By: Gable Clarke, IIDA, LEED AP
As designers, we are challenged to plan facilities that not only respond to emerging trends in science, but that also respond to—and facilitate—leading-edge discovery methods. With workplace culture evolving alongside technology, SGA recognizes the importance of creating dynamic spaces that can support both laboratory and office environments. It’s these overlapping areas that will cultivate the future of collaborative work and support continued innovation.
To design a facility that can adapt to a rapidly evolving scientific ecosystem, SGA architects and lab planners take a holistic approach to design. Our methodology of science and technology integrates innovative laboratories with culture-defining corporate interiors to deliver an environment that enhances worker productivity and fosters a sense of belonging and satisfaction.
SGA believes that science defines culture, and culture defines technology—a symbiotic relationship in which all sides must excel for ideal outcomes. A key cultural consideration is the diverse intergenerational population of a company. From the Boomer generation to Gen Z, practices and methods have and will need to adapt over time due to advances in technology and attitudes. For example, over the past 30 years, the amount of traditional wet bench space constructed has decreased significantly, while information-based facilities, such as those supporting Bioinformatics, has increased at an inverse rate; this creates a disruption in work culture, which facilities need to embrace and support. Younger researchers will continue to transform the discovery paradigm with the tools of technology and quality of the environment. This shift is already underway and the facilities that SGA designs serve as the backdrop for this change.
It’s evident that with the advancement of technology, we can create solutions quicker. Science has moved from the industrial age to a new and exciting information age and the power of the computer is leveraged to make breakthrough discoveries. The majority of researchers’ time is spent doing computer-based tasks, analyzing and modeling data that can then be proven out in the laboratory. But scientists and researchers don’t only work in a laboratory setting—they also need ancillary support spaces to write and collaboration areas to meet with their peers. And as we just mentioned, it is often the younger generations that require and expect these non-laboratory, shared spaces, where ideas can be exchanged and brainstorms begin.
The future of life science buildings is not a compartmentalized vision—it’s one that encourages and facilitates collaborative, innovative work. At SGA, we enjoy celebrating the science outside of the laboratories and look to visually meld the two environments together to build a strong unified brand, creating a visual connection throughout the facility. Branding devices such as color palettes and graphic treatments become an important connection between the laboratory and office environments. This design integration is meaningful because it helps celebrate, build, and reinforce workplace culture.
Clients expect that the buildings we deliver for them will last for 70 years or more. However, science changes faster than that, so in 10-20 years, a facility may be in great shape, but programmatically obsolete. We as designers embrace this fact and develop solutions that can morph and adjust with scientific discovery. Our buildings must not get in the way of science, but provide the framework for an ever-changing landscape.
Gable Clarke, IIDA, LEED® AP is Partner, Director of Interior Design at SGA. Gable is responsible for project oversight, client relations, business development, mentoring, and firm leadership.