Today more than ever, medical or bioscience research laboratories must be designed for maximum flexibility to serve universities' short-, medium- and long-term needs. Several profound dynamics will be affecting university research scientists and their approach toward basic research within the biosciences. Among these are advances in nanotechnology, ongoing rapid advances in computerized research modeling and imaging, and new national political and economic priorities on university research programs to develop a defense against bioterrorism.

All of these changes are bound to redefine the landscape of the laboratory research environment and the laboratory bench top.

Lessons learned

From a traditional programming and planning perspective, flexibility has long been among the significant criteria for the design of research laboratories. The purpose is twofold: to accommodate change over time in the nature of research programs themselves; and to adapt assignments of space to scientists and faculty to accommodate the specific needs of each scientific discipline and the space requirements for each assigned research group. Modular planning and flexibility of the physical elements of the laboratory, that is, laboratory casework and utility services, were generally adequate to meet a university's ever-changing needs.

One key lesson that has been learned from these efforts is that there are many variations on the theme of flexibility. Each design solution must evolve from a programming, planning and design process that involves a university's faculty and facility manager. This leads us to the second key lesson learned: a team approach is the one constant required to meet each institution's strategic goals and objectives.