Have you ever experienced the joy of moving into a new house? It’s exciting, it’s novel, and it opens up wonderful possibilities. Do you remember trying to move kids as well, deciding who got what room, who owns the basement and who has to share with who? Not as much joy.
Welcome to the process of designating space to the 350 researchers and the accompanying 200 labs that need to be assigned in the University’s new Science and Academic Building. The excitement is still there, but the massive exercise of deciding who goes where, how much space their research programs want and need, coupled with trying to maximize one of the essential design purposes of the building – developing research connections and synergies between departments – has been one of the most thought out, debated and planned aspects of the entire project.
“Essentially from day one, when we knew we had secured the money to begin planning for this building, people were throwing their hat into the ring and advocating for space,” says Gene Lublinkhof, director, Science Facilities. “And I don’t blame them, they’re excited, this is one of the most advanced research and academic facilities in the country. That’s why we’ve taken a very methodical, collaborative approach to try and get our people in the right spaces so that they can utilize the full potential of the building.”
To begin the exercise, a scientific approach was taken. While the University has an existing space allocation policy, it does not consider shared versus assignable space. Therefore, Campus Planning and Science Facilities came together to use the policy and align it with a metric that reflected flexible and adaptable space based on the size of research labs. Faculty members were then required to complete a space survey that assessed their lab sizes and use, with the information then converted into a quantity based on the metric formula.
Then the meetings began. The first round involved Science Facilities, Campus Planning and department Chairs and representatives from the Faculty of Arts & Science discussing how to combine the metrics with research synergies. After that, the department Chairs and representatives took the information back to their respective departments to hammer out office assignments and research lab layouts.
“It’s so much more than just plunking the chemists in one wing and the physicists in another, to give an example,” says Lublinkhof. “The shared space and infrastructure address only the physical environment, but what we have all been working toward is capitalizing on every aspect of the facility and its design. For years, our strength at the U of L has been the many interdisciplinary research projects that have been created, many by accident and a simple willingness of our people to work together. This new facility has been designed intentionally to foster that sort of collaborative work, and it is dependent on us to make the most of that theme.”
As the building began to take shape, Science Facilities invited every researcher involved in the move to the construction site to see their lab and office spaces. Then it was back to the meeting room for more discussion between Science Facilities, Campus Planning and the Faculty of Arts & Sciences department Chairs and representatives to confirm final space allocations.
“It certainly hasn’t been an easy process and at times, rather painstaking, but I think everyone around the table realizes the massive potential we have before us and we’ve worked hard together to really maximize the flexibility and adaptability of the building’s design,” says Lublinkhof. “This really is a new world for all of us and I’m proud of the work our group has put into making the most of this opportunity.”
For any questions related to space allocation and the move-in process, contact your respective department Chairs.