How Should Organizations Incorporate Flexibility and Adaptability in Lab Design?

Erik Lustgarten, Gensler
Adam Harper, Gensler

Science organizations are in a constant state of evolution as advances in technology and research methods change the way that lab buildings are used. In more cases than not, the design response to supporting these advances is to incorporate extensive flexible infrastructure that may never be used. Gensler recently completed the first year of a global study devised to understand how to arrive at the right strategies for flexible research environments that provide the greatest value over the lifecycle of a research building.

During this session we will share key findings from interviews and meetings with facilities managers, engineers, lab managers, EHS, and bench scientists. The discussion will highlight our initial thoughts on strategies best suited to reduce wasted resources while considering how a research building can nimbly change throughout its lifetime.

Learning Objectives

  • Evaluate environmental and budget impacts of different approaches toward designing flexible, adaptable research facilities.
  • Understand the point of view and priorities of stakeholders and how they differ based on organizational role.
  • Describe an approach to flexibility and adaptability at different planning scales from the campus to the benchtop.
  • Articulate the case for building less without sacrificing the flexibility to readily adapt facilities to changing scientific technologies and space needs.


A Gensler Firmwide Practice Area Leader, Erik applies his deep understanding of the technical challenges faced by science organizations to design creative research environments for higher education clients and companies including Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline. His project experience encompasses work recognized by the AIA, the Boston Society of Architects and the Illumination Engineering Society. Erik was one of the founders and serves as the treasurer of I2SL New England Chapter.

During his career, Adam has focused on Science and Technology companies with an expertise in lab design and planning. He has completed complex projects with Quest Diagnostics, Biogen Idec, and Illumina among others, helping each client design facilities that will support their research needs today and tomorrow. Adam serves on two committees for the I2SL New England Chapter, and is leading a global Gensler research project exploring flexibility and adaptability in lab design.


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