As the architect produces a building from the approved program information, the shape and arrangement of the various spaces will be defined. A nearly square physics lab/classroom may become longer and narrower. The location of the chemical storage room may become more remote from the chemistry lab/classroom. Faculty offices, if provided, may not be centralized in a science department. Science faculty need to participate in these discussions to make these changes to the ideal as acceptable as possible. Architects are good problem solvers and enjoy a challenge, so science faculty should not hesitate to express concerns throughout the design process.
The construction procurement process is another opportunity for unwanted changes to the ideal. Most specifications will allow the bidding contractors and equipment suppliers several options for obtaining the most competitive prices. There are a number of very capable science casework and equipment manufacturers who can furnish excellent products; however, not all of them offer the same range of products and what may be a very attractive product for one manufacturer may not be available from another. Further, the competitive bidding process often leads contractors to suggest alternate products or materials to those specified at a cost savings. Science teachers need to participate in the evaluation of these alternatives to avoid having products of significantly inferior quality substituted or the elimination of features that are important to the teaching of science.
Once construction begins, incorrect installations, incomplete or inaccurate drawings, unforeseen field conditions (especially in renovation of existing buildings), and changes required by the local building official as construction proceeds may impact the usefulness or completeness of the ideal science facility. A couple of examples: the exhaust duct from a fume hood in a chemistry lab/classroom was stainless steel at the hood, but the ventilation contractor connected this to a galvanized steel duct running above the ceiling, through the roof to the exhaust fan. The chemistry teacher caught this error during a walk-through on his day off and notified the administration who had the duct changed to the specified stainless steel throughout. In another case, the local fire marshal interpreted the prep room for a chemistry lab/classroom to be another lab and required a second exit from this space. The only available way to create a second exit was through the chemical storage room – not an ideal or safe arrangement. The architect was able to convince the fire marshal that the prep room was a secondary part of the main chemistry lab/classroom, not a separate lab, and the change was not required.
Lab/Classrooms: For years science was taught in two distinct formats: the lecture in the classroom, taught by the “sage on the stage” who talked at the students, and the lab session, generally a longer period in the afternoon, in a separate “lab” space in which students were given a recipe to follow, materials and equipment to use, and were all expected to carry out the same “experiment” and come up with roughly the same results.