The Regenerative Lab is an evolutionary concept for a people-focused, sustainable lab. It is a flexible framework that can accommodate emerging technologies, or even morph into residential use. The design cuts carbon by treating the lab as an ecosystem rather than separate systems. Finally, it prioritizes people by building on fundamental needs for nature, daylight, and social connection, recognizing that experience is key to not only attracting talent, but engagement and creativity.
The Regenerative Lab is a springboard concept — a provocation intended to explore ideas rather than a design meant to be inserted into a city as is. The principles reflected in the Regenerative Lab can be interpreted, adapted then applied on projects according to their specific climates, sites and circumstances.
As demand for life science construction increases in markets like Cambridge, UK, in other areas like Boston, vacancies are at their highest level in almost a decade. It’s a truism; real estate markets rise and fall. But does lab design ignore that fluctuation, striving only to meet today’s needs? Or can it evolve as research and markets change?
A Building that Evolves with the Speed of Research.
The Regenerative Lab Is Supported by Three Principles:
A lab is both a center for scientific discovery and a workplace for people. It must accommodate equipment, systems, and safety as part of its function but it can’t ignore the human experiences that make for a great day at work. Though labs have historically been highly technical, closed-off facilities, the hallmarks of the Regenerative Lab are openness, daylight, variety, nature and connection.
A simple yet bold move, the Regenerative Lab's atrium offers a daylit experience filled with plants and greenery that is both welcoming and rewardingly diverse. The space supports moments of rejuvenation and stress release through comfortable, hospitality-laden amenities and a path where lab tenants—or, if the space evolves, residents—can stroll through an indoor landscape.
Rather than an inwardly-focused research building, the Regenerative Lab emphasizes social interaction and informal collaboration through open, daylit-lab spaces that connect to the atrium and outdoor decks. Depending on security requirements and privacy needs, there is potential for the bottom floors and atrium to be open to the public, directly connecting to the community.
Typically, labs address intensive energy profiles, chemical usage, and associated mitigation issues through isolated systems. By contrast, the Regenerative Lab is part of a broader ecosystem, minimizing its carbon footprint and reducing its drain on resources through synergistic system design.
The Regenerative Lab’s cross-laminated timber (CLT) and steel structural system offers significant benefits by reducing embodied carbon, as the carbon associated with timber is significantly lower than with concrete. The Lab deploys CLT in dry lab and write-up areas where vibration or chemicals are not an issue or floor-to-floor heights are constrained. The hybrid system also helps enable the lab to evolve more readily over time, sustaining the life of the building and averting the significant embodied carbon emissions associated with demolition and new construction.
In addition to actively reducing embodied carbon, the lab employs a range of passive strategies. Operable windows, relatively rare in US buildings due to air changes and other requirements, can be accommodated to reduce cooling needs in dry labs and write-up spaces. Similarly, geographically-mapped shading contributes to the building’s high-energy-performance façade system.
While the ability to accommodate different types of science tenants is a near-term asset, the Regenerative Lab proposes a more radical approach to extend building longevity. The hybrid steel and CLT structure ensures the permanent steel elements will endure for hundreds of years while the adaptable wood elements can be easily dissembled and reconfigured for a range of flexible lab layouts. The lab can accommodate today’s needs and tomorrow’s unknowns through dramatic shifts in the future.
Science is ever-changing, and research buildings are required to do more than ever. But the typical lab is often a static, resource-intensive facility that doesn’t put market conditions or human experience front and center. The Regenerative Lab seeks to change the conversation and in doing so, help spur a new era of labs that can prosper today and tomorrow.
Reduce energy use with high-performance facade and passive shading
Reduce embodied carbon with cross laminated timber and steel
Provide cooling with operable windows
Boost electric operations with solar
Introducing the Regenerative Lab
Part of that future life is the ability to change uses should market demand dictate it. The lab is designed as a series of modules, whose dimensions and layouts work as research, office, or with some modifications, residential units. The lab’s durability and structural flexibility enable office space to be carved out within labs, or labs to be fully converted to office space over time while minimizing renovation work. With larger floorplates, labs typically receive less daylight on the interior than residential buildings; however, these spaces can be repurposed as storage and laundry facilities—prized space often lacking in apartments or condo buildings. The façade’s modular design also enables sections to be recessed, creating outdoor space for residential balconies.