Planning and Design Strategies for a Healthy Scientific Workplace

Virginia Byers, HOK

The goal of scientific workplaces is to create human experiences that encourage scientific discovery. The scientific community relies on the intellectual labor of their teams. Given that physical and mental health plays a vital role in our cognitive abilities, an atmosphere that supports research through healthy spaces can deliver significant benefits to teams. The workspaces for research ranges widely from enclosed offices to open bench and equipment laboratories. The physical space between the two should cater to the needs of the science, but more importantly, failing to account for the physiological effects of the built environment will put a strain on the team and potential scientific discovery at risk.

Traditional programming models of wellness in the workplace often discount the unique physical impacts the scientific environment can have on the human body. Long-term exposure to occupational hazards have lasting effects on our mental and physical health. Working in a scientific laboratory can expose team members to chemical, biological, physical, radioactive, musculoskeletal, and social (isolation) hazards.

Policy and attention to the physical environment during planning can reduce or counteract the effects felt by the research teams. In this presentation, Virginia will explore the topic of designing for wellness in research. She will share programming and design choices that can help give clients flexibility in limiting exposure to hazards and creating healthier work spaces.

Learning Objectives

  • Hear an overview of programming and planning methods for working with key stakeholders and users to identify potential hazards;
  • Learn why it's important to include rich communal spaces outside the lab that encourages collaboration and social interaction;
  • Learn about policies that can support science, which regularly happens outside the confines of standard business hours and can adversely affect sleep patterns;
  • Hear how science-specific benefits to rethinking the ways in which health and well-being strategies can support efforts to attract and retain talent.


Virginia is a Senior Laboratory Planner and Architect at HOK with 15 years of architectural and laboratory design experience. Virginia's laboratory design experience varies from product design to large-scale master planning. She delivers complex projects that strive to provide healthy and inspiring environments to aid in scientific discovery.


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