Our approach to designing laboratory spaces is highly collaborative. We actively seek input from all project stakeholders including faculty members, researchers, administrators, maintenance personnel, and environmental health and safety officers - as well as the other members of the design team. Within our own office, our approach follows a similar paradigm whereby intelligent discourse amongst professionals with their own experiences and opinions leads to solutions which are greater than the knowledge of any one individual.
Most of RFD’s work is with academic institutions. We understand the complex, competing, and often sensitive politics of the academic world. Our approach is tailored to work within these institutional structures to develop solutions that address the needs of the various constituencies. Although the building occupants ultimately may not get everything they want, simply having them involved in the design process goes a long way towards assuring that they have a high level of satisfaction with the completed project.
We have great respect for the value of our clients’ time. We also have a well-honed knowledge of the issues involved in designing laboratory buildings – issues which need to be addressed earlier in the design process, rather than later. From this knowledge we have developed a standard process for gathering programming and design input from our clients that is efficient, effective, and well-structured. While the details of the process vary on every project, the framework allows us to move forward in a predictable and organized fashion.
Focused on Discovery
While RFD has been involved in the design of hundreds of laboratory projects, we see every project as an opportunity to learn something new about science, pedagogy, safety, or construction. By learning and discovering together with our clients, we deepen our collective knowledge of laboratory design issues. Research continually moves into new fields – by working closely with our clients we keep ourselves updated on emerging requirements and trends. This discovery process is very much a 2-way street benefiting not only the client at-hand, but the laboratory community as a whole.
Guided by Leadership
While our process is one of listening and consensus-building, our ultimate responsibility is to provide leadership to help the team render design decisions necessary for the project to move forward. Design is a combination of art, science, and judgment. The depth of our experience allows us to lead decision-making efficiently and effectively once the required parameters are established. We do not believe in forcing design solutions on our clients or pushing the “next big idea” on each project. RFD’s leadership ultimately comes into play when balancing the competing priorities of each project.
Our process is highly interactive. Close interaction with researchers, faculty members, and design professionals around the world allows the RFD team to develop broad and up-to-date knowledge of our industry. While any project may have a number of large-scale presentations, most of our client meetings are in groups no larger than six people, sitting around a table looking at design drawings and discussing research projects and teaching styles. The highly personal nature of this interactive process allows us to learn far more about our clients’ needs, frustrations, and aspirations.
A Construction Document drawing for a single laboratory space typically contains hundreds of pieces of information. Rest assured that each piece of information on that drawing has been discussed with the client. Our process allows this to happen in a conversational fashion over the course of multiple, organized design workshops. RFD’s document packages at each stage of the project (Programming, SD, DD, CD) are designed to convey the critical information needed for design review and project costing. We have often been told that our Design Development documents exceed the level of detail typically found in Construction Document packages.
RFD’s laboratory designs are responsible to our clients’ budgets, long-term needs, and aspirations. We find appropriate design solutions that will serve our clients effectively for the anticipated lifetime of each project. RFD’s laboratory designs are responsible to our planet. We search for solutions that minimize energy usage, use material resources carefully, and are durable to maximize utility. RFD’s laboratory designs are responsible to the faculty, students, and researchers who work in spaces we have designed. We carefully follow safety regulations, guidelines, and recommendations that protect users from the hazards of scientific work.
Science is a continually-changing field. As laboratory designers, RFD stays current on new products and equipment in the marketplace including laboratory furnishings systems; laboratory equipment; containment devices; and exhaust devices. Beyond understanding the various products and their specific applications, we also research their utility requirements and safety implications. We frequently find ourselves working with the world’s foremost researchers who are installing the first-in-kind of a new piece of equipment, requiring us to work with the equipment vendors to establish or refine their product information and installation guides.