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Faced with a massive renovation and no swing space for 1,800 cages of "dirty" mice, the University of Missouri at Columbia opted to lease a pair of modular vivaria, install them in an underutilized warehouse, and switch to disposable cages. Researchers were prohibited from entering the viviaria, so cages were delivered directly to their labs. How well did it work? "I would do it again, 100 times,” says the university’s assistant director for research in the Office of Animal Resources.
When lockdown ended, many organizations saw the proven viability of telecommuting as a chance to reduce their real estate needs. Sandia National Laboratories seized the opportunity to use its work-from-home dividend to renovate its older buildings and update building amenities.
How do you measure the value of research? That’s the question many universities are contending with as they rethink and revise their master plans to reflect declining enrollments, a complex funding environment, and the realities of older facilities, amid competition for scarce resources. A fresh approach to space planning and benchmarking can help clarify the possibilities.
“Smart labs” and the Internet of Things—with sensors and actuators that gather information about the lab environment and adjust its systems according to that data—have been around for a while. But a new wave of construction is allowing designers to incorporate smart concepts from the ground up, providing sensitive and responsive ventilation and airflow systems to a newly COVID-sensitized lab marketplace. Architects and engineers are working together to create flexible systems that respond in real time to conditions inside a research lab. “In a nutshell, we would like a smart building to operate in correlation with its occupancy and utilization,” says Tom Smith, president and CEO of 3Flow.
With the rise of esports competitions in games like League of Legends, Fortnite, and Overwatch, colleges are under pressure to open campus spaces for both intercollegiate team matches and intramural clubs. Meeting this need requires flexible facility designs, attention to aesthetics, and, importantly, the involvement of related academic and extracurricular programs, says Rob Bailey, executive director of student affairs information technology at Illinois State University.