Article originally appeared in Laboratory Design on October 4, 2016.
Laboratory Design spoke with Jane Frances Kepros, LEED Green Associate, a lab planner with Boston-based architectural practice TRIA. With a background in biology research, Jane brings first-hand laboratory knowledge to provide in-depth insight to clients of the sciences. She has an ability to synthesize complex programming data into coherent space planning concepts, allowing the project team to create designs that meet the needs of clients and support the research development taking place in the lab.
How did you get into your field?
When I was a little kid, I wanted to be an architect when I grew up, but for some reason I majored in biomedical engineering instead. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for eight years, first as a biomedical engineer, and then as a molecular and cell biologist. I took a handful of architecture classes at Boston Architectural College at night, just for fun, over a period of about five years. When I decided to look for a new job, on a whim I decided to see if there were any openings on the Boston Society of Architects webpage. I thought perhaps I might find a job as an office manager or administrator at an architecture firm, just to get my foot in the door. Instead, I found an ad for a lab planner position. The firm was looking for either an architect with many years of lab planning experience (which I didn’t have), or someone who had worked in a lab and was interested in learning more about architecture (which I did). It ended up being the perfect fit!
What is a typical day like for you?
No day is typical! Usually my days are a mix of programming or project meetings with end-users or consultants, internal meetings with my project teams, and lots of time working on refining our plans or programming documents for specific projects. Our team prides itself on our thoroughness during the programming phase, and we do a great job creating room cards, room data sheets, adjacency diagrams, process flow diagrams, and lab equipment matrices to keep all of the information we gather organized and to establish a clear basis-of-design document. I may spend parts of my day sketching lab or equipment layouts, redlining equipment matrices, tweaking adjacency or flow diagrams, or researching equipment or utility requirements. After work I often attend networking or industry events, and like to organize fun events and activities with my colleagues (for example, I started team breakfasts where we take turns bringing breakfast for the entire team every Friday).
What’s a common mistake made by those working on designing/constructing a laboratory?
Not putting vision panels in doors to labs or lab support spaces! That drives me crazy! It is probably the primary complaint that I get when I ask lab users about what they don’t like about their existing space. Experienced designers should know that lab doors should have vision panels to prevent collisions and potential spills. Not providing enough storage, or the wrong type of storage (i.e. cupboards vs. shelving or drawers), is also a pretty common mistake.
If you had to do something else for a living, what would it be?
I would love to be in a position that involved living abroad or international travel. I also have a soft spot for volunteering and humanitarian work. I like to help people.
Can you describe a funny or exciting moment in your career?
Very early in my architecture career, one of my clients told me that we needed to add a small tissue culture lab to our scope, and scheduled a meeting with the end-user to program the space. I came to the meeting with a preliminary layout for a typical tissue culture lab that I sketched, based on my own experience working in tissue culture labs in my previous life. I presented this sketch to the end-user, who studied it silently for several minutes. He then looked up at me and with a look of amazement on his face asked how I knew exactly what they needed for their new lab. I smiled and explained that I had previously worked in a lab! I thought it was the best response, and, needless to say, the client was extremely impressed with my understanding of their requirements.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have many hobbies, but this time of year I especially love sewing, crafting, and making costumes for charity events and Halloween. For the past five years, I have participated in helping to make costumes/fashions for the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) New England Chapter Fashion Show Gala. For that event, the costumes are fashioned using interior design materials (for example carpet, vinyl flooring, or upholstery fabric). The costumes are then modeled at an industry fashion show gala. It is so fun to see your designs or handiwork come down the runway! I have also made several costumes for myself. In recent years, I won three Halloween costume contests, and was a winner in the costume contest at the Harpoon Brewery Shamrock Splash polar plunge earlier this year! My favorite costumes I have made for myself were a peacock, an airplane, and a lobster.