Navigating Complexity in S&T

Although specificity and customization are commonalities throughout most AE industry sectors, it is especially complex in Science and Technology projects. Trevor Wells, Studio Manager, Science & Technology, was featured in a BD+C article discussing priorities imperative to S&T, including the growth of automation and AI.

Read the full article here and see below for Trevor’s interview.

What are some of the imperatives in S+T design and construction these days?

As designers, it is imperative that we keep up with the advancements across the science and technology fields. Ware Malcomb’s specialized Science & Technology Studio stays current on the latest technology innovations so that we can provide the most effective design solutions. One of the trends we are seeing is an increase in the environmental sensitivity of equipment being used by our research partners.  As a result, we must consider the specific equipment requirements when designing a space, which can be challenging with projects involving the repurposing of existing facilities. 

Who are your primary clients for these buildings, and how do their needs differ?

The primary clients we have observed using advanced equipment are public research universities and institutions as well as commercial clients, specifically in the semiconductor industry. Each client has different needs depending on the nature of their work and the type of equipment.  We have found that a commonality among them involves looking for more ways to automate their processes. As more tasks become automated, we as designers are reevaluating how to develop the most relevant solutions.

Ware Malcomb takes a data-driven approach to understand our clients’ processes and workflows. This allows us to develop facilities that directly respond to their needs. The spaces we design are intentionally flexible to accommodate advancements in technology and provide our clients increased real estate value.

A number of AEC firms I’ve spoken with have recently worked on S+T projects that are hybrids, i.e., labs combined with offices, classrooms, data centers, museums, etc. Has Ware Malcomb run into that kind of demand, and what challenges does it present?

The majority of the projects Ware Malcomb works on are hybrids, which presents the unique challenge of designing for both optimal human and equipment performance.  While much of today’s advanced equipment has specific environmental requirements, people will also be working in these environments and have a separate set of requirements for overall comfort, productivity and well-being. For example, a machine may require a very low-humidity environment to operate efficiently – this is not an ideal condition for someone to work in. While some facilities may be fully automated with no human presence, the majority of projects require us to find that optimal balance for both people and machines to perform most efficiently.

What’s on the cutting edge for S+T, and what does the future bode for this typology?

One of the biggest innovations on the cutting edge of all industries is artificial intelligence. Specific to science & technology, we will see more algorithm-driven and automated processes.  This will have a major impact on the facilities that we design and the way our clients do business. Everything from workstation design and equipment layout to large-scale considerations such as site design and parking will be influenced by the growth of automation and artificial intelligence.