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6 Trends Pushing Life Sciences Lab Design into the Future

Author Robert Thomas, AIA LEED AP NCARB and Anna Gibertini, Brand Writer

Tags Insight

Necessity is the mother invention, in science and in design.

When it comes to the architecture of life science workspaces and labs, innovation is a constant companion. As technology advances, new discoveries unfold, and scientific exploration evolves, architects are at the forefront of shaping the environments where breakthroughs happen.

“HLW’s team of architects, lab planners, and workforce strategists understand the complexities of designing high-performance life sciences buildings,” says Robert Thomas, a principal at HLW and the director of the firm’s life science sector. “Multitudes of considerations have to be taken into account to design a place where typical office work and hard science can safely, sustainably, and effectively co-mingle.”

Here, we take a look at six trends that are redefining the way we design spaces that drive scientific progress.

Emphasis on Collaboration and Interaction

The modern laboratory is all about collaboration: between scientists of various disciplines, scientists doing wet bench work and computational work, and scientists and their colleagues in other departments of a company. To account for this shift in how science is conducted, architects are now adapting the open floor plan, a staple of the modern workplace, to work in laboratory settings. They’re also including more multipurpose and interstitial spaces in research environments to encourage impromptu and informal interactions. Amenities within research buildings are being expanded to provide a comfortable environment in which to work and to provide informal space for collaboration to occur.

Flexibility and Modularity

Because labs are expected to accommodate a variety of scientific research, our lab planners rely on modular design techniques to maximize the efficiency of the space. Reconfigurable casework, workstations on casters, and moveable partitions can accommodate a sudden need for a discrete, purpose-driven space within a larger lab and with minimal disruption to others.  Flexibility is built into equipment zones that allows the lab to be reconfigured to accommodate new equipment. Our lab planners and engineers create a plug-and-play environment that is easily reconfigurable to accommodate new research equipment.

Sustainability and Energy-Efficient Design

Labs typically consume significant energy due to a variety of factors: specialized equipment, round-the-clock operation, refrigeration, security, etc. Architects can lessen some of the burden this 24/7 energy expenditure puts on the environment through a number of environmental design strategies. One of the most common approaches is to design with green building accreditations, such as LEED, in mind. Architects can also specify high-efficiency HVAC systems, water-conserving plumbing, renewable energy sources, and energy recovery systems to aid in these efforts.

Advanced Technology Integration

With more scientific discoveries comes more things to measure and more specialized equipment to fit into the lab. However, similar to trends in consumer products, as scientific equipment gets more advanced it tends to shrink in size. This has allowed architects to better balance bench-space-to-equipment ratios, improving traffic flow and space organization, making labs more efficient and pleasant places to work.

Lab Automation and Robotics

There is a trend to increase automation and robotics in the scientific discovery process. HLW is currently implementing automation and robotics into the laboratory setting to streamline processes, reduce errors, and increase throughput. This trend can lead to more efficient drug discovery, diagnostics, and research.

Data-Driven Insights

Data collection and sharing provides an important part of discovery in today’s modern labs. Scientists are leveraging big data and analytics to gain deeper insights into disease patterns, treatment outcomes, and other relevant factors. This can guide the design of more effective interventions and solutions.

The architecture of life science facilities reflects the ongoing advancements and priorities in the world of research. As science continues to evolve, it’s expected that the architecture of its facilities will continue to adapt and innovate as well.

HLW ArchInsights is a bi-weekly window into the dynamic world of architecture, where we explore industry trends, offer thought-provoking insights, and share the latest news from our firm, guiding you through the ever-evolving landscape of design and innovation.