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ORF Home > Technical Resources > Design Requirements Manual (DRM)

Design Requirements Manual (DRM)


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Design Requirements Manual (DRM) establishes policy, design requirements, standards, and technical criteria for use in planning, programming, and designing NIH owned, leased, operated, and funded buildings and facilities. The DRM is the only detailed design requirements and guidance manual of its kind. The information compiled within the 2016 DRM is the result of technical studies that have set numerous national and international standards, lessons learned and ever-advancing architectural and engineering technologies used in the design and construction of NIH facilities. The Division of Technical Resources (DTR) is responsible for maintaining and updating the DRM.

In order to ensure the most current, relevant, and comprehensive manual, DTR continuously researches and tests state-of-the-art and innovative technologies. DTR has gathered data from these studies as well as from numerous years of specialized experience and an accumulation of lessons-learned. This has led to data-driven decision making and best practices for the design and construction of NIH’s facilities. The results of these studies are incorporated into the 2016 DRM and new information will be added as it becomes available.

The 2016 DRM edition constitutes a major restructuring and reorganization of the 2008 edition, with the addition of a vast amount of new and updated information for architects and engineers (A/E) and stakeholders to use in the facility design process.

In order to provide guidance and standards which represent the best practices in facility design, DTR assembled over 200 professionals from industry, academia, and government including designers, architects, engineers, researchers, veterinarians, maintenance staff, biosafety specialists, and others; all with expertise in a variety of disciplines and unique insights into the complicated design, construction, and functional issues involved in building NIH facilities. Numerous drafts of the DRM have been compiled during the revision process and over 3,000 comments evaluated. Through this scrupulous process, the DTR has compiled cutting edge design guidance and standards which will help support the NIH mission for years to come.

The NIH Design Requirements Manual aligns the NIH facilities program with the Office of Research Facilities’ (ORF) mission of: “Supporting NIH priorities by providing safe, secure, sound, healthy, and attractive facilities.” Additionally, 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 dedicated individuals who helped to make the NIH Design Requirements Manual a reality.​ 

To automatically receive the latest DRM Revisions Email: ​​​and put Revisions in the subject line. 

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​.


Cover of the 2016 Design Requirements Manual

Adobe IconPDF (21MB) 508​​ ​ ​

Revision 1.5: 03.26.2020

Front Cover of the NIH Design Requirements Desk Guide
Desk GuideAdobe IconPDF (5.21MB) 508​
The Desk Guide is now available to make the DRM more accessible and easier to use.

Note on the use of the Desk Guide:
The full, unabridged DRM remains the guiding document and primary source for policies, requirements, and guidance for all stakeholders and decision makers involved in the planning, construction and operation of NIH facilities.  The Desk Guide is intended to be ancillary to the DRM, serving as a navigation aide and providing an overview of DRM contents.  The Desk Guide must be used in conjunction with the DRM, and not as a standalone document.
Adobe Icon PDF (44KB) 508

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information available on our website is accessible to all. If you use special adaptive equipment to access the Web and encounter problems when using our site, please let us know. Email:​ and we will provide the information to you in an alternate format. It would be helpful if you can be as specific as possible when describing the information you seek. 

This page was last updated on Sep 12, 2022