Costs will continue to be the driving factors in the implementation of sustainable research labs.
Defining sustainability in the context of creating a new or renovated research laboratory consists of many different aspects. Reduced costs, environmental and
natural material implementations, reusability and recycling,
waste management/elimination and increased efficiencies and
productivities are all involved in the sustainability of research
labs. Technically, sustainability is simply defined as the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely. Sustainable lab
design and operation goes beyond that simple definition by
tying it integrally with the ability to reuse and recycle materials, create operational capabilities that minimize the use of
energy, utilities and other resources—all the while creating a
research environment that produces state-of-the-art innovative products and processes that create design platforms
that build upon and enhance the enterprise’s financial and
competitive growth capabilities.
Modern research laboratories are some of the most complex
facilities ever constructed. They often contain traditional office
and business support capabilities, but they also can include
pilot production facilities, extensive long-term testing sites,
traditional chemistry labs, extreme engineering physical equipment, a multitude of lab equipment and instrumentation, environmental testing systems, military and advanced weapons
development systems, radiation and high-energy physics labs,
electronics and communications labs, software development
labs, biological, animal testing and holding cells, and even the
most secure containment systems in the world for isolating
and investigating biological organisms that have no known
cures. Sustainable systems, equipment and procedures are now
considered for inclusion into all of these types of labs.
Developing the strategies for creating a sustainable new or
renovated research lab begins by establishing and documenting all of the specific scientific, technological, financial/eco-nomic and product development goals of the new research facility and its managing enterprise. Detailing each of these goals
into their individual components can then be used to identify
how sustainable systems, materials and processes should (or
should not) be addressed and implemented into each.
However, just identifying all the physical aspects of a new/
renovated research lab should not be the end in itself. Creating a sustainable lab design and structure should also include
how the lab occupants—the researchers, scientists and engineers—can perform their work in a sustainable manner. Does
the new facility support the researchers’ ethical practices,
their responsible research, and is it a great and exciting place
to work? These are all sustainable features of the new/renovated research lab as well.
An aspect that also should be given considerable study in
the early strategic analyses of sustainable design is the monitoring, analysis, maintenance and constant improvement of
the installed sustainable systems to ensure that they are doing
their job and to document and investigate areas that may
need additional work or retrofits.
Sustainability is a relatively new, but growing, concept in
the design, construction and operation of new or renovated
research labs. A reader survey conducted by R&DMagazine/
Laboratory Design in August 2016 found that sustainability
is a more important aspect of lab design today than it was
just five years ago in 2011. The survey revealed that 94% of
the respondents stated that sustainability is more important
today (Chart 1).
The actual origins of sustainable development can be
traced back to Herman Daly, a senior economist at the
World Bank who developed economic policy guidelines
related to sustainable development. Daly gave examples of
environmental sustainability in 1990 which included: 1) for
renewable resources, the rate of harvest should not exceed
the rate of regeneration; 2) the rates of waste generation
should not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment; and 3) for non-renewable resources their depletion
should require comparable development of renewable
substitutes. These have become the basic tenets of the current
sustainable design movement.
Sustainable development was further escalated in the
research arena in 1990 with the creation of the Buildings
Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method
(BREEAM) in the United Kingdom, which ranked building
systems, components and materials based on the carbon
impact of each decision. BREEAM was a predecessor of the
U.S.’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program established by the U.S. Green Building Council
(USGBC) in 2000.
No, significantly less important today
No, slightly less important today
Yes, slightly more important today
Yes, significantly more important today
Chart 1 - Is Sustainability More/Less Important Than In 2011?