Sustainable Lab Design for Mid-Century Buildings - A Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Cecily Eckhardt, Diamond Schmitt Architects
Craig Sievenpiper, HH Angus and Associates

The Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW), located in Burlington Ontario, Canada is a main research facility of Canada's National Water Research Institute. In order to maintain its position as Canada's preeminent freshwater research facility the modernization of its laboratory and office facilities was initiated to reflect its leadership position in this field and to safeguard a reputation that will attract the best and brightest scientists in the research disciplines within the departments and directorates that are housed here. The laboratory modernization criteria sets out to foster an atmosphere of collaboration, promote synergies and a spirit of cooperation that has been proven to foster innovation in other recognized research institutions globally. The CCIW Lab Modernization Plan (LMP) embodies the Government of Canada's diverse green building commitments and reflects the environmental considerations throughout the planning, design and construction stages.

The proposed design strategies provide for maximum flexibility and adaptability to facilitate current and future changes in scientific inquiry as well as changing operational needs with a lab infrastructure that is durable, energy efficient and easy to maintain. A design approach that includes the use of a standard laboratory plan module together with modular and mobile casework systems, will ensure that these principles can be upheld over the future life of the building. As a flexible, adaptable, efficient and effective facility, CCIW will be positioned for long term success that reduces its overall environmental impact. In contrast to the original building plan where small offices and meeting rooms occupied all of the day lit space and the labs were light locked, the lab modernization divides the program into two unique zones, one for open office space and associated support functions and the other for laboratories, research support, equipment rooms and storage rooms including walk-in controlled environmental rooms allowing all occupied spaces to have access to daylight. This approach also supports a more compact distribution system for lab mechanical and electrical systems that allows for a more cost effective design with flexibility for future growth and change. In addition, the implementation of LED lighting, daylight sensors, and low flow fume hoods, together with the consolidation of the fume hood exhaust system and heat recovery on the roof will propel this mid-life building into a new era of sustainable practice, and serve as an example of what can be done to increase the sustainability of our existing stock of aging laboratory buildings.

Learning Objectives

  • be able to prioritize sustainable design criteria, within the context of a laboratory modernization project, will also also boost productivity by promoting an atmosphere of collegial collaboration, promote synergies and a spirit of cooperation to foster innovation all of which will aid in attracting the best and brightest investigators and staff;
  • learn effective means of reorganizing the program of a typical 1970's research wet lab to make more effective use of the building's existing HVAC infrastructure that results in; substantially lower energy use intensity, better space utilization, improved flow within labs and an improved working environment for research staff;
  • be introduced to lab planning and design principles based on a flexible, adaptable and modular approach using repeatable elements that anticipate changing approaches to research over time and will aid in mitigating disruptions during future retrofits of labs, lab support facilities and core lab equipment groupings; and
  • gain an understanding of the major design strategies that provide for maximum flexibility and adaptability to facilitate current and future changes in scientific inquiry as well as changing operational needs with a lab infrastructure that is durable, energy efficient and easy to maintain by effectively utilizing the available capital resources.


Cecily Eckhardt is an Associate at Diamond Schmitt Architects, member of the Ontario Association of Architects and LEED GA. Ms. Eckhardt specializes in research facilities, and laboratory design, having practiced architecture in Canada and the UK. Since joining Diamond Schmitt Architects, she has worked on numerous institutional projects including the LEED Platinum CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory, and is Project Architect for the Canada Centre for Inland Waters Lab Modernization.

Craig Sievenpiper is a Principal, Senior Mechanical Engineer and Associate Director of the Technology Division at HH Angus and Associates, where he directs the design and construction of new and renovated laboratories. With a diverse portfolio of laboratory, mission critical and healthcare design experience gained over twenty years in the industry, Craig draws on a deep knowledge of mechanical and control systems to develop innovative solutions to design challenges.


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