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HERA Adds Washington DC Office

HERA has expanded its practice by adding an office in the Washington DC area. Located in Bethesda, MD, this new office will provide localized service to our clients in that region.

Among those clients is the National Institutes of Health. In the past three years, HERA has created safe, healthy and attractive laboratory environments for more than a dozen facilities for the NIH. The projects range from animal care facilities, laboratories, healthcare/clinical space, office/public space, healthcare and central plant facilities. In addition, HERA is currently working at Howard University on the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building.

“By adding an office in the heart of our nation’s capital, HERA has committed to providing the best laboratory planning and design for the NIH and other regional clients,” said Laurie Sperling, president and co-founder of HERA. ”We are thrilled to strengthen our ties to this region and our clients.”

Mitsy Canto-Jacobs, AIA has recently joined HERA as a senior laboratory planner and project manager, and will head the firm’s efforts in Washington DC. A veteran in laboratory programming, planning and design, Mitsy will lead HERA’s local effort on multiple ongoing projects at the NIH, as well equipment planning at Howard University.

In addition to the Washington, DC office, HERA has offices in St. Louis, MO (our headquarters); Philadelphia, PA and Atlanta, GA.

The new office is located at 7315 Wisconsin Ave., West Tower Suite 400, Bethesda, MD 20814 and can be reached at mitsyc [at] herainc.com or 301-789-8017.

Training the Next Generation of Architects

For the second year in a row, HERA Project Manager Amy Tongay spoke to the young women of Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls about a career path in architecture.

Using HERA’s hands-on building model, Amy helped the students design STEM laboratories that would be efficient and effective learning spaces. The students were able to use their own laboratories at Hawthorn - designed by HERA - as a guide in how to incorporate flexibility, encourage group learning and promote communication through the architecture.

Amy has more than 20 years of architectural experience on a wide range of teaching and research labs for K-12 and higher education clients, and she has developed a particular expertise in health sciences and simulation spaces. She was HERA’s project manager for the laboratory renovations at Hawthorn.

Under the guise of “you can’t be what you can’t see,” the Hawthorn job fair helps plant seeds of possibilities for the girls’ futures and exposes the students to career fields and job opportunities they may have never considered.

Hawthorn is a college preparatory school with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The school opened in 2015 with 6th and 7th grades, and will add a grade each year until it is fully enrolled in 2020 with 450 girls in 6th through 12th grade. The tuition-free school is open to all girls eligible to attend public school in St. Louis.

Hawthorn is an affiliate of the Young Women’s Leadership Network which supports five high performing all-girls public schools in New York City and 13 affiliate schools around the country. Washington University serves as Hawthorn’s charter sponsor and partners with the school on curriculum and instructional support, tutoring and other areas.

Setting the Standard for Equipment Planning

Proper laboratory equipment planning impacts process flows, physical spaces and utility requirements, and drives requirements for ventilation, power and utilities. That was the message HERA President Laurie Sperling presented at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Summit and Salute in New Orleans.

Sperling spoke as part of the WeInnovate session at the conference to introduce EQ-IPS, HERA’s proprietary iPad-based application that allows the firm to offer equipment planning services ranging from inventory of existing equipment to programming, planning, selecting and estimating costs of laboratory and major scientific equipment. The tool incorporates on-site inventory and equipment planning to provide comprehensive laboratory solutions to clients, saving researchers’ time doing their own inventory, assisting with capital budget purchases and coordinating engineering systems’ requirements.

Through the use of EQ-IPS, HERA equipment planners feed information into our substantial project database that generates reports for electronic equipment packages including critical information such as move management data, comprehensive utility information and budget estimates. To date, HERA has catalogued nearly 3,000 pieces of equipment. This data allows HERA to anticipate and coordinate laboratory equipment details from early in the planning process through construction. Clients benefit by avoiding cost overruns, maximizing square footage and workflow and minimizing scheduling delays.

This specialized approach to equipment planning garners significant results for our clients. During pre-design for Eastern Kentucky University’s new $91 million Science Building, HERA generated a program cost model that reduced the equipment and furnishings budget from $17.5 million to $10.7 million. At Bristol-Myers Squibb, our equipment planning strategy saved 20% of net area for more than 17,000 net square feet in mass spectrometer labs by redesigning the workstation and equipment array.

Learn more about how EQ-IPS can help your laboratory project.

HERA and Hawthorn: An Ongoing Partnership

As part of HERA’s 20TH anniversary celebration, as well as an extension of our commitment to young women in science, HERA is purchasing a 3D printer for the Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls.

Hawthorn is a college preparatory school with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math. The all-girls school opened in 2015 with 6th and 7th grades, and will continue to add a grade each year until it is fully enrolled in 2020 with 450 students.

Hawthorn's STEM-focused curriculum includes engineering and computer coding courses in the middle school. As the school grows into a high school, the development of a full STEM program will include providing the students opportunities to design, build and redesign in a hands-on learning environment. The 3-D printer will be an important part of this STEM education program as girls will be able to create prototypes and understand the possibilities of this burgeoning technology.

Our Experts Lead the Discussion

HERA Senior Laboratory Planner Michele Pollio, AIA and HERA Laboratory Planner Allison Edmonds, AIA recently led an interactive session guiding STEMtech conference attendees through developing the best program for their nursing and allied health facilities.

STEMtech is the annual conference for the League for Innovation in the Community College, an international nonprofit aimed at cultivating innovation within community colleges. The conference brings the best of STEM, analytics, big data, advanced technology and learning management architecture.

Michele and Allison helped participants explore the elements to building an ideal facility, starting with programming all the way through design. They guided audience members through a process to teach them to develop a program and ultimately see the results of early-stages planning and design.

Michele, with HERA Laboratory Planner Joshua Evans, also led a roundtable discussion aimed at designing laboratories. Through a proprietary, hands-on process, they helped participants design a laboratory using a physical model. The model helps those not accustomed to drawings and renderings to visualize what their lab might looks like.

When not in sessions, HERA sponsored a booth where Michele, Allison, Joshua and Intern Architect Leila Rzyska-Filipek interacted with conference attendees with the model. Booth visitors learned what options they could expect when designing a lab, and faculty members used the model to describe their current labs and communicate problems that they hoped to remediate.


HERA is proud to welcome Mitsy Canto-Jacobs, AIA, a veteran in laboratory programming, planning, and design in our new Washington DC office. Mitsy joins the firm as a Senior Laboratory Planner and Project Manager, and is charged with supporting projects for the National Institutes of Health and other government clients.

Mitsy has been working across the country and internationally for over 30 years as an architect, and she specializes in projects that include biocontainment; chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) threat detection and responses; structural testing; and advanced metrology labs. In addition to developing advanced programs in the USA, Mitsy has developed expertise in working with low-resource clients in developing countries. Most recently, Mitsy led her own firm, WerkenPLLC, assembling A/E teams for laboratory projects here and abroad to meet demanding technical requirements.

LEEDing the Way on Sustainability

HERA ran up the score in the Sustainable Sites category, earning all 21 points and paving the way for our St. Louis office to earn LEED Silver Certification. The office, located in the heart of downtown St. Louis with a walk score of 97 out of 100, is able to take advantage of the existing infrastructure of St. Louis City and is located near public transportation. The centralized location provides its employees walking access to banks, cleaners, libraries, parks, pharmacies, post offices, restaurants and supermarkets – all within a half-mile radius.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the benchmark for green building evaluation and certification. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED provides a structure for building owners and operators to be environmentally responsible and use natural resources more efficiently.

Other sustainable aspects HERA’s office include
- 55% reduction in light usage through the installation of occupancy sensors on all light fixtures
- 75% reduction in energy usage through the use of LED task lights
- 50% reduction in energy usage through the installation of Energy Star appliances
- 100% of workstations have access to daylighting and exterior views
- 100% of paints are low VOC
- Material selection based on environmental responsibility, including cork flooring and carpet and linoleum made with 50% recycled materials
- Sustainable education built into the office through the use of placards highlighting the environmentally-friendly aspects of the design

As planners and designers for laboratory spaces which use large amounts of energy to run, HERA takes great pride in our role of creating environmentally sustainable spaces for our clients. We view facilities from a holistic perspective, evaluating environmental performance over the life of a facility, and strive to achieve a balance between short-term costs and long-term energy efficiency and sustainability.

In the past six years alone, we have planned and designed more than 25 LEED registered or certified laboratory facilities comprising nearly 2.7 million GSF.


HERA laboratory planners is pleased to welcome Leila A. Rzskya-Filipek to the Philadelphia office. Leila joins HERA as an intern architect with three years of experience at architectural firms in Colorado and New York. She has a diverse portfolio of work, ranging from designing low-income town homes in Colorado to condominiums in Manhattan. Leila graduated from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York in 2013 with a bachelor of architecture.

Outside of work, Leilia spends her free time exploring her new city of Philadelphia and getting to know her new neighborhood. She loves to travel and experience new places and cultures which often inspire her, whether cooking up a storm in the kitchen or attempting a new hobby like wood whittling.

Next Generation Dx Summit

HERA Principal Barbara Spitz, AIA and Laboratory Planner Joshua Evans recently spoke at the Next Generation Dx Summit in Washington, DC on the firm’s design process for clinical labs, and how informed decisions early in the design process can help create successful outcomes later.

As experts in clinical lab design, Barbara and Joshua spoke about HERA’s design process for clinical labs, emphasizing key differences between clinical labs and other lab types. They also highlighted space and design trends in molecular diagnostics, a rapidly growing and changing area of clinical lab testing. Institutions have different protocols and processes, and HERA has worked with many laboratories to tailor their spaces to fit these varying needs.

They also introduced HERA’s process mapping tool, which allows HERA to simulate major drivers for clinical labs – specimen volume, turnaround time and specimen flow – and address key planning variables, such as future staffing and equipment quantities.

HERA has successfully used process mapping for clients across the country. At Parkland Hospital (pictured) in Dallas, TX, HERA assessed the number of staff needed to handle receipt and processing of samples given future sample growth at the hospital’s new clinical laboratory. At the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, VA, HERA used process mapping to evaluate the pre-analytic staffing required for three different lab relocation options.

Do you have an upcoming clinical project that could benefit from HERA’s experience? We’d love to hear from you.

Giving back to students

HERA Lab Planners participated this summer in the Rockwood School District's Partners in Education Project Interface program, which partners students with business professionals in the students’ area of interest.

Aashna Patra, a senior at Eureka High School, partnered with HERA to learn about design and critical thinking skills within the architectural profession.

HERA designer Jinhee Lee mentored Aashna during her time with the firm, leading her through exercises to research, design, and model an optical communications lab for NASA. Aashna designed four variations of the lab, including one with 130’ x 6’ room dimensions. On her final day, Aashna gave a presentation to the office detailing her design solutions and sharing her experiences in the program.

Aashna will be applying to Washington University and Brown University in the fall, majoring in engineering. Her time with HERA through the Education Project Interface program helped solidify her interest in the field.

You can read more about Rockwood's Partners in Education Project Interface project here.

Stephens College Grand Opening

Stephens College recently celebrated its 183rd birthday in style – by cutting the ribbon on its newly renovated Center for Health Sciences building. The four-level, 1940s Sampson Hall has been renovated and expanded into a 23,500 SF state-of-the-art home for their new Physician Assistant Studies program.

Working with Mackey Mitchell Architects, HERA lab planners programmed, planned and provided concept design for the cutting-edge laboratory spaces, which include a seven-table anatomy lab, a physician assistant lab, a hospital room and four exam rooms. The labs provide opportunities for simulation and hands-on learning of clinical skills.

The new, dynamic interior of Sampson Hall supports Stephens’ problem-based learning pedagogy and creates spaces that promote student collaboration in every corner. The floor plan builds in flexibility and provides break-out spaces for student and faculty interaction.

Read more about the grand opening here.



Lab Casework Shortage

Hamilton Scientific (formally Thermo Scientific, formally Fisher Hamilton), one of major U.S. laboratory casework and countertop manufacturers recently announced they are closing their doors in late spring. The ensuing shortage of casework manufacturing capacity has started to affect laboratory projects throughout the country.

A HERA project recently went out to bid; our basis of design for the casework was Hamilton’s Hamilton System XL. However when news of Hamilton’s closing came out we changed the specification to a more common reconfigurable spine system carried by several manufacturers. Mott and Labflex (a Danish plastic laminate casework manufacturer) bid on the project. Jamestown is going to submit a late bid, and Kewaunee declined to bid at all.

Although Labflex makes a higher quality plastic laminate than what we typically see in the U.S., the owner is skeptical because their existing plastic laminate casework is de-laminating. However, a colleague of HERA’s reviewed a 2001 installation of Labflex casework which has performed well and still looks very good.

With Hamilton’s upcoming closure the U.S. based casework manufacturers are having a difficult time meeting the resulting increases in orders. Labflex is the only company that could deliver the project by the late August deadline. The U.S. companies could deliver by late October or November, but cautioned that delays could push delivery into 2016.

The bottom line? As U. S. based laboratory casework manufacturers struggle to meet demand, European manufacturers may have an easier time meeting delivery schedules in the States - at least until the market settles down. HERA is currently researching international casework manufacturers and will post updates as they are available.

Laser Lab Congradulations to Dr. Wang!

Dr. Lihong Wang, the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and a research member of the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, received a 2013 Transformative Research Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of only 10 recipients, his lab founded a new type of medical imaging which relies on light and sound to create color pictures of circulating single red-blood and tumor cells.  The goal of grant is to translate this technology, called single-cell label-free photoacoustic microscopy (PAM), immediately into the clinic for cancer screening, detection, prognosis and monitoring. Read more about here.

Keeping the County Healthy

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Friday, August 3rd, for the Saint Louis County Department of Health’s new home. HERA planned the new laboratories which include Air Pollution/Industrial Hygiene; Environmental Radiation; Food, Milk & Water; and Air Quality Management. Congratulations to the County and Clayco-Legacy Construction for getting the project done ahead of schedule.


Jim Wins the Pulitzer?

Well, no but he is going to speak on the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts Building. The Foundation is inviting architects, engineers, and builders to “Building Pulitzer,” a discussion of the world-renowned building from concept to completion. Jim is a big supporter of the arts and will give his take on the building. For more info visit http://www.pulitzerarts.org/
His Name in "Prints"

Ken Mohr is at it again. This time he was a contributor to the latest publication by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The book, “Latent Print Examination and Human Factors: Improving the Practice through a Systems Approach,” includes Ken’s thoughts on designing laboratories for print analysis. The National Justice Institute co-published the book.

Media Clip

A Star Is Born

Jim Cartwright was interviewed at the opening of the Helix Center Biotech Incubator. Check out Jim talking about the laboratories at 0:16 into the video.


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STEM Grads Needed

The article from The Chronicle outlines ways to raise national STEM enrollment. According to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology the United States needs 1,000,000 more STEM graduates over the next decade than currently on track.


Sustaining Science

The Building Actually Teaches

The Sustainable Urban Design Center at the Germantown Friends School was featured in High Performing Building magazine. The building itself teaches science and sustainability, featuring demonstrations of sustainable strategies such as photovoltaics and cisterns that collect rainwater for toilet flushing. Students can walk from the labs to the courtyard which features an “outdoor classroom.” Read More.

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Still Looking Good

We recently toured the HERA-designed labs at Millipore’s R&D Building in St. Charles, Missouri. Pictured left to right are Dan Snellenberger from Millipore, Laurie Sperling our President, and Dave Miller, Associate. The building opened in 2008 and still looks great. We think it’s a combination of great design and terrific building management.

The Chronicle Logo

Research at Two-Year Colleges?

Check out this great article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The National Science Foundation is supporting research at the associate-degree level in order to spark interest and bolster majors in the sciences. By the way, the article features research at Finger Lakes College in Canandaigua, NY where are working on their science labs.

Safety Dance

Safety Dance

No, we’re not Men Without Hats fanatics, be are fans of promoting safety in laboratory. Penn State Materials Science and Engineering Department put together this great video about safety protocols for labs. We thought it was fun and educational – “hats off” to Penn State MatSE.

Johnson County Exterior Rendeing


Going for the...Platinum?

The Criminalistics Laboratory for the Johnson County, Kansas Sheriff’s Office is due to open in early 2012. The $30 million facility is anticipated to receive a Platinum rating from the United States Green Building Council, the highest rating a building can achieve.

How Did We Do?

We typically find out only after the building is occupied and the users have had a chance to use the facility. Jim Cartwright from HERA and Bob Young from the Indiana University School of Medicine presented, “User Knows Best: Post-Occupancy Conversations” at the recent Turnkey Conference. HERA designed facilities for the Research III Building on the IUSM campus about 18 months earlier, and Jim and Bob presented what was done well, and what they would have done different. Check out the write-up here.