Designing a highly adaptable world class facility for cutting-edge research

A lab primed for discovery

Pushing the boundaries of conventional lab design, the CREATE lab is an iconic gateway building to the National University of Singapore’s new campus, University Town. The campus is a partnership with MIT faculty and students to collaborate on research projects.

As a place for a diverse range of research, innovation, and entrepreneurship, it needed to be a space that would inspire creativity and collaboration, while also meeting all the practical needs of different types of labs and scientists.

To bring together a broad spectrum of researchers in a space that would facilitate innovation, the team at Perkins&Will, one of Sidara Collaborative’s leading architectural practices, designed a unique facility that cultivates community through areas for interaction at all different scales.

Taking advantage of the region’s tropical climate and unique ecological resources, the design pioneers the use of advanced environmental sustainability and energy-efficient technologies, surpassing current flexibility and performance benchmarks for scientific research facilities in the tropics.

Adaptable, sustainable

CREATE is located close to other Singapore high tech centers and comprises of three mid-rise buildings and a high-rise tower that can house 1,200 researchers. The buildings are unusually narrow, with cores and corridors located at the perimeter to introduce maximum daylight and flexibility for wide range of departments and laboratories over time. The floor plan is a “Ballroom” concept – combining functionality and adaptability to create a space open to many types of future research.

This supports a full range of lab types such as computational science, wet biology, and dry chemistry, as all laboratory systems are plug and play systems. With flexible walls and electrical and data routed through the ceiling all types of groups are able to move in and out, making modifications to the space possible and cost effective with no or minimal construction work.

Typically, laboratories consume five to ten times more water than other building types. Using cisterns, the team were able to reuse the condensation, storm water, and recycled water for flushing, irrigation, and tower cooling – which reduced potable water use by 90 percent. Designed with the help of water and wind artists, these features have the added benefits of being a powerful tool in storm water management – in Singapore, rain is abundant all year, but it imports almost all potable water from Malaysia.

This, along with other features like green roofs and walls, photovoltaic panels, solar hot water heating system, efficient air handling units and energy recovery, and wind turbines, have made it the first scientific facility to be awarded Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark Platinum Award.

A microcosm of Singapore

The space at CREATE reflects the pioneering mindset that characterizes its research activities, and its mission to foster discovery through interaction and collaboration.

Singapore’s artistic, scientific, ecological and international communities have a common place to explore and discover new technologies. The Town Plaza is always vibrant with students, researchers, and visitors continually bustling through on their way to class, a lab, or lunch. It’s a fitting representation for a country that invests in innovation, with cultural beliefs rooted in the beneficial powers of nature.

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