Now that we know working from home works, how can employers entice workers back into the office? The answer lies in pilot studies and data analysis that focus on the collaborative, activity-based work spaces that make the commute worth their while.
Carnegie Mellon University’s New Science Building is Designed to Support Evolving Paradigms of Interdisciplinary Education and Discovery
The Richard King Mellon Hall of Sciences (RKM HoS), designed as a flexible, next-generation home for the future of science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), will enable researchers and students from across the university to interact on projects in the foundational sciences, computer sciences, machine learning, data analytics, and contemporary art.
A healthy work environment—with good air, good water, the right kind of light, and a comfortable temperature—is not just a nice-to-have perk. Studies show that attending to "cognitive ergonomics"—how a workspace impacts the occupants’ ability to think—can improve cognitive performance by as much as 50 percent.
Learn how Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., U.S.A., created a highly efficient research facility by employing design strategies—an open, flexible floorplan and shared core facilities—as well as operational functions, including just-in-time delivery of materials and integrated science groups. The result is a less siloed, more collaborative environment.
Private Industry and Academic Institutions Unveil Post-Pandemic Hybrid Workplace and Space Utilization Initiatives
The evolution of space planning and utilization was kicked into overdrive during the COVID-19 pandemic, as everyone from private industry to higher education to government entities was forced to rethink who works where, and when. After three years of transition, organizations are now implementing innovative hybrid work scenarios and space utilization initiatives that reflect the new workplace landscape. The emerging solution is a hybrid work model that blends work-from-home with time spent at a shared physical work environment. That provides institutions the opportunity to make the most efficient use of the space they have, shed the facilities they don’t need, and focus on creating spaces that entice employees out of their home offices and back to the workplace.
Decisions about space size, type, and utilization must be based on data, but massive datasets can prove to be too much of a good thing if they are not translated into usable, understandable information. HDR's proprietary software, Data Wrangler, provides a platform for facilities planners, operators, and owners to visualize how data defines their spaces, and then manipulates that data in real time to demonstrate how to maximize the assets' potential. The result: Greater collaboration and faster decision-making.
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.
Repurposing non-research facilities to house specialized life sciences and therapeutics labs is a growing trend sparked by real estate inventory and the fiscal practicality of renovation rather than new construction. The vacancy rate throughout the United States for lab space in the fourth quarter of 2022 was 6 percent versus 19.5 percent for office space, according to the Jones Lang LaSalle real estate transparency index. The vacancy rates for 2021 were less than 4 percent for labs and approximately 15 percent for offices.
Life science laboratories are increasingly embracing the idea of moving into high-rise settings in city centers, filling space in new construction, or renovating office space left vacant, in part, by the many companies opting to continue to work from home following the pandemic. High-rise laboratories in urban settings offer many advantages related to recruiting top talent, the ease of city amenities, and abundant transportation options, says Matthew Decker, AIA, architect for CRB in Plymouth Meeting, Penn. But they also pose challenges, including strict building codes for hazardous materials, and infrastructure concerns that can affect placement of lab equipment, HVAC systems, and utilities.
New teaching facilities for science and engineering stress flexibility and interdisciplinarity, but how much flexibility is appropriate? Michael Lauber, principal at Ellenzweig in Boston, cites three recent university-level projects at Michigan State University, University of Maine, and Rice University to demonstrate how to achieve varying levels of flexibility with lab infrastructure and casework, and how the floorplan can enable occupants to easily adapt their space to ever-changing pedagogical goals in multiple STEM disciplines.
The North Carolina State Legislature often receives requests from its representatives for funding to construct new academic buildings at the state universities in their districts. Lately, it’s been all about STEM facilities. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs are predicted to increase faster than other kinds of positions in the 2020s, so some requests represent a legitimate response to the need for STEM graduates. But which universities truly need more space? To help them allocate funding sensibly, the University of North Carolina System Office commissioned a statewide study, using an innovative methodology balancing current utilization, building conditions, and future space needs.
The Student Success District is a ground-breaking addition to the University of Arizona’s urban fabric. The design strengthens connections between new and existing structures, activates underutilized spaces, and prioritizes the student experience. The complex project revitalizes the Main Library and the Bear Down Gymnasium, reorients the entry to the Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library, and merges the buildings with a new 55,000-sf Center for Academic Success.
The University of Maryland in Baltimore County (UMBC) is surpassing expectations for student retention, faculty recruitment, and productivity by using active learning, pioneering research models, and new building occupancy criteria in its Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building (ILSB). The 130,000-gsf building, which opened in 2019, provides 70,000 nasf of flexible research and education space to accommodate current and future students and faculty in the life sciences and biotechnology programs.