The Research Workplace - Blurring the Lines

Mary Carroll, CRB
Kevin Chriswell, CRB
Scott McNallan, CRB

The presentation will illustrate how sustainable design strategies are key in the planning process as today's clients strive for more and more efficient utilization of their facilities. As many clients are focusing on consolidation and co-locating their research facilities, special attention is needed to promote communication and collaboration within a facility. In addition, the ever changing nature of research requires more flexibility and adaptable approaches. The presentation will illustrate how the division between laboratories and office areas can be flexible and dynamic through the use of modular interaction zones.

Laboratory Research Facilities have been traditionally segregated into departments and departments further separated by office areas and laboratory space. We will demonstrate through project examples how to connect Departments at the facility scale and individuals at the department scale, by removing physical and perceived barriers to encourage actual and observational engagement.

At the facility scale, many institutions want to consolidate and co-locate their research into large facilities so their innovative science can cross pollinate among departments. These facilities can become quite large and departments can become isolated by the barriers of floors, walls, and physical distance. We will show how creative and sustainable approaches to the building planning can alleviate these barriers. Atrium spaces and split level arrangements can encourage chance interactions and observationally connect floors and departments. With a passive solar design approach these spaces can maximize natural light to the laboratory and office environments. This reduces heat and energy loads by harvesting daylight to turn off lights at certain times of day and increases the quality of the research environment by providing full spectrum light and views to the scientists.

At the department scale, we are no longer providing segregated office and lab environments. The open workplace is permeating into the labs and we are blurring the lines between lab and office. We will show how removing the barriers of walls, storage, and high shelving, can create collaborative zones between office and labs as well as within the labs. These collaborative zones are flexible in order to accommodate both formal and informal gathering with a variation of types and quality of space, and can be repurposed between lab and office space.

By removing barriers we can encourage dynamic informal and formal interactions that can become the foundation for the innovative science at the leading industry and academic research institutions.

We will show several case studies to demonstrate the concepts presented

Learning Objectives

  • Understand Design solutions to create dynamic interconnected large facilities.
  • Learn different approaches to removing the barriers in and between lab and office environments.
  • See an approach to a building footprint that does not only show flexible lab environments but how the lab and office environments can flex as required with changing science.
  • See how sustainable design strategies such as daylight harvesting, lighting control, on demand HVAC, and modular flexible design components can be incorporated into these areas


With an impressive career in the Life Sciences Sector, Mary Carroll brings modern environments to life for Science + Technology clients. A LEED-certified architect with 25 years of experience, her approach to sustainability goes beyond typical “green” design elements and is more of a holistic view at how a design will create both a space and a culture that can stand the test of time.

Mary's strengths are her ability to identify client’s needs and maintaining them in focus throughout the design process, while keeping the team on-track to meet their goals. Her expertise lies in providing planning solutions for academic research, corporate, pharmaceutical, biotechnology facilities and labs. Mary has been involved in numerous Science & Technology projects, with a current focus on corporate office and lab fit-out projects; where similar planning challenges and solutions are explored and principles are implemented.

Mary is a graduate of Temple University, and she also received a certificate from the Harvard School of Public Health for completing the executive education course on Guidelines for Laboratory Design: Health and Safety Considerations.

Mary is a registered architect in the state of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and is a member of the American Institute of Architects. She has been a LEED accredited professional since 2006 and is a member of I2SL and the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers.

Kevin Chriswell is with the firm CRB in Plymouth Meeting, PA. He has over 17 years' experience as a project architect and laboratory and vivarium planner for science and technology based buildings. Mr. Chriswell is passionate about sustainable laboratory design and is actively engaged in providing creative solutions to reduce the impact of science and technology facilities on the environment, while providing an enhanced workplace. He is one of the founding members of the I2SL Philadelphia chapter.

Scott McNallan is an AIA award winning architectural designer and licensed architect with over 15 years of experience designing buildings that push beyond the client's expectations while exceeding their goals. Building efficiency is at the center of his design explorations, and he feels sustainability is not just about saving energy, but also about creating humanizing spaces. My focus is on creating architecture that is as innovative as our clients R+D and as efficient as their processes".


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