The Science of Wellness: Designing Human-Centric Laboratories

Kate Hier, Clark & Enersen
Shawn Diederich, Clark & Enersen

The health and well-being of building occupants has become a greater focus and priority of building design over the last decade. In research environments, which carry technical constraints and requirements, the incorporation of human-centric design can pose challenges, yet opens the door to opportunities for innovative design. How can spaces be designed as literal laboratories for human health and performance?

This session will examine a variety of strategies that can be incorporated into the planning, design, and operational phases of a facility project. Architecture and landscape design shape the user experience outside and inside the building. The space planning and adjacencies of critical program elements influence lighting, acoustics, movement, and other key aspects of wellness. Engineering systems have a measurable impact on the day-to-day experience of building occupants' alertness and ability to concentrate, in addition to long-term health ramifications. As institutions consider the role of well-being in their facilities, there are several considerations to be aware of: the establishments of programs that support healthy choices, the evaluation of operational and maintenance protocols, the first- and ongoing-cost implications of various certification frameworks, and the long-term value of human-centric design.

This session will conclude with a forward look at the evolution of the science of wellness and its positive impacts on facility experience and human health.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the importance of designing laboratory spaces for user wellness;
  • Uncover strategies for space planning that contribute to user well-being;
  • Learn the day-to-day impact of engineering system features on building occupants; and
  • Discover institutional approaches for prioritizing the health and well-being of constituents.


Kate Hier is an Principal, Architect, and Lab Planner at Clark & Enersen, specializing in higher ed. S&T facilities. She has led design on numerous high-profile projects at universities, research parks, and medical education centers across the Midwest. Her focus lies at the intersection of process, visioning for the future, and design excellence.

Shawn Diederich is a Senior Principal and Director of Engineering at Clark & Enersen, with specialized expertise in the programming, design, and management of science & tech facilities across the nation. As a leader of the firm's S&T Team, his focus is the integration of innovative building systems to enhance scientific and educational outcomes.


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