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Design Requirements Manual

The r​elease of the 2016 Edition of the NIH Design Requirements Manual (DRM)

To View the 2016​ Manual click on the cover page below.





Cover of the Design Requirements Manual

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH), Division of Technical Resources (DTR) announces the release of the 2016 edition of the NIH Design Requirements Manual (DRM). The 2016 DRM is the most comprehensive design guide of its kind in the U.S., providing guidance to design professionals for building complex biomedical research and associated facilities that require the highest standards and scrupulous detail. The 2016 DRM is applicable to all design and construction projects in NIH owned and operated facilities or other facilities where construction is funded by the NIH. The 2016 edition of the DRM supersedes all previous editions of the NIH Design Policy and Guidelines (DPG) and NIH Design Requirements Manuals (DRM).

The 2016 edition constitutes a major restructuring, reformatting and reorganization of previous editions and embodies the work of over 200 professionals representing a diverse group of scientific, medical, architectural and engineering disciplines. The nine special discipline committees responsible for this edition included representation from five NIH Institutes; eight U.S. Federal Agencies; six internationally recognized professional and standard setting organizations; 15 academic institutions; 30 architectural and engineering firms; and 20 companies representing private industry, who participated in over 65 committee meetings and evaluated over 3,000 public comments. Using a consensus and independent review process, the committees incorporated a vast amount of new and updated information including the latest technologies, research, and lessons learned in design and construction. The resulting document provides cutting edge design guidance and standards for architects, engineers, and stakeholders to use in the facility design process in order to support the NIH mission for years to come.

The formatting changes to the 2016 DRM make it user-friendly.  It is a searchable document; having two-columns, reference links, rationales for complex architecture and engineering requirements, and improved graphics and diagrams.

We extend our sincere gratitude to everyone who participated in compiling and reviewing this document. Though this DRM issuance is now complete, DTR will continue to research and monitor improved energy efficiency strategies, maintenance and operations procedures, and new technologies.

Once again we’d like to thank everyone who graciously helped compile this significant document.

The 2008 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Design Requirements Manual for Biomedical Laboratories and Animal Research Facilities (DRM), formerly called the NIH Design Policy and Guidelines, is the only detailed design requirements and guidance manual for biomedical research laboratory and animal research facilities in the U.S. Compliance to the DRM, which promulgates minimum performance design standards for NIH owned and leased new buildings and renovated facilities, ensures that those facilities will be of the highest quality to support Biomedical research. 

The Division of Technical Resources (DTR) in the NIH Office of Research Facilities (ORF) is responsible for developing and maintaining the DRM. It is also responsible for reviewing and approving its content and organization. DTR pursue, research and test state-of-the-art and innovative technology that may be applicable to biomedical research facilities, and incorporating research results and lessons-learned from the design and construction of NIH’s unique biomedical research facilities into the DRM.  The DRM is a dynamic document.  Revisions are made as necessary.  The Architect/Engineer (A/E) should refer to the revisions page before each use of the DRM to note any updates that have been made since the last use.  The entire DRM will be revised on a three year cycle.

The DTR maintains state-of-the-art knowledge and develops new technologies to improve energy efficiency, maintenance and operations.   ORF has conducted studies that are the basis for NIH’s Bio-Environmental Engineering Research Program. These studies have set numerous National and International Standards for Better Indoor Air Quality and Greater Energy Conservation. The following standard setting organizations have adopted the NIH research findings: American National Standard Institutes (ANSI), American Society of Heating and Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Academy of Architecture for Health, and the International Academy on Indoor Air Quality The results of these studies are incorporated in the 2008 DRM and new information will be added as it becomes available. 

The NIH Design Requirements Manual aligns the NIH facilities program with the ORF mission of: “Supporting NIH priorities by providing safe, secure, sound, healthy, and attractive facilities.” This manual also aligns the ORF with a national imperative to be good stewards of America’s real property assets. We extend our sincerest thanks to all of the people who helped to make the NIH Design Requirements Manual a reality.
The Design Policy and Guidelines are the responsibility of the Division of Technical Resources (DTR)
For all technical inquiries, comments and suggestions, please email the Office of Research Facilities, Division of Technical Resources at  


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This page was last updated on Dec 15, 2016