There are not many buildings designed for obsolescence; but there is one building type where change is actually expected – research laboratories. Change is the one constant with highly technical research facilities.
You may be wondering why is change the only constant for research facilities? Why can’t the design be adequate for every need without causing a change down the road? The reason is – the research work being performed in the building is constantly evolving. Primary Investigators are continually tweaking the research process to achieve the desired results – outside constraints may cause a change in the process. The life cycle of research processes can be relatively short, ranging from as little as a few months to a year or two. When these changes in the process occur, it can have a ripple effect on types of equipment, equipment configuration, services required for the equipment, environmental conditions within the laboratory or support facilities required for the laboratory.
With that in mind, when designing for a research facility, providing extra capacity and the ability to adjust just about every component of the facility needs to be taken into account. The key is, making a change to any of the above process requirements should not cause an inordinate re-work of the building infrastructure. Certain levels of spare capacity, or redundancy should be taken into account so as to allow future change to occur without causing re-work of the core elements of the building backbone including architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, life safety, communications and security.
The measure of truly good research laboratory design can be seen not when the facility is first constructed, but rather when a change in a laboratory process causes one or more of the core elements of the building backbone to adjust. If that laboratory re-work can occur without impacting the other core elements of the building backbone and keep the mission critical research work up and running without interruption – that is a good research facility design.
Who ever thought architectural and engineering design could be so much fun! Check out some of our laboratory work on our Projects page.