Clarifying needs vs. wants: fundamental to project success

A lone student performs an experiment in a new lab with floor to ceiling windows and bright lighting.

Malena Aquino has dedicated her career to laboratory design and planning and developed key insights along the way

She has learned defining needs versus wants early in the process of design is fundamental to a successful project. While this can be applicable to virtually any project, starting with budget and scope, Malena shares insights into how it influences the outcome of a lab design.

“It's important for all stakeholders to have a clear understanding of how procedures will be conducted in the lab, including materials, workflow and the processes that will be used in order to design a lab that supports flexibility, safety and productivity. Stakeholders should include lab users, management, safety, security, operations, maintenance, constructors and all design disciplines.

"Often, lab users are working in facilities with outdated designs and come to the planning process with preconceived “wish lists” that may not be the best solutions today for the procedures they are performing. Design leaders should begin by asking what lab workers are doing and why, rather than what they want. This helps users understand and evaluate their actual needs versus the “nice to haves” and facilitates creative solutions that efficiently answer real challenges.

"Early definition of functional requirements before the design process begins to help establish realistic scope, schedule and budget documentation as the foundation of an efficient design process,” Malena concludes.

Content modified from an interview with Malena Aquino that appeared in Lab Manager News.

About Malena

Page business leader and senior lab planner Malena Aquino offers extensive architectural experience integrated with scientific knowledge that covers a broad range of professional services, with overall management responsibilities for a variety of high technology projects, including research laboratories, healthcare facilities and educational buildings.

She has special expertise in the technical aspects of laboratory planning and design, code review, ADA compliance assessment, lab equipment planning and existing facilities evaluation and laboratory equipment planning and specifications. In addition, she was an NIH NCRR grant reviewer, and an instructor for CDC / PEPFAR International Training Programs for Health Labs.