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A Practical Guide to Using the Right Casework, Finishes, and Materials for Your Sustainable Laboratory

Elizabeth Vandermark and Victor Cardona, SmithGroup, Inc.

Concrete, linoleum, stainless steel, glass, epoxy resin, wood—the choices when you start specifying casework, fixtures, and finishes for your sustainable laboratory can be dizzying. This guide is a first step in collecting information of interest to architects, engineers, users, and owners directly engaged in planning laboratories that take environmental impact into account. Information available on material component composition (identifying recycled content and rapidly renewable material content), first cost, product performance (including chemical resistance), origin of material extraction and product manufacture, end-of-life recyclability, maintenance procedures, environmental rating (C2C, GreenSeal, ENERGY STAR®, Floorscore, or others), and certification is collected and organized with the goal of improving the quality of your material selections. This guide attempts to deconstruct available options to consider for the design of your laboratory while maintaining a safe and effective laboratory environment. The structure of this investigation is as follows:

  • Floor
    • Integral colored concrete
    • Epoxy painted concrete
    • Vinyl composition tile and sheet goods
    • Linoleum tile and sheet goods
    • Rubber tile and sheet goods
  • Casework
    • Plastic laminate
    • Wood
    • Painted metal
    • Painted metal and wood
    • Stainless steel
  • Counter and Sink
    • Plastic laminate
    • Epoxy resin
    • Phenolic resin
    • Stainless steel
  • Service Fixture
    • Chrome metal
    • Painted metal
    • Stainless steel
    • Water efficiency
  • Laboratory Planning Strategy
    • Modular
    • Adaptable
      • Change in user
      • Change in technology
    • Concentrated specialized support

While many of the topics outlined above have been well documented in manufacturer product literature in the past, it is often a challenge to understand the appropriateness of each material with regards to specific laboratory functions. This investigation attempts a side-by-side comparison highlighting the positive and negative aspects to provide a valuable first step for designers and owners alike to make the best selection for your laboratory.

This presentation will be illustrated by how some of these products have been used in some of SmithGroup's most recent laboratory projects currently under design and/or construction.


Elizabeth Vandermark has ten years experience working in design, architecture, and project management on diverse projects in retail, education, research and development, business, and hospitality. Her projects include both new construction and renovation projects through all phases of the design and construction process. In her work on high-performance buildings, she seeks new design approaches to successfully explore the complex interplay of programs, building technology, and the environment. She is particularly interested in assisting complex and dynamic organizations to balance their financial, environmental, societal, and human goals to craft sustainable design solutions for our future.

Victor Cardona, an experienced architect with a national practice, serves as SmithGroup’s in-house leader for laboratory programming and planning. Victor has been involved in all phases of corporate, government, academic, instructional, research laboratory, and classroom project development, from preliminary design through construction observation.

Mr. Cardona has extensive experience in project management, programming, conceptual design, and facility planning. He has a proven design methodology based on an intensive analysis/programming phase. This integrated, multidiscipline-oriented approach leads to an innovative, quality design product that above all meets the client’s/user’s needs. He created SmithGroup’s LabSim™, a computerized laboratory programming simulation model.

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