designs that can be created based on the specific characteristics of the site, such as solar orientation for heating or cooling the building or positioning it to maximize the efficiency
and output of renewable energy solar panels or maximizing/
minimizing the effects of prevailing wind patterns. Natural
drainage patterns can also be considered that support the
development of sustainable landscaping designs and prevent
issues with extreme weather events. And the selection of a
specific site also can be made that supports materials shipping, staff access and parking, utility access and fire/police
access—all factors that impact the sustainability of the completed research lab and all done in a passive, decision-making
process, rather than an active, technology-based manner.
But the actual implementation of these and other site-based sustainable procedures brings up a large number of
questions concerning the site itself. Is the site a greenfield,
brownfield or greyfield site? Greenfield sites consist of agricultural land considered for urban development and generally are safe. Brownfield sites are lands that previously were
used for industrial or commercial development and could be
complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. And greyfield sites are economically
obsolescent, underused assets typified by the acres of empty
asphalt that often accompanies them and again pose the
possibility of contamination or other detrimental issues—it
didn’t work out for the previous tenants, why didn’t it and
are there risks involved with it?
The list of various site-specific concerns was queried in
R&DMagazine’s and Laboratory Design’s survey (Chart 9)
with four, quite different, responses that stood out.
The top response, with 48% of the respondents choosing
it, was “zoning” followed by access to academic facilities
(44%), existing/potential parking (42%) and potential
employee (geographic) distribution (42%). The variation in
these responses exemplifies the wide range of issues concerned with site selection. The issues involve political jurisdictional concerns, weather patterns and trends, topograph-ical patterns, soil constituents, solar orientation, the local
socio-economic environment, natural and artificial resources,
biological inhabitants and more.
Once all the soil borings, building configuration decisions and alternative selections, traffic patterns, sizing and
routing of utilities, jurisdictional resolutions and all the rest
are determined, lab designers and engineers can evaluate
the potential passive sustainable designs that can be made
and determine the savings from each. Some of these passive
design decisions could include:
• The optimal building orientation on the site for best
solar daylighting to reduce the electric lighting load and
reduce the interior heat gain loads.
• Determination of the appropriate plants, positioning
and settings to minimize the need for water, maintenance and drainage systems, while creating a pleasing,
• The optimal solar panel product selection, positioning
and building placement to maximize the amount of
electrical power generated with the minimal amount of
maintenance and longest life cycle.
• Design, placement and construction of vehicular access
and parking systems, along with appropriate creation of renewable energy support systems (electrical
charging stations) for expanded future applications.
• Integration of underground soil-based cooling and storage systems as appropriate within the site environs for
overall support of the lab interior heating and cooling
• Design and creation of below-grade storm water management systems.
• Design and integration of below-grade utility and resource delivery systems.
• Finalization of the external new research lab configuration and specific placement based on an integration of
multiple exterior passive sustainable systems.
• Design and implementation of solar shading systems to
reduce the interior heat gain load.
• Create an externalized circulation system (where appropriate) to minimize the conditioned new research
• Create a system for rainwater harvesting that feeds
landscape irrigation, fire water supplies and potential
interior gray-water needs.
Access to academic facilities
Potential employee distribution
Environmentally sensitive areas
Access to locally manufactured materials
Access to traditional shipping routes
Potential building placement
Traditional insect habitats
0 10 20 30 40 50
Chart 9 - What Site Specific Considerations Factor Into The
Design Of A Sustainable Lab?