Space Considerations: Harnessing the Value of the Built Environment to Design Your High-Performance Laboratory

Chris Ertl, DLR Group
Dave Swanson, DLR Group

Life science developers, universities, and research institutions require their spaces to support and enhance the latest discoveries. Not only do these buildings need to offer leading scientific technology and smart space planning, but also robust sustainable solutions that negate energy consumption.

Also crucial for the future of scientific discovery are venues for interdisciplinary collaboration. As time goes on, the complexity of remaining scientific mysteries is escalating. These quandaries are uncovered when specialized minds trained in different fields put their brain power together. When these concepts unite, a truly high-performance laboratory is created—one that supports researchers today and is primed to meet the scientific and environmental challenges of the future.

But what about the value of your existing building stock? Can these facilities—with all their embedded carbon be—transformed into high-performance labs of the future? We have considered these needs in the face of current and future challenges and are confident saying that although we are living in one of the most challenging moments in our recent history, with everything from rapid climate change to global pandemics, we offer up a few key trends in lab design that are focusing our thinking toward developing the next generation of high-performance labs.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the sustainable value of an existing building stock's embedded carbon, and how to maximize this value in future-proofing the facility;
  • Investigate methods for providing robust sustainable solutions in renovated facilities that minimize energy consumption;
  • Explain how isolated lab spaces of the past can be opened up to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and overcome the difficulties existing buildings often pose; and
  • Identify trends in laboratory design that are focusing toward developing the next generation of high-performance labs.


Chris Ertl is an architect and DLR Group's Science+Technology Leader with 25 years experience planning and designing complex laboratory facilities around the world. Chris is a proponent of high-performance laboratory design and is the current Vice President of the Heart of America chapter of I2SL.

As project manager for DLR Groups S+T Team, Dave sees his role as an advocate for the scientists, engineers and others who use lab environments. His focus on elevating the human condition through design drives Dave and his team to support their amazing aspirations. Dave currently serves on the I2SL Sustainable Laboratory User Manual Working Group.


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