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The laboratory work environment: can it be more efficient and more enjoyable?

23 april 2015

The laboratory work environment: can it be more efficient and more enjoyable?

To identify how efficiently an office environment is used, using occupancy measurement tools has become commonplace. Occupancy measurements (see SUM) give a direct insight into the utilization efficiency of the work environment, the popularity of different types of workplaces and the activities that are being  performed in the different places. But what about buildings with both office and laboratory spaces? Here, employees often walk back and forth between the office and the lab and often have a personal workstation in both environments. Could this be organized in more efficient and pleasant way?

Occupancy, utilization and appreciation of labs difficult to estimate

Even for professionals it is difficult to estimate how intensively laboratory spaces are actually being used and how they are experienced. One reason for this is level of specialization of the work being done: it requires specific facilities and places. Another are the differences between departments and research directions. In addition, it often happens that extra equipment is purchased within the context of large projects, or that present installations or set-ups are being expanded over time.

The experimental work in the lab often forms the core of the work process. The laboratory environment is therefore essential, but also costly. It therefore is worthwhile to consider whether  the work environment can be made more efficient. This, without compromising the support the work space provides to the work processes and the users comfort. The Center for People and Buildings has developed two tools that provide data on the use and perception of the lab environment.

The tools ‘WODI Labs’ (online questionnaire focused on the user experience) and ‘SUM Labs’ (occupancy measurement based on observations) have, since their development, been used several times in buildings that comprise both office and laboratory spaces.

SUM Labs

This certainly applies to the SUM Labs results, that give insight into the use and occupation of laboratories. Practice shows that the resulting hard data can be shared with the user and used as a base to discuss the efficiency of use.


WODI Labs gives the employees the opportunity to express their views and appreciation of the environment and to identify their key issues in the office and lab environment.

Some notable findings from the WODI Labs studies conducted so far (3 cases, 383 respondents).

Biggest bottlenecks  regarding satisfaction:

  • ICT facilities
  • Indoor climate
  • Storage options

The top three most important aspects of the laboratory environment (choice of 11 aspects) is the same in all three cases:

  • Functionality and comfort of the places
  • Quantity and diversity of the places
  • Indoor climate

Movement between work and lab environment:
In the three cases, users exchanged an average of 14 times a day between the laboratory environment and the office space.

Want to learn more about the use of the tools?
See the webpage or contact Iris de Been.