Laboratories for the 21st Century

Architecture Competition, Washington, USA

Project designed with Eric Lebrun, architect, and accomplished with the support of Claude Demers Phd, architect-consultant in lighting ambiances, and André Potvin Phd, architect-consultant in thermal ambiances, in GRAP ("Groupe de recherche en ambiances physiques"), Research group in physical environments in Canada.


The first-ever Laboratories for the 21st Century (Labs21) Design Competition focuses on innovation in laboratory design and the integration of sustainable practices. The competition challenges to design a laboratory building that exemplifies high performance, low-energy design principles, in addition to meeting core architectural design considerations. For the competition, we challenged to design a Chemistry and Biology Laboratory building on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, District of Columbia.

Architectural Concept

Main View

Living organisms have the ability to adapt swiftly to new environments with changing temperature and lighting. Organisms change their colors, shapes, and odour, in short their “expression” to adapt effectively. Our design tries to imitate this phenomenon by applying these attributes of living organisms to a laboratory. The objective is design a laboratory that is capable of adapting to changes in temperature and lighting, which will substantially enhance the comfort level. Furthermore, the adaptation process and the new representation will be observed by those inside and outside, forming a new “expression” for the structure.

Light colored model used with tracing inks

Thermal comfort can be evaluated during hydraulic canal simulations. Tracing inks can be used to visualize the dominant air movements.

North wind
West wind

The photographs of the results for the simulated wind directions are then studied according to the digital method of image analysis.


Natural ventilation by air section combined to a passive dehumidification wall

The skin covering the walls of the laboratory is an essential element of our design. It is the skin changes to accommodate the new temperature and lighting level. This intelligent skin is a biotechnological matter and is made up of several layers: thermo - chromic glasses and of the dehumidifying porous walls.

Natural Ventilation
Winter Ventilation
Summer Ventilation


Thermo-chromic Glasses

Glasses known as "thermo-chromic" are equipped with two kinds of films. The first film is in the shape of band, changes its opacity with the ambient temperature. It becomes opaque when the temperature increases, thereby avoiding overheating. The second film changes color with amount of natural light it receives. It gives hot colors when lighting is weak (cloudy sky or during the night, from 0 to 8000 lux), and cold colors when there is strong natural lighting (a clear, sunny sky, 8000 lux or more).