Post-Occupancy Evaluation of a Hyper-Flexible Laboratory

Dirk von Below, Flad Architects

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Companies are constantly seeking new ways of innovating faster and rethinking how research is conducted in laboratories. Large investments in research infrastructure are difficult to adapt to new technologies and research initiatives. The results are often underutilized laboratories and frustrated users. For a life science research company, Flad created a new type of lab. The concepts for its design and operation reevaluate and reject many of the assumed limitations inherent in traditional laboratory facilities, in favor of creating a facility that readily supports modern, agile research operations. Utilizing an Integrated Project Delivery process, the owner, architect, and contractors developed new strategies for designing highly agile and adaptable labs, including:

  • Designing laboratories that are easier to reconfigure by minimizing fixed installations, including fume hoods.
  • Improving collaboration in science through interactions in lab and offices.
  • Including international and national research partners into labs, allowing them to observe current experiments to discuss their performance.
  • Managing laboratory space and technical resources differently to reduce wasted space and improve lab utilization.

The facility implemented a new approach to lab design. By closely working with users and lab managers, the team was able to work through the challenges of old habits and also address health and safety concerns, as well as instrument validation needs. The design included the following innovations:

  • All casework and equipment in the laboratories is movable. Configurations can be changed without capital investments. Expediting construction by employing premanufactured building systems modules provides flexibility, improving financial sustainability and reducing materials construction waste.
  • A new model of in-lab collaboration and conferencing technology at the interface of labs and offices enables collaborative work.
  • A new management approach to allocation of lab and equipment allows research managers to reduce the need for lab space and procurement of redundant, expensive equipment.

The presentation will discuss results from a first-year experience of the users and lab managers in these new labs and how the concepts proved themselves in real-life research.

Learning Objectives

  • Lessons learned from the design that enabled innovative lab operations and management;
  • Understand how the flexible designs of casework and lab equipment have performed under real-life conditions;
  • Learn how sustainable design not only reduces energy use but also improves financial results and user effectiveness; and
  • Enhance operator's awareness of innovative construction technologies.


Dirk has 30 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, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Stony Brook University.


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