Lab Planning

Designing health and safety into scientific laboratories

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The architectural and engineering design dedicated to scientific buildings such as pharmaceutical and clinical laboratories requires a specific methodology that make it unique. The special circumstances motivate a permanent progress of knowledge, research and development in the design phase that result in the implementation of better and more sustainable solutions a niche market with emerging challenges.

Project Methodology

If architectural design is already a collaborative effort between diverse professions and entities, this specific branch is even more so, involving administrators, purchasing departments, maintenance engineering, quality assurance teams, validation teams, and last but not least, the end users of the facilities.

This varied range of stakeholders has obliged us over the years to establish, develop and adapt rigorous sustainable design methodologies in which stakeholder involvement is selected according to the project phase in development, with the aim of avoiding confusion and simplifying a process that is far from simple.

User Requirement Specification 

In this field, the User Requirement Specification (URS) represents an essential document in the development of any project. Similar to establishing a functional program for a housing project, it establishes the diverse functionalities attributed to the future facility, including many of the characteristics that will later serve a work base for the architecture and engineering project: the project ID, goals, regulations and guidelines, flows and procedures and dimensions.

Additional features, such as environmental certification, expected return on investment, specific materials resulting from a particular process, special situations such as ATEX areas, service rooms or others can also be included.

This initial document may also serve as a basis for the qualification and validation of the facility future activity, depending on the entity that will license and/or authorise the activity of the building.

Design Concept

The conceptual layout of the facility is a joint effort of the project team verified by all stakeholders in all of its phases. The key word in our project development is “balance”. This balance rests on the compatibility between all the requirements established in the URS, sometimes yielding on a certain aspect depending on the priority of factors assumed in the afore-mentioned phases. This balance will result in a project that fulfils the objectives of the promoter. The design phase, rather than exercise of architectural creativity, will be shaped by the results of the phases entailed in the URS.

In this sense, the principle of form follows function originated in 20th Century modern architecture applies distinctly to the architecture of scientific buildings and clinical laboratories, where the form arises primarily from function.

This article was written in connection with the conference ‘Design para a saúde’ taking place on April 30th at Roca Lisboa Gallery.

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