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Today’s lab building by the numbers

Friday, 14 October 2016

Shepley Bulfinch undertook a 3-month long study where we examined science facilities from over a 100 colleges and universities across the country. We gathered data that details departmental usage, building efficiency and other key metrics that drive the design of science buildings. In particular, we tracked usage related to interdisciplinary research and STEM trends across higher education.

Key insights included:

  • Buildings are 37% larger while undergoing a 15% reduction in square footage per department.
  • There has been a 260% increase in the space allotted to dry labs. This dramatic increase represents new types of research driven by technology that does not require hoods and benches, including computational biology, computer science, and robotics.
  • Increased cost represents the increasingly complex nature of combining multiple typologies (wet and dry) in one building and increased construction costs due to skilled labor shortages. It could also represent higher performance buildings focused on faculty retention and recruitment.
  • On average, planning efficiency remains about the same, as elements in building GSF (structure, bathrooms, circulation) cannot get smaller. Overall GSF has increased as institutions are building larger buildings to house multiple departments, as opposed designating one building per department.

Infographic of lab and science benchmarking for higher education- departmental usage, building efficiency and other key metrics that drive the design of science buildings


These are the most high level insights, but the data we have collected allows for more detailed queries. Please get in touch with us if you have questions or want to benchmark your science or STEM facility.

- Luke Voiland

Luke Voiland AIA is a principal at Shepley Bulfinch and a leader in the planning and design of innovative learning environments.

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