Research Facilities  

by the WBDG Subcommittee



As symbols of the Nation's technological progress, research facilities are essential to the discoveries and breakthroughs of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Thousands of public and private sector scientists and engineers from industries such as pharmaceutical, biomedical, manufacturing, and biotechnology use all types of laboratories and instruments to advance the frontiers of knowledge. At times, an entire facility may be built to support the specialized instruments required for research, including accelerators, light sources, research reactors, neutron beam facilities, plasma, fusion science facilities, genome centers, advanced computational centers, wind tunnels, model testing facilities, hot cells, and launch facilities.

There are many kinds of research facilities. Within the WBDG they are divided into two major groups: Animal Research Facilities and Research Laboratories. Research Laboratories are further categorized by type (e.g., wet labs and dry labs), and by sectors (e.g., academic, corporate, and government labs).

Many existing research facilities, especially those in government agencies and universities, are at an age when renovations are needed to support the state-of-the-art research required to be at the cutting edge of science and technology. While this section of the WBDG provides information on the design and construction of new research facilities, the principles covered can be applied to renovation projects as well.

Exterior William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)

Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has unique and state-of-the-art research resources. Richland, WA.

Building Attributes

Example Design and Construction Criteria

For GSA, the unit costs for this building type are based on the construction quality and design features in the following table . This information is based on GSA's benchmark interpretation and could be different for other owners.


Research facilities present a unique challenge to designers with their inherent complexity of systems, health and safety requirements, long-term flexibility and adaptability needs, energy use intensity, and environmental impacts. There are many different types of research facilities. Within the WBDG they are divided into two major groups, which are then further categorized by type and by sector:

  • Animal Research Facilities, also known as vivariums, are specially designed building types that accommodate exquisitely controlled environments for the care and maintenance of experimental animals.

  • Research Laboratories are complex, technically sophisticated, and mechanically intensive structures that are expensive to build and to maintain. Therefore, the design, construction, and renovation of such facilities are a major challenge for all involved.

Aerial photo for The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md.

The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, provides a crucial link in rapidly moving research findings from the laboratory to mainstream medical practice.

A new model of laboratory design is emerging, one that creates lab environments that are responsive to present needs and capable of accommodating future demands. Several key needs are driving the development of a new model. See WBDG Trends in Lab Design for a complete overview.

Additional Resources

Federal Agencies