Deep Plan Versus Daylight

Oliver Milton, Hawkins\Brown
Andy Parker, BuroHappold Engineering

There is a conflict between providing flexible, technical laboratory buildings - that thrive on large deep floor plates - and spaces for people that are naturally lit. In laboratory buildings it is usually the case that the deep-plan approach prevails and the well-being and environmental comfort of the occupants takes second billing. However, recent changes in lighting technology, design tools and user expectations have introduced opportunities to re-think the status quo and challenge this thinking.

Oliver and Andy will use their experience of European lab building design to investigate this, and explore the issues around natural vs. artificial lighting.

European laboratory buildings are delivered to tight standards and in some countries natural light is a clearly defined requirement for all workplaces. We will look at examples of both US and European laboratory buildings and highlight the differences these changing standards can have of building form and design. In each case we will model and demonstrate the natural light penetration and explain how this benefits the occupants and the impact this can have on the overall sustainability of the building.

The way that scientists work and occupy buildings is changing. Less time is spent on the laboratory than used to be the case. More experimental work is done by machine and can be run remotely. Users expect to move between work-settings more frequently, the idea of someone standing at the bench from 9-5 is long past. Coupled with this is a raised awareness of well-being in the workplace and a desire for buildings to use less energy and have a greater all round sustainability. Lighting technology has evolved over the last few years with improvements in quality, efficiency and controls.

We will highlight what this all means for laboratory buildings and the opportunities it might bring for designers to reconsider how scientists occupy buildings.

We will explore the physiology behind daylight and whether having a view out of a building is more important than being in a naturally day-lit spaces.

We will suggest how designers could challenge the perceived standards for lighting in science buildings to introduce better and more varied environments similar to those found in modern workplace design.

We will look at how other sectors are introducing better controls and lighting technology to improve the well-being of occupants.

Finally, we will demonstrate a few evolving tools that can inform the way the buildings are organized and designed to help improve natural and artificial lighting, and user comfort.

Learning Objectives

  • An understanding of the issues around occupant well-being and artificial and natural lighting
  • An understanding of changes in technology associated with artificial lighting
  • An understanding of the building design opportunities that maximize natural lighting and user well-being whilst not compromising on laboratory efficiency, flexibility and safety
  • An introduction to new interactive design tools for modeling, analyzing and predicting artificial and natural lighting levels linked to user working practices and movement


Oliver is one of the leading Higher Education architects in the UK. He has delivered many award winning, ground-breaking university buildings including high specification laboratory environments. Oliver leads long-term estate planning projects with many of the highest profile Oxbridge and Russell Group Universities. He has a particular interest in buildings that provide collaborative research and the student experience.

Andy is the Global Director for BuroHappold Engineering's Science & Technology sector. His extensive project experience around the world ranges from research labs to GMP manufacturing facilities with private companies, universities and government institutions. His current interests are the use of modelling techniques to address the sustainability and effectiveness of labs. He is looking at reducing fume dispersal system energy and modelling of lab environments to optimise creativity.


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