Optimizing Lab Utilization Through Innovative Design and Management

Dirk von Below, Flad Architects
Prabhjot Gulati, Flad Architects

How a corporate research organization started from scratch should rethink how labs should be used.
Life science research is constantly pressured to accelerate product innovation. Creating new life-saving drugs has become harder and the need for speed is raising the pressure on research teams and R&D management. A new approach was needed to overcome the many barriers that exist in traditional laboratories. When a decision was made to create a new research hub in the core of a campus, Flad was asked to rethink the entire design and construction process.

Lab Operations
Everybody now understands that successful research is based on collaboration and agility of research infrastructure. The team asked themselves key questions that are a challenge for lab users:

  • Can we create more flexible labs if fume hoods can be easily relocated?
  • How can we bring office work, collaboration technology and lab work closer together and integrate the daily work flow?
  • How can we include international and national research partners into our labs and let them observe current experiments to discuss their performance?
  • Can we rethink ownership of labs and manage lab space and equipment on demand to create a more densely occupied lab that is better utilized all through staff and research project changes?

Design and Construction
The design team created a quantum leap in lab design without sacrificing time and funding resources. Closely managing safety requirements and user concerns about sharing of lab space and qualified research setups, the team was able to create many new solutions:

  • All casework and equipment in the laboratories is movable. Configurations can be changed without capital investments. By the time the labs were installed, changes in research methods had already modified the layout of 50 percent of the labs. Expediting construction by employing premanufactured building systems modules provides flexibility, improves financial sustainability, and reduces materials construction waste.
  • A new model of in-lab collaboration - and conferencing technology at the interface of labs and offices - enables collaborative work.
  • Most of all, a new management approach of allocation of lab and equipment allows research managers to reduce the need for lab space and procurement of redundant, expensive equipment.

Sustainable labs use less space and energy and are useful over long periods of time. By rethinking what is possible, a new paradigm of lab design created one of the most innovative, cutting-edge R&D hubs Flad has been involved in, which also maximized environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn how owners apply new approaches to lab operations and management;
  • Overcoming barriers in laboratory design that can be overcome with new flexible designs of casework and lab equipment;
  • Learn how sustainability goals are achieved by reducing waste in lab space design; and
  • Achieving lab adaptability while reducing renovation expenses.


Dirk has 29 years of comprehensive architectural experience delivering science buildings to private and institutional clients. He has managed large projects that balance state-of-the-art design, efficiency, and environmental design within a tight financial framework. Dirk's experience includes cost estimates, planning, and quality assurance. Clients include several DOE National Laboratories, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Stony Brook University.

Prab has 20 years of experience and has worked on a wide range of project types including laboratory buildings, vivariums, offices, hotels, and multi-use residential and commercial buildings. He is involved in all phases of the project from the initial programming to the construction documentation phase and supporting the project through the construction of the project.


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