22 Apr, 2019 | Written by Premis

Trends in University Lab Design

Emerging trends in laboratory design mean universities are looking for spaces that are collaborative, flexible and aesthetically appealing.

Let's take a look at these elements of laboratory refurbishment, and how good design supports each.

Collaboration and social interaction

The days when a lab was the exclusive preserve of one researcher are over. Driven by an increase in multiple-source funded projects, lab design has moved from closed labs devoted to one research stream, to open labs which accommodate many research teams.

Today’s lab refurbishments must feature social interaction spaces, where research team members can relax and discuss their projects.

In addition to internal discussion, another university refurbishment trend is to include purpose-built video conferencing spaces for communicating with researchers outside the lab. This not only fosters collaboration, but cuts down on travel and accommodation costs for meetings.

Then there’s the trend to overlap functions in one space – with a little ingenuity a conference room can double as an employee café; a connecting corridor might have a bench for a chat after a chance meeting as people move between the laboratory spaces.

Flexibility and openness

Flexible design allows labs to be open for more kinds of business, which means lab refurbishments offer a bigger ROI. Labs can accommodate a range of disciplines - biochemists and biophysicists share space; computer simulation technicians and bioinformaticians are now increasingly working alongside their wet lab colleagues.

Changes in technology also mean that designing a building around one piece of equipment could prove disastrous when that equipment is superseded by the next tech wave.

Because of this need for flexibility and future-proofing, modular furniture designs are better than traditional fixed casework. A modular design by definition adapts to the changing focus of the space, obviating the long-term need for major renovations.

Aesthetic appeal

Many workplaces now go out of their way to look like anything other than workplaces. With running waterfalls, indoor gardens and ‘play’ areas, modern offices attempt to relax workers and make work less of a chore and more of an attractive place to be.

Similarly, labs need to try harder to attract younger scientists as the baby boomer generation goes into retirement. Like their office-based generational counterparts, Gen Y scientists place more emphasis on aesthetics than the preceding generation.

Dusty, wooden cabinets and scarred linoleum is not going to make an impression on this new crop of scientists. They want to work in a lab that resembles the latest facilities in Europe and the US, to feel they are part of a cutting-edge team.

To do this, universities are paying particular attention to refurbishments that feature the latest in ambient lighting and pendant lights for up-lighting that reduces the stark illumination associated with earlier lab designs.

There's also greater emphasis on interaction with the outside world, with windows looking out onto nature.

Incorporating the latest trends into a refurbishment means obtaining the right advice in planning and implementation. Contact Premis to discuss your next project.

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