Building interior design concept of integrated neighborhoods promotes collaboration

A prevailing view emerged from the 2007 faculty survey and the Lokey Stem Cell (SIM1) programming phase that favored the concept of integrated neighborhoods to promote collaboration. Survey feedback indicated that large, wide-open lab spaces, such as the ones in CCSR, do not necessarily promote more interactions. On the contrary, laboratory staff tended to isolate themselves through the use of personal audio players to mask the high noise level prevalent in these cavernous spaces. Large open labs counter-intuitively deterred people from interactions by causing them to focus more inwardly; the lack of private space actually became a recurrent complaint from occupants.

In SIM1, we have recognized that a balance of private and public space provides an innovative re-thinking of research needs. We plan to incorporate the benefits of open access provided by open labs, yet overcome their inherent challenges by designing a facility built on the concept of integrated neighborhoods that are on a more intimate scale. This promotes and facilitates collaborative interactions yet also enables the quiet and focused pursuit of experimental goals that forms the underpinnings of scientific research. The SIM1 building consists of four floors adding up to a total of 200,000 gsf (130,000 nasf). The three floors at or above grade level contain highly dense laboratory space. The basement floor contains the cores or shared services located within the building.

Each of the three above-grade floors is composed of two wings that respectively accommodate five and six laboratories each (Figure 4). Within each of these wings or neighborhoods, labs and faculty offices are clustered to maximize the investigators’ interactions with their own labs, and with their peers and peers’ labs. To further enhance collaborations, labs for senior and junior faculty, and the 60 collaborative translational benches mentioned above will be intermixed within each neighborhood. Internal connection corridors between labs and common equipment rooms provide even more opportunities for access and collaborations.

Flexibility, usability, cost effectiveness, and collaboration are hallmarks of SIM1

The SIM1 labs are designed to be generic and modular to allow maximum current and future flexibility. By designing space in this manner, the SISCB/RM will be better able to effectively utilize the proposed facility for the entire life cycle of the building. The building concept revolves around the following major lab planning and design approaches:

  • Flexibility: Our goal was to develop a lab infrastructure that allows ultimate flexibility to address unplanned change over time, whether changing equipment and instrumentation as required for new faculty needs, or changing research programs by moving one investigator out of the building and bringing in another. From this goal was born the concept of the modular lab unit which serves as the basic building block for SIM1 labs. There are 33 modular lab units in total in SIM1, each measuring 1,260 nasf. Each lab module accommodates 16 benches and 12 desks, with an additional 4 benches that can be flexibly configured to support common large equipment or expanded bench top space for experiments. Figure 4 shows how the modular lab building block is used over and over again throughout the building.
  • Usability: Designing the labs for usability by principal investigators and lab staff was a key consideration. To maximize usability and flexibility, we adopted a generous 1:1 lab to lab support ratio throughout the building. The types of uses for the support space include: tissue culture rooms, microscopy, film processing equipment, radio isotope, gas and chemical storage, autoclave, and animal surgery rooms. This flexible support space can be changed from instrumentation rooms to tissue culture rooms or other specialized functions as required to support various research activities. It can also be reverted to a generic lab module design if desired. Overall, there will be 83,160 nasf dedicated to labs and lab support space, with a total of 528 lab benches and 396 lab desks.
Lokey building location on the Stanford University School of Medicine Campus

Flexibility and usability concepts are applied further to lab furnishings. Moveable modular lab furnishings provide flexibility at the research benches. Benches are moveable with reagent shelving connected to the bench instead of the building. Bench utilities are accessed from the ceiling with “quick connects” for each bench. Bench heights are adjustable to meet individual criteria and ADA requirements. Under bench casework is on castors to allow interchangeability of types and styles of casework.

Cost effectiveness

The modular and generic design of the labs and lab support space, and the high degree of built-in flexibility, enable us to increase cost-effectiveness. The building design clusters labs and lab support space together on the one hand, and administrative and communal space together on the other hand. The flexibility of the design elements allows us to defer finalizing many details until closer to project completion. This will help us avoid costly mistakes and allow us to make better decisions with more complete information. The modular layout achieves a 65% gross to net ratio, ensuring a cost effective structure when measured against peer buildings. The efficiency of standard wet lab research buildings typically measures between 55% and 60%. The higher building ratio saves us the equivalent of 16,000 gsf of building space, resulting in an approximate savings of $1,600,000.