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New Concepts in Laboratory Design

Over 50 years ago, the rational laboratory module--a unit of space for an individual scientist with a package of services and furnishings--was invented. Since then, laboratory designers have tried to improve this overall concept. Page/SST Planners uses projects to demonstrate new ideas in laboratory design that both satisfy specific client objectives as well as to further the discourse on flexibility in the evolving "state-of-the-art" lab.

Flexible Teaching Labs

Developed for The College of Integrated Science and Technology Phase 1 at James Madison University in 1994, the teaching labs were designed to be reconfigured with a variety of seating and furniture options. Furthermore, the rooms allow a variety of both wet (biology and biotech) and dry (computer and engineering) functions to be used. The rooms can also be easily converted to smaller research labs as departmental programs change over time.


The labs have fixed components around the perimeter with movable furniture in the middle over power/data floor outlet boxes. Wing walls between windows on each module line, multiple door locations along the corridor, a carefully designed ceiling grid, all allow the teaching labs to be subdivided into smaller research labs. Diagrams 1 & 2 show two of the possible teaching lab layouts. All movable casework is illustrated in red. As walls (also in red) are added in Diagrams 3 & 4, the labs are subdivided into smaller units, with minimal disruption to the existing space.


Flexible Research Modules

Individual reconfigurable modular research labs were designed for the Biomedical Engineering and Medical Sciences Building (MR5) in 1999 and for the Cancer Research Laboratory (MR6) in 2005 at the University of Virginia. Each module can have one of four different layout possibilities. The furniture system (a custom built "kit-of-parts" of furniture components) can be de-mounted and reconfigured around a utility (power, data, and services) column.


Diagrams 1 & 2 show two parallel and perpendicular bench layouts for a variety of wet biomedical research requirements. Diagram 3 shows an engineering lab with open floor space for equipment set-ups. In Diagram 4, a wall (in red) is introduced to create a containment lab (BSL2) for pathology. All of these arrangements are possible and require minimal disruption to achieve over time.


Flexible Large Open Labs

Developed for The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in 2002, large open labs were designed to have either fixed or movable casework in order to promote flexibility. A lab module that is consistent with NIH guides was selected and combinations of these modules were used to create large open areas of generically flexible lab space. Individual researchers have the ability to reconfigure significant portions of the lab casework.


Diagrams 1 & 2 show fixed and movable casework within the lab. An overhead service rail enables casework below to be reconfigured while having access to a variety of services.


Page/SST Planners is proud to be a long term Labs21 Supporter. Energy consciousness and sustainable design are a critical part of laboratory planning and design for modern facilities in all industry sectors. Please see our Labs21 page for more information.

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