professional and a member of the AIA, Texas Society of Architects and the U.S. Green Building Council. She has worked as an architectural materials fabricator, a casework systems and furniture designer, and an engineering estimator in addition to over 13 years of architectural practice and possesses a strong desire to deliver architectural projects that are of enduring beauty and benefit to clients, the public, and the environment.

Cynthia Walston, an Associate Principle with FKP Architects, received a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from The University of Texas in 1982 and is a registered architect, as well as a member of both the AIA and Texas Society of Architects. She has over 20 years of experience in the design and construction of biomedical research facilities and speaks regularly at national conferences on the subject of laboratory design and laboratory equipment planning. She served on the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) grant review committee for national and regional bio-containment labs in 2003 and 2005. She is a founding member of the American College of Healthcare Architects, and sits on the board of directors for an organization that provides equipment selection and management services to the research and medical industries. She is a Charter Member of the Laboratory Innovation and Implementation Council.

Back to the Agenda

EPA Home | OARM Home | DOE Home | FEMP Home

This page is no longer updated.
EPA gave I2SL permission to house this page as a historic record of the Labs21 Annual Conference.