Research facilities have been going through huge transformations just as the office spaces did in the last few decades.
What is it that’s the need for us to rethink in research facility design is an unanswered fact that we keep thinking & evolving as architects/ lab planners.
Lets study a few of the lab designs that have been done in the past & have worked.
Earlier we had laboratory spaces that were designed based on the need of an individual scientist & became individual driven spaces. Each scientist would need specific equipments & infrastructure to perform his/her studies & that would be provided for.
With growing real estate costs, energy costs & inter science dependecies the lab design started to transform into open lab concepts.
The next buzz was “ open lab designs”
What the “ Open lab” meant was that the science spaces would not be specific to individuals but would be specific to teams/ functions. Which again is under the scanner of designers whether that is the solution for all type of laboratories.
Taking the design idea forward & adapting to changes was the next need in laboratory design & hense came out the term “ Flexibility in lab design”
Now this is a very generic term & also comes with a huge implication on budgets for such labs.
Obviously the science space is unable to sustain a flexible lab which again demands a huge investment upfront keeping in mind all kinds of needs to the future.
Looking at the way the future of work environments, changes in mindset of working and allowing the changes to happen at a rapid pace is a challenge.
Lets analyse the science environment & people using the facilities.We can define the presnt need of lab space design would be “adaptive & collaborative lab design”
Key tasks for this would be after understanding the research facility vision & culture:
- Not all scientific research happens in the lab. The collabration spaces like lounge areas, casual meeting areas (such as ‘huddle rooms’), and libraries can provide areas for contemplative reading, writing notes, and conducting impromptu meetings.
- In addition, cafeterias and other casual areas for food and beverages can enhance team building and idea sharing.
- Connecting indoor environments to outdoors also stimulates the thinking and behave as “think tanks” within campuses.
- Maximize spontaneous opportunities for collaboration and brainstorming. Ensure that there are adequate surfaces for writing down ideas by incorporating erasable writing surfaces into walls and space dividers — or by providing mobile note taking stands.
- Interactive media walls / projections on TV mounted at strategic locations.
- Worktables within labs for quick data reference or work to be done.
- Consider the use of virtual social spaces as well. Using sophisticated group work software tools that can help speed up collaboration between research teams. Ensure that all areas of the facility have secure network connections for mobile /laptop devices.
- While collaboration is a positive thing, unwanted noise can be a distraction. Create dedicated quiet spaces that allow for private contemplation on difficult problems.
- Communicate the vision & culture of organisation by involving the people in the part of design so that they can evolve the same further- leading to an adaptive environment.
This need shall determine the design to be open with part closed labs for specific functions. The closed labs shall be shared/ dedicated spaces depending on the room conditions or security need.
Apart from the labs the so called ancillary spaces such as open / closed office & collaboration spaces plays an equally important role in the success of a research facility workplace design.
Incorporating the adaptive nature of the spaces an environment within the facility shall permit the individual to do all kinds of activities such as science, brainstorming, team work, relax, & also get the fun aspect into the so called serious research space.
Courtsey – Megha Gangrade, Founder & Principal architect, Design4