Renovating Flexible Laboratories for Changing Research

Kevin Chriswell, CRB
Nykia Gantt, CRB

The presentation will present the advantages of flexible laboratory design over time. While this term has been a buzz word in laboratory planning in recent years, our presentation will focus on several applications and show the true advantages when flexible laboratories are renovated years after their initial design.

We will begin by reviewing the necessary components of a flexible lab system including modular casework, flexible utility connections using quick connections both above and below ceilings, along with demountable partition systems to facilitate modifications of the space. We will also show how pre-installation of key MEP equipment above the ceiling allows for quick and easy additions of future power, data, plumbing, laboratory gases, and exhaust for equipment such as fume hoods, ventilated balance enclosures, and ventilated corrosive storage cabinets. Additionally, we will demonstrate how to strategically define locations for permanent fixtures like sinks, eye wash and safety stations as well as areas for specialty use and core facilities like tissue culture, cold storage, and laboratory support.

Our first case study will feature a flexible lab based on the concept of integrating multiple lab user groups within an open laboratory environment. Flexible spaces for meeting and research are highly reconfigurable with minimal construction efforts. The idea is that the facilities group can modify a lab to suite a new user or equipment as technology and needs change over time. Changes can be made within a couple of days, thereby minimizing laboratory shut down time. Laboratory infrastructure is zoned to allow for flexible and collaborative configurations of teams based on collocated phenotypes. The ratios of chemistry, biology, and analytical spaces along with their collocation or adjacencies to other research groups can be altered over time, allowing for adaption to changes in discovery based research.

Our second case study will highlight a lab renovation project based on a flexible laboratory design originally constructed over 10 years ago. We will show how the concepts of flexible laboratory design allowed for a quick and economical reconfiguration of lab space to accommodate the integration of new lab groups and equipment as part of a pharma consolidation effort. We were able to re-configure demountable wall systems, tie into existing zoned modular utilities for new equipment, and move mobile casework into arrangements to support newly integrated user groups based upon specific research. The end result was the transformation of approximately 60,000 square feet of lab space within nine months from kick off to move-in, with actual construction costs less than half of what was budgeted.

Learning Objectives

  • The audience will see the benefits of incorporating a flexible casework and utility system to achieve a sustainable laboratory design solution. They will see how this design can allow for ultimate reconfiguring of the lab as technologies and research needs.
  • Through the addition of flexible utilities and quick disconnects, the audience will realize how lab reconfiguration is achievable without incurring additional capital expenditures.
  • See how minor laboratory reconfigurations can be completed by internal facilities or maintenance teams with little lab down time. Oftentimes over a weekend.
  • Learn how flexible laboratory designs can contribute to lower renovation costs and leaner construction schedules during major renovations.


Kevin is with the firm CRB in Plymouth Meeting, PA. He has over 18 years' experience as a project architect and laboratory and vivarium planner for science and technology based buildings. Kevin 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.

Nykia is also with the firm CRB in Plymouth Meeting, PA. He holds over 9 years of mechanical systems experience, including mechanical systems design work for highly specialized environments. Additionally, he has experience in contract documents, construction management and construction administration of residential, commercial, industrial and health care buildings. Nykia is a key CRB Mechanical Engineer for the pharmaceutical industry. Nykia is an active member of the Philadelphia Chapter I2SL.


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