Laboratory Facilities


In the pursuit of science, competition for the best and the brightest minds has become fierce. Institutions and organizations often use laboratory facilities as recruiting tools to lure top researchers to their team. Today’s laboratories emphasize architectural design by featuring natural light, open floor plans, and flexible layouts, while at the same time promoting comfort, collaboration and productivity. Some laboratory environment issues that are important to researchers include:


Creating the proper acoustical environment within a laboratory is essential. For example, group teaching laboratories require background noise levels that are low enough to provide an environment suitable for high speech intelligibility and comprehension. Laboratories used strictly for testing and research typically require minimal speech communication and subsequently can tolerate higher background noise levels. Controlling the background noise in a laboratory can be challenging because of the nature of the space (hard surfaces, and robust mechanical and exhaust systems). Traditional mitigation measures, such as standard silencers and duct lining, pose problems due to their propensity to act as repositories for contaminants. Through careful design of the equipment and systems, and by using nontraditional mitigation measures, a background noise level appropriate for each laboratory can be achieved.

Ceilings or No Ceilings

Typically, the selection of a ceiling type is purely an aesthetic issue. In the laboratory environment, containment, access, and cleanliness all influence the decision. While it is preferable to locate all utility devices requiring access outside the laboratory, sometimes this is impractical. If access is a primary concern, a no ceiling approach may be acceptable. If ceilings are omitted to provide maximum utility access, several other issues must be considered. Since the room volume will be different, the room air exchange rate will be different. The laboratory’s acoustical performance will change. The mix of direct and indirect lighting may need to be adjusted. And an often overlooked point is the aesthetic impact of exposing utilities. In this scenario, the appearances and routing of each duct, pipe and conduit must be considered.


Lighting and daylighting requirements vary widely in research facilities. Thoughtful daylighting design can create a visually stimulating and productive environment by connecting building occupants to the dynamic patterns of outdoor illumination. Intelligent integration of daylighting requires close coordination among the architectural, HVAC, electrical, and lighting disciplines. Daylighting will affect the building fenestration, the HVAC cooling loads, and the design of lighting systems and associated controls. The types and location of fenestration can help achieve the desired quality and quantity of daylighting, while minimizing the adverse effects of glare and increased cooling loads.

Odor Control

Odor control is an important function of the laboratory mechanical system. Many processes that are not required to be performed in a chemical fume hood or biological safety cabinet still produce noxious odors. The ability of the mechanical system to not only prevent these odors from escaping the laboratory into adjacent spaces, but also to maintain a pleasant environment within the laboratory is critical. The negative differential pressure typically associated with laboratories also restricts the spread of odors. Within the laboratory, local ventilation devices can be used to quickly remove noxious fumes. These local devices may range from snorkels to casework exhaust systems. Whatever the type of local exhaust system, impediments to its performance from room air motion, air distribution devices, people moving within the space, or doors opening and closing, must be addressed.

Recent Experience

University of Miami
Miami, Florida
Karlsberger Companies
The Biomedical Research Building houses seven floors of wet laboratories and two floors of vivarium for the Miller School of Medicine, as well as an MRI and CT scanner.
182,000 square feet

Northeast Indiana Innovation Center
Fort Wayne, Indiana
SchenkelShultz Architecture, Inc.
A single story facility providing incubator space for emerging biotechnology and information technology businesses. The building houses typical laboratories with fume hoods, information technology laboratories to accommodate a large quantity of computer equipment, shared spaces for conferences and presentations, and safe laboratories for containing chemicals.
42,000 square feet

Old Dominion University
Norfolk, Virginia
VMDO Architects, PC
Addition to the Oceanography/Physical Sciences Research Building including freshwater and saltwater fish tanks, mass spectrometry and microscopy laboratories, laser laboratories, nuclear physics laboratories, an NMR suite containing three NMRs, chemistry and biology laboratories, and a 100 seat seminar room.
57,800 square feet

Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona
Gould Evans Associates, LC
The Biodesign Institute houses laboratory, vivarium, support and office space for eleven laboratory centers. This complex was named 2006 Laboratory of the Year by R&D Magazine.
360,000 square feet

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