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Return to: 2009 Feature Stories


Feb. 23, 2009: Lab Manager Magazine


Pressure to improve laboratory efficiencies, reduce environmental impact and accommodate a myriad of advanced technologies is driving current research facility design. The latest and most noteworthy examples from Japan, Canada, and Switzerland are presented here.

A self-sufficient laboratory village

A government-funded scientific research campus and graduate university, The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), in Onna, Japan, will include several state-of-the-art laboratories. Phase 1, begun in September 2004 and scheduled to be completed in March 2012, will accommodate 500 researchers and contain 700,000 square feet of research buildings, a central energy plant, and the first portion of a new village that will house half the campus staff. The 2.5-million-square-foot campus will include Japan’s first and only English language graduate university campus, generic biomedical research laboratories, and a central research core facility

“The campus was organized with a centralized master plan to grow to 3,000 researchers, including biologists, chemists, computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists, and engineers, working in an integrative approach to understanding the mysteries of biological and ecological systems,” says Ken Kornberg, AIA, president, founder, and architect, Kornberg Associates Architects, San Diego and Menlo Park, CA, and Tokyo, who collaborated with Nikken Sekkei, Japan’s largest architectural/engineering company, and Kuniken, Okinawa’s largest architecture firm, on the campus design.

The campus begins at a beachfront area facing the East China Sea coast and rises 300 feet into the tropical rain forest. The three laboratory buildings are perched on forested ridges in a cluster formation and are connected by glass bridges that span ecologically sensitive 100-foot-deep canyons that will remain undisturbed.

The three laboratory buildings of The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology look out toward the East China Sea.

Facilities will be accessed from the village by a covered bridge suspended above a man-made lake. The bridge connects to a 100-yard underground tunnelshaped gallery that terminates at an in ground elevator core that emerges 100 feet above in a glass atrium overlooking the ocean. Lower level laboratories look directly into the forest and upper level laboratories have 180-degree views of the beachfront and sea.

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology facilities will be accessed from the village by a covered bridge suspended above a man-made lake.

The library, auditorium, and cafeteria will be centrally located in the research campus grounds. The centralized campus layout and underground entry were designed to minimize environmental impact.

The campus’ entrance is through the central core, which has radiating bridges to access each research building. “The centralizing concept brings researchers together in the hopes of producing a dialogue among varied disciplines focused on nature and biologic systems,” Kornberg says.

The campus entrance of The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology is through the central core, with radiating bridges to access each research building.

OIST is unique because of the large number of state-of-theart research support facilities at one site. “This was necessary because the research institute is in a remote location and must be self-sufficient,” Kornberg explains. “Additionally, each facility is designed to be versatile and flexible to accommodate the development of technologies over many years.”

Ample space for further development exists. “As the university grows, it plans to acquire additional property for affiliated industrial spin-offs and start-ups,” Kornberg says.

Cutting-edge technology

OIST’s core facilities were designed to accommodate functional imaging disciplines and equipment that will be ordered in the future. “The facilities were specifically sized not for each piece of equipment but for an array of different products that are likely to be needed,” Kornberg says. “The research core must provide for experimental work for scientists who will be coming to the new institute over the next 10 years.”

Core research facilities at the campus center will include a synchrotron, electron microscopes, nuclear magnetic resonance devices, mass spectrometers, sequencing center, zebrafish, eight patch clamp laboratories, and 10 flexible generic laboratories.

Bio-safety level 3 (BSL3) laboratories, the third level in a system of standards/protocols to maintain safety and contain biohazards, will also be included. These technologies are either the latest generation of support equipment or are still under development.

Other technologies that OIST plans to purchase include:

  • Illumina Genome Analyzer II, Roche 454 GS FLX, and ABI Solid 2.0, providing a full-service sequencing core to cover a versatile range of polynucleotides.
  • The JEOL 300 kV electron microscope under development offers extremely high resolution imaging.
  • Thermo Scientific’s LTQ Orbitrap will provide both high resolution and accurate mass spectrometry, enabling definitive protein characterization.
  • MIRRORCLE tabletop synchrotron provides high-intensity Xray technology for large molecule structure research.

Return to: 2009 Feature Stories