The future of high-tech architecture:

With Director David Gardner and Architect Dale Roberts

Director David Gardner and Architect Dale Roberts share their insights on the future of laboratory and high-tech architecture.

How long have Morrison Design been experts in labs and high-tech design and build?

Dave: “We started working with Lubrizol in 1996, so 26 years now. We began the Rolls-Royce regeneration project in 2007 and have partnered with numerous healthcare and laboratory settings ever since.”

Director David Gardner

What trends have you seen over the years?

Dale: “Years ago the materials used were very different – for example wood was often used for surface finishes. The development of modern materials has been dramatic over recent years.”

Dave: “There’s more of an understanding of people’s processes and what they need to achieve. Technologies have become much more sophisticated as the tech has developed and, likewise, the laboratory or building needs to be advanced enough to suit the process.”

Dale: “Laboratories and high-tech spaces have become more technically, with an increased emphasis on complex Mechanical and Engineering installations which need to be thought about at earlier stages of the design.”

Fischer Farms

What’s happening in the sector right now?

Dave: “Universities are creating more laboratory spaces which mimic the workplace, partly due to the expansion in education over the last 10-20 years. They want to ensure they have the facilities which best aid student learning in a more real environment.”

Dale: “There’s more demand from clients on the building itself – they want it to reflect what they do. There’s much more emphasis on the building displaying what it houses. Ultimately it needs to look good! Education settings are very aware that they need to attract students onto their course and retain staff and the environment in which they’ll spend their time is an important factor – it needs to wow.”

Architect Dale Roberts

What are the challenges facing labs/high tech and how can they be overcome?

Dave: “Getting hold of construction materials and specialist equipment on time and on budget is a challenge at the moment. We’re using our network of trusted partners to source materials and we’re lucky to have built solid relationships over the years.”

Dale: “In healthcare, there’s lots of emphasis on how best to welcome patients back in post-COVID. There are many older buildings which have been refurbished on an ad hoc basis and are no longer fit for purpose. There’s lots of refurbishments happening at the moment which focus on an improved experience for patients and how the back of house flow can be easier for staff. Health and hygiene in all areas, especially waiting rooms, is improving with easier to clean materials and fewer dirt traps. It’s getting much closer to the standards of labs and clean rooms.”

What are clients asking for?

Dave: “We’re getting so much more involved with the client than ever before. We know their manufacturing processes, we understand how they work, we immerse ourselves. All that knowledge informs the building design – the time you spend up front, the more the building will be fit for purpose. That’s what clients want and need from us and their spaces.”

University of Derby completed performance analysis suite
University of Derby Performance Analysis Suite

What do you see changing in the future?

Dale: “Education is expanding – there are more labs due to more courses in science and technology, driven by what’s happening in the workplace. Universities are doing more technical, specialty education.”

Dave: “It’s moved on a lot from when I was at college when all we had was a wooden bench, a sink and a Bunsen burner!”

Dale: “The University of Derby’s Facility for Omics Research in Metabolism (FORM) is an example, this was very complex. The specialist laboratory comprising a lobby, preparation room and laboratory under negative pressure to ‘Containment Level 2’. It had temperature and humidity controls, specialist sophisticated kit.”

Dave: “New technologies in areas such as Agri-Tech, driven by sustainability will become more commonplace. Our client Fischer Farms are continuing to grow, and we envisage this sector thriving in the future.”

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