flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
catfish1 - bottom
Currently Reading

Why lab designers should aim to ‘speak the language’ of scientists


Why lab designers should aim to ‘speak the language’ of scientists

From breaking the language barrier between architects and scientists to gaining new perspectives, here are several reasons to learn from scientists during the lab design process.

By Adrian Walters, AIA, LEED AP BD+C | SMMA | April 22, 2024
Science lab
Photo courtesy SMMA

As lab designers, we are always striving to better understand the needs of lab scientists—the end users who our spaces are designed for. In practice, this means continuing to broaden our communication channels with scientists.

At SMMA, we are doing this in two ways: by learning more about the scientific work being done in the spaces we are designing, and by participating in educational programs.

These programs, run by science organizations such as I2SLMy Green LabNEBSALab Design ConferenceLab Manager, and Harvard School of Public Health, allow multiple stakeholders to share their expertise on a particular topic.

SmartLabs 6 Tide Street in Boston's Seaport, designed by SMMA.
SmartLabs 6 Tide Street in Boston's Seaport, designed by SMMA. Photo courtesy SMMA

Learning about the science gives lab designers an edge, for several reasons:

It breaks the language barrier between architects and scientists.

This kind of two-way communication is essential in modern lab design. Today’s projects call on designers to synthesize many different variables and priorities. Our labs must serve the needs of end users, cities, and institutions while also meeting ever-higher environmental and safety standards.

It elevates our lab planning and design work.

By putting ourselves in scientists’ shoes, we can better appreciate the day-to-day challenges they face in the lab. This helps us design lab spaces with better flow and usability, as well as decreasing the levels of risk.

It gives us new perspectives and approaches to design.

These educational initiatives help expand our tools of understanding. Armed with greater knowledge of the science, we can more easily chip away at projects from multiple viewpoints to find alternative, and more sustainable, design solutions.

It helps us solve the related challenges of risk and sustainability.

The end goal of any lab project is to become net zero energy and carbon neutral. Lowering the risk allows for lower-intensity systems, thereby reducing energy usage. Initiatives such as My Green Lab’s Ambassador Program (and their planned AP Program) furthers our expertise in designing buildings that are both safe and sustainable.

If you would like to learn more about how SMMA is integrating scientific knowledge into our lab design practice, please reach out to Adrian Walters, Science & Technology Studio Leader.

More from Author

SMMA | Nov 14, 2022

How to achieve net zero energy in five steps

Martine Dion and Ethan Seaman share net zero energy best practices with owners and developers.

SMMA | Aug 22, 2022

For Gen Z, “enhanced communication” won’t cut it

As the fastest-growing generation, Generation Z, loosely defined as those born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, has become a hot topic in conversations surrounding workplace design.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category


The Department of Energy breaks ground on the Princeton Plasma Innovation Center

In Princeton, N.J., the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has broken ground on the Princeton Plasma Innovation Center (PPIC), a state-of-the-art office and laboratory building. Designed and constructed by SmithGroup, the $109.7 million facility will provide space for research supporting PPPL’s expanded mission into microelectronics, quantum sensors and devices, and sustainability sciences. 


HGA unveils plans to transform an abandoned rock quarry into a new research and innovation campus

In the coastal town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., an abandoned rock quarry will be transformed into a new research and innovation campus designed by HGA. The campus will reuse and upcycle the granite left onsite. The project for Cell Signaling Technology (CST), a life sciences technology company, will turn an environmentally depleted site into a net-zero laboratory campus, with building electrification and onsite renewables.

halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021