A Healthy High Performance Laboratory for the Students

Sarah Lamere, RossTarrant Architects, Inc.
Dan Chaney, Western Kentucky University

During the design of the Ogden College Hall (OCH) at Western Kentucky University, the goal was always to create a laboratory space for students. This meant not only modern and state-of-the-art equipment, but incorporating places where students could study, relax, be comfortable, and stay healthy. A place for students to learn stayed the primary goal all through design and construction.

OCH was replacing a 1960s lab building that had become out-of-date, structurally unstable, and unhealthy. The previous building had years of contamination that included heavy metals and asbestos. The University knew they needed to do better, but they did not stop at better. They wanted the best.

Designed to be both LEED and WELL certified, the building creates the perfect balance of both building sustainability and high performance while emphasizing the need to have a healthy built environment. Ultimately, this space has become a place student can flourish. The new laboratory building meets today's needs and is responsive to the needs of a laboratory of the future.

All labs are designed for flexibility. Rather than building single-use labs, large materials and bio chemistry labs were designed to be shared by all research disciplines. Flexible utility carriers enable varied research equipment to be moved in and out as needed. Extra space is included in the floor plan to easily accommodate large equipment. Recognizing scientific discovery depends on interdisciplinary communication, shared research labs were designed to encourage interactions between majors.

Labs have large windows to allow light into the work spaces. Glass-backed fume-hoods were incorporated along window walls to infuse the interior in as much natural light as possible.

Students spaces feature environmental graphics that celebrate WKU and Science. Graphic elements put "Science on Display," depicting the evolution of the earth, while floor tile patterns represent fractals and sine waves. Graphics are meant to both inform students of basic scientific theories and to challenge them to be creative. Natural wood features bring warmth and nature into the spaces.

The building is on track to be LEED Gold and consumes 50% less energy use than a typical lab. Much of the energy savings can be attributed to an innovative redesign of 104 fume hoods. Special features enable the fume hoods not only to reduce energy consumption, but also make them safer for the students to use.

Learning Objectives

  • understand that designing healthy, sustainable buildings are paramount to the mission of creating successful student centered spaces;
  • explain the importance of how a series of focused conversations with the faculty and researchers about their needs for the space and equipment can lead to innovative energy saving solutions;
  • design projects using the synergies between LEED, WELL and sustainable design as tools that contribute to a successful project; and
  • describe how art, graphics and natural materials contribute to the health and energy of building occupants.


A Principal and Sr. Project Manager, Sarah started her career at RossTarrant Architects after receiving her BArch from the University of Kentucky in 2000. Since that time, she has risen through the ranks to become a partner in the firm. She believes that building occupants are a key membere of the design team. Her commitment to high performance design and tenacity for innovation makes her particularly excited to have designed one of the first science buildings attempting WELL Certification.

Dan Chaney, LEED AP, is a capital construction project manager for Western Kentucky University, where he has worked for the past 13 years. Dan obtained his BS in Civil Engineering Technology with an emphasis in Construction Management from WKU. He has managed two LEED certified projects, with a third currently underway. Dan has been fortunate to be a part of a team that has been transforming the campus for the past two decades.


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