Creating Lean Laboratories Using Workflow-Centric Design Concept

Kevin Chriswell, CRB
Niranjan Kulkarni, CRB
Chris Ertl, CRB

Designing new research laboratory facilities or expanding existing ones, can be quite daunting. It can represent a considerable investment in financial and human resources not only throughout the design process, but throughout the lifespan of the facility as well. Furthermore, laboratories are continually being challenged to improve their spatial efficiency, reduce lead times, increase throughput and productivity and reduce their operational expenses and energy consumption. The conventional method of designing, or redesigning, a laboratory space by interviewing stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts to understand their resource (space, equipment and staffing) projections may not necessarily produce a Lean and efficient layout. Enhanced Laboratory Design, based on Workflow-Centric Design strategies address the short comings of traditional laboratory planning and contribute toward a holistically planned lean design. Through mathematical and visual depiction of activities, workflow-centric design seeks to identify improvement opportunities and test those concepts through virtual modelling. In many cases, efficiency improvements can be achieved simply by developing a better understanding of the value-add activities, creating resource sharing opportunities, enhancing work practices (e.g. reducing travel times, process inefficiencies and improve safety) and increasing collaboration opportunities.

While traditional laboratory planning relies mostly on past experience and data matrix, Enhanced Laboratory Design allows for a more forward thinking approach. In this presentation attendees will learn about the Workflow-Centric Design Concept, and uncover opportunities to reduce construction and operational expenses whether planning a new facility or expanding or renovating an existing one. This session will outline the key successes of the Work-Fflow- Centric Design Concept and how one can implement these techniques in their facilities. Participants will receive real-world examples, lessons learned and key techniques included in the Workflow-Centric Design Concept.

Learning Objectives

  • Present the concept of workflow-centric designs
  • Discuss how workflow-centric designs are key to develop lean laboratories.
  • Address how workflow-centric designs resolve the concerns of increased laboratory operating expenses.
  • Demonstrate how this approach can improve both laboratory operations and spatial efficiency.


Kevin Christwell is with the firm CRB in Plymouth Meeting, PA. He has over 20years' experience as a project architect and laboratory and vivarium planner for s cience 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.

Niranjan S. Kulkarni, PhD, is the Director, Operations Improvement with CRB Consulting Engineers, Inc. He holds Ph.D. and Master's degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering, and is also a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. Niranjan has over ten years of experience in business process and data modeling, process simulations, operations improvements, layout optimizations and supply chain management. He has worked with pharmaceuticals, biotech, food, chemicals, semiconductor, electronics

Chris Ertl is a leader in CRB’s Science & Technology group. Chris holds Masters Degrees in Architecture and Business Administration with an emphasis in strategic planning. He has over 20 years of architectural project management and laboratory planning and design experience for academic, corporate and government clients. A frequent speaker on sustainable labs and trends in laboratory planning and design, Chris has a detailed understanding of state-of-the-art laboratory design concepts and their impact on building systems. A LEED AP and board member of I2SL's Heart of America chapter, Chris has dedicated his career to sustainable lab design and its impact on human occupants and building systems.


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