Since 2002, the Laboratory Design Conference has been the premiere educational and networking event for those involved in planning, designing, engineering, constructing and operating laboratory facilities. The conference hosts informative panels and sessions featuring lab design experts delivering unique presentations on trends in creating the most efficient, state-of-the-art facilities. The 2018 event concluded on April 25 with lab tours.

The Laboratory Design Conference offers tours of lab facilities in and around the host city. The 2018 conference was no exception, hosting tours of five dynamic Philadelphia lab buildings dedicated to cancer research, children’s healthcare, neuroscience, cellular therapy and integrated sciences. Each tour was joined by attendees of the Laboratory Design Conference and led by professionals who work in the respective facilities, architects and designers involved with the development of the buildings and conference staff members.

Morning tours included The University of Pennsylvania Stephen A. Levin Building (Neural and Behavioral Sciences); The Colket Translational Research Building at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP); and The Wistar Institute, Robert and Penny Fox Tower Addition.

The University of Pennsylvania Stephen A. Levin Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building combines biology, psychology and associated programs into one building to promote a unified, interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching. Penn’s mission was to create a common facility— shared by the Department of Biology, Department of Psychology, the Biological Basis of Behavior Program, the Program in Life Sciences and Management and the Behavioral Economics Program—that would bring together faculty, staff and students studying the full range of life sciences.

The school envisioned an environment that could increase the level of dialogue and collaboration across these disciplines, from cell biologists to social psychologists. Carefully sited among an existing laboratory complex, the building connects fields of study to create a newly integrated Life Sciences precinct that fosters collaboration in a new academic quadrangle. The intention is to provide a welcoming new link between community and campus, transforming a dark and derelict perimeter into an open and inviting gateway.

The Stephen A. Levin Neural and Behavioral Sciences building was opened in June 2016, and the tour was organized through SmithGroupJJR, the building’s architect.

The Colket Translational Research Building at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) houses biomedical research, clinical research, clinical support office and support facilities. The tower currently includes 11 floors and is vertically expandable to include an additional 15 floors (11 lab floors plus mechanical) in the future. The building includes 35,000 sf of flexible research floors sub-divided into multiple compartments for fire separation. The complex is built on a four-floor plinth containing lab support space, cGMP, Central Utility Plant and Loading/Service areas.

The laboratory concept consist of open flexible laboratories with adjacent procedure rooms designed to support various research functions. The laboratory spaces are flexible to accommodate changes in researcher ratios and work methods. A shared linear equipment room provides space for freezers and other noisy, heat-producing lab equipment.

The design of the research tower demonstrates environmental responsibility through the use of energy efficient HVAC strategies and renewable building materials. Engineering highlights of the project include a glycol loop heat exchanger, real-time air sampling control suite (Aircuity System) for lab support systems, Venturi valve room pressurization control, high momentum induced flow exhausters (Strobic fans), variable volume laboratory HVAC, occupancy sensor lighting control/daylighting and a LEED gold rating.

The building’s architect, Ballinger, organized the tour of the Colket Translational Research Building, which opened in October 2009.

Located in West Philadelphia, the Wistar Institute is the nation’s first independent biomedical research institute. The Robert and Penny Fox Tower addition, completed in 2013 along with renovations to the original late 19th-century building and 1970s addition, satisfies the Institute’s need for state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research and a stronger, more unified visual identity.

The research labs are located behind a double-skin façade to buffer the highly controlled environment of the labs from the exterior at the south façade. A high-performance curtain wall system with a ceramic frit glass on low-E insulated glazing provides ambient light and screened views into the lab space while deflecting heat gain. Interior glazing permits daylight to penetrate deep into the lab zone. Dual energy recovery neutral air HVAC with chilled beams provide outstanding flexible research environments with best-in-class energy performance.

The building opened in September 2014, and the tour was coordinated through Ballinger, the facility’s architect.

The afternoon lab tours offered were of the Novartis-Penn Center for Advanced Cellular Therapy and the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building at Drexel University.

The 30,000 sf Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies (CACT) combines Penn Medicine’s intellectual resources with Novartis’ leadership in the pharmaceutical industry to jointly find more effective treatments for cancer. The design concepts implemented in the center have doubled process efficiency, maximized daylighting and increased communication and collaboration between researchers. The CACT is poised to become a true facility of the future—an epicenter for the research and early clinical development of personalized cellular therapies for many forms of cancer.

Located on Penn Medicine’s campus in Philadelphia amidst both clinical and laboratory facilities, the CACT expands on Penn’s groundbreaking research using Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) technology, which enables a patient’s own immune cells to be reprogrammed outside of their body and re-infused to “hunt” for and potentially destroy tumors.

The design carefully considers how to create the best workplace environment possible for the 100 highly specialized employees. The strategic layout and organization of the laboratory environments ultimately reduces the time it takes to create the “hunter cells” for one patient by 50 percent. At the outset of this effort, it took an entire month to tackle this for each patient; now, it only takes two weeks.Full height windows surround the laboratory and allow striking views of the surrounding city and, in effect, establish a very different environment from traditional manufacturing and interior laboratory design focused on compartmentalization. Additionally, the labs are open plan, which allow researchers from different teams to work together and not in silos. Designed with a centralized café space along with several other collaborative spaces, the CACT supports meaningful engagement and a dynamic work environment that fosters discovery.

Architectural firm CannonDesign organized the tour of CACT, which opened in February 2016.

For more about this cleanroom facility, read Cleanroom Snapshot: Novartis-Penn Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics from our sister publication Controlled Environments.

The Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building at Drexel University was part of a master plan unveiled in 2006 that outlined a goal to reinvigorate its urban campus with buildings that achieved both architectural excellence and sustainable performance. The campus was re-planned to be landscaped to embrace the wider neighborhood. The Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building is the keynote building of this ambitious master plan.

Located at the corner of Chestnut and 33rd Street in Philadelphia, the Integrated Science Building provides a gateway landmark on Woodland Walk connecting the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel. It is a multi-disciplinary science facility organized around a five-story atrium, which is the central meeting place for faculty and students. Balconies and lounges at each level provide places for interaction.

The atrium features a four-story spiral staircase and an 80-foot living bio-wall with 1,500 tropical bromeliads. The green wall not only lends drama and beauty to the atrium but also plays an effective role in regulating air quality. This innovation connected to the mechanical system is a living biofilter, which achieves a vast improvement in air quality (80 percent) and also reduces the buildings’ energy consumption by 30 percent. It also won the Interior Green Wall Award of Excellence at the 2012 CitiesAlive Conference. The building received LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, remarkable for a laboratory building, which typically has high energy requirements.

To enhance the learning environment, a high degree of internal transparency harvests natural light to the labs from expansive windows and the skylit atrium. The open plan of the teaching and research labs encourage connections. The Integrated Sciences Building also served as a catalyst for challenging traditionally held notions of the planning process.

The building first opened in October 2011. Diamond Schmitt Architects, the architect, arranged for the tour.

The Laboratory Design Conference is a joint program of R&D Magazine and Laboratory Design, publications of Advantage Business Marketing. The 2019 Laboratory Design Conference will be held in Orlando, Fla., on April 29-May 1, and information about Orlando-area tours will be posted to, and @labdesignnews (use hashtag: #2019LDC) in the coming months.