What does it mean to win the SEFA Lab of the Year®?

The SEFA Lab of the Year® Award is a tremendous tribute annually conveyed to a team of professionals for creating an outstanding laboratory building or complex of buildings.  As an Architect/Laboratory Planner personally involved over the last thirty-five years in the planning and design of many laboratory buildings nationally, this award expresses the highest honor that can be given to a laboratory building, bringing enormous pride to those having participated in such an effort.  This recognition is not just for the design team members, but for all of those that worked in the project, starting with the client representatives and design team, but also including the material vendors and contractors.

I believe that in order for a project to be considered a LOY winner, the project must encompass the following principles:

Excellence – Lab of the Year recipients are projects that have excelled in all categories of project delivery:  planning, design and execution. These are best-of-the-best examples, applying new concepts to existing challenges.

They are architecturally distinguished facilities whose overall design quality is recognized internationally. They not only excel aesthetically, but also in their planning, reflecting the safety of their occupants, security, and material and waste flow management.

These buildings provide safe environmental conditions, while effortlessly integrating the mechanical and electrical building components into the architecture. They go beyond the norm in incorporating appropriate sustainable concepts, not only addressing energy consumption/reduction methods but also incorporating attractive work environments.

Innovation – Lab of the Year buildings are projects that include new ideas!  They tell a story - their execution not only meets but exceeds the project’s goals and owner's objectives.

These are projects that have demonstrated unique and proven solutions to the user’s needs, facilitating the scientific spatial requirements or incorporating desired pedagogical concepts while creating an inviting work environment that aids in the attraction and retention of its users.

They usually incorporate new ways of organizing the building’s programmatic requirements in order to maximize efficiency, provide safety and promote the occupant’s interaction and collaboration.

They are designed and constructed utilizing advanced technological solutions and materials that make the building special.

Team Work – Lab of the Year projects are delivered not by individuals but by well-crafted, multidisciplinary teams that work together toward common project objectives.

Starting with visionary clients/users with clear project goals and objectives, the design team members know how to listen to the users and document the project’s requirements. Utilizing a highly collaborative process, it provides all team members, including the material/component vendors and contractors, the opportunity to influence the design and improve the project delivery. But above all, this is an environment that empowers its team members, ultimately creating pride and ownership in the facility.

A SEFA Lab of the Year® winner must be a memorable building that allows the building's quality to shine through, it shall include new or innovative features that will impact the design of future laboratories in years to come, but above all the winners shall be leaders in promoting innovative, efficient, and safe laboratories working and/or teaching environments.


Victor J. Cardona, AIA, NCARB – is a Member of SEFA's Advisory Board.  Victor is retired  from his position as Vice-President and Director of Laboratory Planning for SmithGroup.  Among his LOY winning projects are:

  • 2019 Lab-of-the-Year Honorable Mention: Univ of Texas Dallas, Engineering and Computer Science Building
  • 2016 Lab-of-the-Year: The University of Illinois Electrical and Computer Engineering Building
  • 2014 Lab-of-the-Year: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Energy Systems Integration Facility
  • 2008 Lab-of-the-Year Special Mention: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Science and Technology Facility