Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

Lab Design and Furnishings

Professional Profile: Alana Konefal

Lab Manager speaks to Alana Konefal, AIA, Associate with Svigals + Partners

MaryBeth DiDonna

Alana Konefal, AIA, is an associate with Svigals + Partners in new Haven, Connecticut. Lab Manager recently spoke with Alana about her career, experience, and personal interests.

Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers mid-stream, etc.?

A: While studying at Roger Williams University, I started working with Svigals + Partners as an intern. This experience solidified the career choice I’d made many years prior, and I soon knew that this would be a much longer commitment. Within my first three years at Svigals, working closely with firm founder, Barry Svigals, FAIA, I gained the experience that would help excel my attentive design thinking and communication skills. This was further established while working with my team on the design of an early childhood magnet school at Goodwin College in East Hartford, CT. During the design phase, the project manager had to take a leave, and I was faced with the opportunity to step up to fill her position, which jump-started my passion for project management.

Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you’ve faced? How did you overcome it?

A: Our job sometimes involves the difficult challenge of working with a traumatized community in need of healing. That was the case in our design of the new Sandy Hook School. The entire community was affected, from students to families, community leaders to professionals, and the entire nation was watching. This was a challenge unlike any I’d faced in my career, but I was not alone. Starting on our first day on the project, every single person involved remained focused on creating an inspired place for learning.  Our collaborative efforts drove us to the finish line feeling proud, with the support of a team that felt more like family.

Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not? 

A: The impact Svigals + Partners’ work has on our community is inspiring. One of my recent favorites is our work with Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, whom we’ve worked with on several projects over the last four years. Our first project with them was their new headquarters in New Haven, an office renovation to a historic building deeply rooted in New Haven, where the company was founded, and continues to grow. Their work is currently focused on neurological disease, which has allowed them to improve the lives of many. The Biohaven team and their profound work made this one of my favorite projects.

Q: What’s a common misconception about your job? 

A: The most common misconceptions about being an architect is that you must be good at math and that we spend all our time drawing. While these skills are helpful, my job is much more than that, and perhaps the most important skill is relationship building. Architecture is incredibly collaborative; everything we do is touched by so many people and impacts many more. Learning to work with others, learning from our clients and colleagues, and truly understanding how the environments we create support their communities are values my firm holds in high regard. Embracing and growing these skills has been critical to my success.

Q: What lab projects are you working on at the moment? 

A: Currently, I am working on several projects at the newly launched Elm City Bioscience Center in New Haven. We are working closely with the client to transform the existing office building for laboratory use, to support the growing demand in our region. Our work started with a study of the existing infrastructure, and once deemed viable, led us to help create the new name and brand image that would give the venture life. This project is still in its infancy, but it has been so rewarding to see the potential of an underutilized building transform to meet the needs of its community.