ability upgrades over the next five years, slightly less than
half of the researchers surveyed expect to build a new or renovate a research lab during that period, according to our survey (Chart 17). The average length of time until our survey
respondents expect to build new or renovate a research lab is
about 6. 5 years, with more than 20% of the survey respondents taking more than 10 years to reach that point. And of
those researchers building or renovating their research labs,
they’re expected to include and install some significant level
of sustainable systems in those labs (Chart 18).
The Sustainability Conundrum
Historically, sustainability is a relatively low-ranked design
characteristic of new and renovated research lab design and
constructions, according to previous R&DMagazine surveys.
Lab storage, for example, traditionally receives a 30% higher
response rate in surveys, lab maintenance receives a 40% higher
response rate, and laboratory bench top space concerns receive
a 25% higher response rate. The common perception is that
implementing sustainable features into a research laboratory
environment is an expensive undertaking and that the payback
can be substantially longer than that for installations in their
conventional counterparts. The largest sustainability challenge
is in funding for its equipment cost counterpart. The cost of
implementing increasingly expensive sustainability systems
will continue to be debated in the research lab initial strategy
sessions over the next five years with increasingly weaker paybacks, despite all the positive comments for its implementation.
The current and expected future forecasts for global economic growth are positive, but only weakly positive. In the
U.S., federal funding for research—including the design and
construction of new/renovated research labs—is expected to
increase between 1.5% and 2% annually for the next five
years, as it is for most of the European Community countries
according to the October 2016 issue of the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook. Economic growth
in Asia is substantially stronger and funding expectations
in those areas are not expected to be as much of a concern,
although their growth rates also appear to be slowing slightly.
Despite concerns over the decreasing cost effectiveness of
sustainability implementations in the design/renovation and
construction of research laboratories, sustainability programs
are still likely to continue to be pursued at an increasing
rate. As noted in this report, there are federal guidelines for
increasing sustainability in government buildings for the next
15 years, ending with the requirement for net-zero energy
requirements for all new building by FY2030. The guidelines
have few mentions of the costs of implementing these actions
or budgeting recommendations for how to get there.
One of the stronger incentives for implementing sus-
tainable systems in a research lab is corporate goals. This
incentive does not appear to be going away and will likely
continue to be a driver in being a sustainable “good citizen”
and driving continued funding for implementing sustainabil-
ity initiatives, even if they are not as economically attractive
as they might have been in the past.
Changes Since 2014
The editors of R&DMagazine and Laboratory Design
published a similar report as this current report, “Sustainable
Laboratory Design and Construction,” which was included in
the June 2014 issue of Laboratory Design. These two reports
covered mostly different topics on sustainability, however, with
the current report being more targeted at practical sustainability solutions. Still, it is possible to point to some changes since
2014. Items that have changed slightly over the past two years
include lower cost expectations for building a sustainable lab
today than it was expected to cost two years ago.
Also, while energy costs (from primarily petroleum sources) are significantly lower in 2016 than they were in 2014,
the focus on sustainability in 2016 is stronger than it was in
2014. Research and design programs today focus on reducing
energy use through sustainable design implementations, the
implementation of renewable energy initiatives and enhancing
energy efficiency through hardware and software upgrades.
A whole program approach also appears to be more important in 2016 than it was in 2014, when the focus was more on
individual components and systems (2014), rather than the
current focus on the whole research lab package (2016).
Additionally, LEED v4 was just released in 2014 and there
may have been some trepidation to support it because of
the increased complexity, the cost of LEED and some new
sections on community issues. These hesitations appear to
have evaporated and LEED v4 is now well accepted throughout the community and appears stronger as a design guide
throughout the world than it ever has been in the past.
Monitoring and control of sustainability features in a research
laboratory have not changed substantially over the past two
years. They are still just as important in 2016 as they were in
2014 and the technologies appear to be mostly similar, except
with a bit more focus on automation in 2016 than in 2014.
Site selection and design as it relates to the sustainability
of a new or renovated research laboratory may also have
become slightly more important over the past two years. The
number of issues and concerns in site selection have increased
and come to the forefront of study and investigation as being
strong factors that affect the overall sustainability of the new
or renovated research laboratory. These analyses have now
been more thoroughly formalized and documented.
Finally, the research labs themselves have continued to
evolve over the past two years with the current facilities
ever more complex, ever more sophisticated and ever more
technologically relevant in the R&D community. 2016
laboratories are new, fresh and relevant in the sustainability
arena—2014 laboratories, in contrast, already appear to be
“old” and in need of substantial upgrades. ●