Sustainability Benefits of Converting Vivarium Research Facilities to Aquatics

Joe Phillips, CRB Architects
Crystal Soto, CRB Architects

It is often said the greenest building is the one not built. Following the principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle, the presentation focuses on the trend in Life Science research toward aquatic species, specifically, zebrafish. A natural inclination is to maintain facilities for existing mammalian species and build separate facilities for aquatics.

The dominant driver for aquatics is to replace mammalian models for lower operating cost and comparable research outcomes. The presentation illustrates sustainability benefits of renovation of mammalian facilities vs. new construction with specifics of planning, design, and construction. Based on case studies and project examples, the authors describe the project drivers, process, outcomes, and life cycle cost/benefit comparisons. Full references are furnished for those with similar lab projects.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the similarities and differences between aquatics and mammalian vivaria, as well as differentiate the facility planning metrics for aquatics from all other types;
  • Plan and effectively lead teams in the renovations for aquatic vivaria;
  • Analyze the life cycle cost/benefit factors in aquatic life science research facilities; and
  • Communicate critical planning criteria and sustainability metrics to the client, owner, researchers, and team members to enable sustainability to be an essential element of the project performance criteria.


Joe is a Senior Laboratory Planner at CRB with more than 25 years experience in the planning, design, and construction of laboratories and vivaria. He is a former Board member of I2SL and has been active in the organization since its inception.

Crystal is an Architectural Designer III with CRB and an accredited LEED AP. Active in the design and construction of research facilities for Life Sciences for the past five years, Crystal is a CRB leader in sustainable research facilities and a specialist in high performance architectural design.


Note: Abstracts and biographies are displayed as submitted by the author(s) with the exception of minor edits for style, grammar consistency, and length.