Starting the Conversation: Efficient Use of Lab Space as an Alternative to Lab Space Expansion

Kathryn Ramirez-Aguilar, University of Colorado Boulder

Is your campus expanding in laboratory space? When asking colleagues at US research universities this question, most reply with a definite yes. At the annual I2SL conference every year, there are presentations about new, efficient lab buildings being built, but conversations are lacking on efforts to utilize lab space efficiently to avoid the need for additional lab facilities in the first place, one of the most expensive spaces to build on a campus. Interestingly, universities often find the funding for a new building even if there is a significant backlog of deferred maintenance on existing buildings. The purpose of this breakfast roundtable is to start the conversation at I2SL about lab space management and university campus growth. Many members of the Green Labs community, that regularly visit labs and interact with lab members, can give obvious examples where lab space could be used more efficiently. US university scientists also are reporting stiff competition for research funding, competition which likely will continue to worsen due to increasing numbers of university research scientists competing over the same pools of federal funding which are not expected to increase and are the primary source of support. So why then are so many university campuses continuing to expand lab space square footage? What are the factors that are leading to this growth and why isn't more being done to improve efficient use of lab space which is obviously the more economical pursuit? Let's start the discussion on this big picture issue and explore actions that some campuses are beginning to take to benefit efficiency in lab space management.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain an understanding of the numerous factors and pressures leading to laboratory space expansion on university campuses.
  • Gain an understanding of financial pressures which likely will lead universities to consider lab space efficiency as an alternative to lab space expansion.
  • Learn reasons why campus initiatives to utilize lab space efficiently could be of benefit to scientists and universities.
  • Learn ideas for efficient use of lab space and actions that some campuses are beginning to take.


Kathy Ramirez-Aguilar manages the CU Green Labs Program at the Univ. of Colorado-Boulder. She has 15 years of lab research experience where she recognized the need for a program to engage scientists in conservation. Through participation in I2SL, Green Labs Planning Group, & the DOE Better Buildings Alliance, she regularly collaborates & shares ideas with colleagues at universities & federal agencies. She chairs the I2SL University Alliance Group presently focused on connecting sustainability to lab finances.


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