The Kaiser Airport Way Regional Laboratory (Kaiser R-Lab) is a clinical laboratory that processes specimens for Kaiser and other medical facilities within the Northwest region. The design of this laboratory facility is based on “process,” the processing of specimens, which is a total concept change from traditional laboratory departmental design. We have taken this concept further than any lab in the world. Traditional departments, such as chemistry and hematology, no longer exist; they are embedded in shared preparation work areas. Another benefit of this state-of-the-art facility is that the efficiencies of design allowed consolidation of equipment, such as centrifuges, stainers, freezers, and refrigerators, to realize even greater savings.

In addition, 80% of all specimens can now be processed on the automated robotic line. The 50,000-square-foot facility is approximately the same size as the former facility, but the Kaiser R-Lab has increased its specimen production by 240% and has remaining capacity of 400%. Kaiser currently serves as a center for other medical providers for specimen processing and now can handle even more. Also, the length of time for processing specimens has improved 800%. Routine specimens are processed faster at this off-site facility than on-site clinics can process them.

A special place has been created for the lab in an existing leased warehouse located in a Portland-area industrial area. With very limited local amenities for lab staff, we have crafted an oasis with a variety of colors, shapes, lighting, and textures. The focus of the design was inward, since there were limited exterior windows and no views. Existing roof skylights were enhanced to allow additional natural light to filter into the work spaces.

While great effort was made to streamline and consolidate the processing of lab specimens to achieve efficiency, we also considered the impact of this unique work environment on its dedicated and highly trained staff. The result is an innovative and unique facility that has managed to bridge the gap between cutting-edge technology and the aesthetics of a pleasant and stimulating professional environment.

Project category: New construction & Remodel/Renovation (completed March 2002)

Chief administrator: Dixie McFadden, (503) 571-8564

Firm: Petersen Kolberg & Associates, (503) 968-6800

Design team: Reg McDonald, Associate Partner; Leif Lindseth, Architect (Petersen Kolberg & Associates); Brian Hardeback (Baugh Construction); Jim Graham, Principal (James Graham & Associates); Margaret Ward, Principal (Ward, Gibbons & Souza)

Photography: Steve Cridland,

Total building area (GSF): 50,000

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $176

Total cost (excluding land): $8,800,000