The Only Constant is Change

Laboratory Design News Speaks To Bryan Croeni

October 17, 2017

This article originally appeared on

Laboratory Design spoke with Bryan Croeni, AIA, MA, LEED AP, a Director of B+H Architects’ Seattle studio and co-founder of B+H Advance Strategy. His decades of professional practice in architecture and design have informed a passion for engaging clients as diverse as Microsoft, Boeing, AstraZeneca, the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center and GE Canada in transformational approaches to strategic workplace planning and change management. Over 35 years of practice, Bryan’s focus has gradually migrated from “bricks and mortar” considerations to human factors as the primary drivers of successful organizational responses in a world where the only constant is change.

Laboratory Design (LD): What made you decide to pursue your particular career?

Bryan Croeni (BC): I had the good fortune to be hired out of school in the late 70s by an architecture firm in San Francisco that didn’t know it was a “lab firm.” Their approach was rigorous and focused on problem-solving. Accordingly, we attracted many science-based clients. It turned out that I was at ground zero for the birth of biotech—the right place at the right time. Over time, I became a “lab architect” without knowing it. I got to learn alongside some very bright scientific minds thinking about how the physical environment could advance discovery. Over the last 10 years, my interests extended to the importance of human factors, how people and teams connect—or don’t—and the resulting impact to organizational performance. I’ve co-founded our B+H Advance Strategy group to work with clients in this arena. We’ve been able to connect people, place and organizational culture in ways that advance discovery and deliver outcomes worthy of our clients’ vision and mission.

LD: Is there a particular facility you’ve worked on that stands out in your mind? What is it and why do you remember it?

BC: I’m very excited about the Knight Cancer Research Building at Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland. The architects for the building—the SRG Partnership—asked us to help define and develop a workplace that would advance the scientific leadership’s objective to practice true team science. These leaders believed that the building capable of fostering true team science did not exist anywhere in the world. Through engagement with leaders and users, we were able to define the outlines of a team science research culture. With that understanding, we were able to translate the advanced workplace strategies developed for our technology clients to work for cancer researchers. Move-in is next summer and I can’t wait to see how it performs.

LD: If you could give just one piece of advice to others in your field, what would it be?

BC: Beware of the amount of status quo thinking built into the professions, whether we are in the design or the scientific fields. Stepping into change requires that we revisit our identity from time to time. To keep up with the rate of change, we need to continue to learn at a high rate and not over value our experience. The past is no longer predictive of the future, so we need to cultivate the capacity to see what is out there with fresh eyes. Game-changing insights can come from anywhere or anyone, so stay curious and alert.

LD: What’s a common misconception about your line of work?

BC: It’s expected that, as lab architects, we would primarily focus our attention on laboratories and lab support spaces. These areas are the most complex and costly. Through our work, however, we’ve come to believe that the greatest impact to the scientific enterprise may well be found in the places where people seek respite, renewal and connection with each other. Our profession has a bias toward bricks and mortar—that sometimes obscures the importance of human factors. The most important work may well happen outside of the laboratory.

LD: What would you tell young people if you wanted to encourage them to join your line of work?

BC: There is so much to learn and apply to solve the important problems that society faces. You don’t have to be a scientist to play a role. The interplay between people and the places they inhabit provide a unique opportunity to imagine, create, test and build something that really matters. You will also meet some of the most talented and committed people around and will have the great privilege to work with them as they create what does not yet exist in the world—and that the world needs.