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Integrating Research with an Academic Hospital Environment (Integrating a Hospital Environment with a Research Laboratory)

Peter Lotz, AIA, and Jan Madey, AIA, WHR Architects

What should be taken into consideration when planning 1960 space for 21st century laboratories?

  • Building height limitation.
  • Structural grid versus laboratory module.
  • Floor load and vibration criteria.
  • Electromagnetic field interference.
  • Fume hood exhaust - wind tunnel test verification.
  • Infrastructure capacity:
    • Space for exhaust chases.
    • Horizontal air distribution.
    • Power upgrades.
    • Laboratory piping and utilities.
    • Potential for energy conservation, given the space limitation.
    • Renovation work sequence in existing hospital environment.
  • Flexible and adaptable laboratories as a recruitment tool for the future academic hospital research.

In generic research laboratories designed without the users' input, flexibility and adaptability is of the utmost importance. In an academic hospital setting where researchers will be recruited in the future, there are several key aspects that need to be considered in the early planning stages:

  • Ratio of wet laboratories to dry, including computational laboratories.
  • Ratio of laboratories to laboratory support.
  • Efficiency in laboratory planning (i.e., maximizing assignable area that is research grant recoverable).
  • Separation of laboratory and office areas to optimize energy usage.
  • Modular open plan laboratories that promote interaction, collaboration and flexible space allocation.
  • Work with select agents that requires enhanced security and segregation of spaces.
  • Noise and vibration control, critical in sensitive imaging application.
  • Work with animal models and availability of facilities at the institution.
  • Amenities conducive to creativity, interaction, and socializing.
  • Availability of conference rooms and large assembly spaces for meetings and seminars.
  • Identity of the research related spaces and activity in the academic hospital environment.
  • Lessons learned from successive phased design and build out of consecutive floors.

This case study looks at a total of five separate projects that were constructed consecutively over two years starting in September 2005. As design ideas were transferred from paper to real structures, the design team analyzed the finished space, and together with owners and users, formulated adjustments to the program and functional layout of the next project.


Peter Lotz specializes in laboratory planning and programming and design of functional, technical facilities in support of a variety of basic and applied scientific research missions. His depth of experience includes design requirements for safety and environmental containment of hazardous and toxic effluents. As director of WHR’s Research Facilities Planning and a principal of the firm, he provides overall management and technical expertise in programming and conceptual development and commissioning of educational and research laboratories, specifically chemistry, biochemistry, life science, and industrial projects.

Mr. Lotz is currently directing a major biomedical research laboratory project, The Research Institute Building, for The Methodist Hospital at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. The project is located in a dense urban environment on a site adjacent to the existing hospital building. The project involves a number of challenges and requires close coordination with other institutions and regulatory agencies.

Jan Madey is a project manager at WHR Architects. A native of Poland, he received his Master of Architecture from the Technical University of Gdansk. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects and professionally registered in the state of Texas. With more than 25 years in the industry, Mr. Madey’s design expertise spans a variety of facility types. Most recently, he has specialized in research and academic facilities for institutions of higher learning. His experience includes programming, master planning, architectural design, and construction administration.

Recently, Mr. Madey has been involved with the planning and design of the Methodist Hospital Research Institute. The effort involves a broad range of issues spanning feasibility studies and construction projects in the existing hospital buildings and coordinating a multi-disciplinary team for the new 420,000-square-foot Research Institute Building.

Mr. Madey has designed and successfully completed construction of the Imaging Research Center for the University of Texas at Austin. This work allowed him to acquire in-depth knowledge of magnetic resonance imaging and other recently developed imaging methodologies.

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