Laboratory design features | Designing a Laboratory

Determining the biological, radiological, and chemical dangers, as well as the type of work to be done and the application of risk control measures, are all important factors when constructing a laboratory. A risk assessment and a requirements assessment must be made to examine the sorts of laboratory activities planned in order to decide how the work can be done safely and effectively. While the location of the equipment and systems necessary to execute laboratory processes will define most of the facility design, biosafety and biosecurity must be addressed when choosing the facility design and features. This article gives an overview of the facility design aspects that are required for designing and operating laboratories that are biosafety compliant.

An overview of Laboratory design - Sheet1

Risk assessment 

Biological labs must be planned, built, managed, and maintained in order to perform their intended function and to protect laboratory staff, the environment, and the general public from the dangers of handling biological agents. Additional risk control methods, design features, or adjustments may be required to ensure a safe working environment in laboratories when a risk assessment has indicated that heightened control measures are required for particular laboratory procedures.

An overview of Laboratory design - Sheet2
Laborartory Arrangement_©

General Design

An overview of Laboratory design - Sheet3
Layout of Laboratory_©
  • Area Layout
  • Provide enough distinct break areas near the laboratory area, each with its own dedicated food refrigerator, to avoid eating and drinking in the lab.
  • Keep desks and study carrels out of the laboratory. 
  • Make sure that doorways, corridors, and aisles are wide enough to accommodate regular lab carts and equipment transfers.
  • Provide dedicated storage, closets, and/or hanging facilities for lab coats, personal belongings, and apparel. Coat hangers should be situated near the lab’s entrance.
  • Maintainability
  • Make sure maintenance staff have enough clearance, access, and illumination.
  • Place energy isolating devices and equipment with labels in easily accessible areas.
  • When possible, avoid cramped areas.
  • Where routine maintenance is necessary, provide passive fall protection (rails) for all four feet and larger fall dangers.


An overview of Laboratory design - Sheet4
Food factory hermetic clean room laboratory airtight hospital medical hygienic steel swing door_©
  • Lab and Hall Doors
  • Allow for internal observation through glass panels or viewing apertures.
  • Install self-closing door mechanisms on laboratory entry doors and inner lab doors.
  • If doors connecting laboratories must be kept open, use fusible connections or a magnetic catch system connected to fire/smoke alarm systems.
  • To assist the circulation of supplies and carts along corridors, infrared or other automated opening door systems should be implemented.
  • Entry Signage/Safety Stations
  • Provide standard 8.5 x 11-inch clear plastic sign holders outside all inner and support rooms to fit lab door signs (needed under NHFD agreements).
  • Set up a safety station with a phone, fire extinguisher, safety posters, and holders for visitor safety glasses at the main laboratory door.

    An overview of Laboratory design - Sheet5
    Custom safety signs_©
  • Exits
  • Do not utilise radioactive self-luminescent exit signs; instead, design the laboratory so that all exits are straight and unobstructed.
  • If necessary, provide multiple exits from the laboratory.
  • Walls and Ceilings
  • Smooth and easy-to-clean surfaces are preferred.
  • There are no ACM/friable ceiling tile styles.
  • Recessed lighting is better than hanging lighting, but it should not be placed immediately over lab benches.
  • Wherever practical, use energy-efficient lighting schemes.
  • To avoid tampering with HVAC, fume hood, and biological safety cabinet systems, windows should normally be non-openable.
  • Hallways (Corridors)
  • Enough width and height to support pedestrians, carts, and heavy equipment.
  • To avoid pedestrian and lab cart accidents, avoid door/threshold saddles and carefully examine expansion joint designs.
  1.   First aid/ Medical emergency rooms
  • According to the site area, there should be a number of medical emergency rooms to avoid risks to the persons.

    An overview of Laboratory design - Sheet6
    Laboratory Corridor_©
  • Flooring
  • Check for non-asbestos materials in new flooring.
  • In the lab, lab support, clinical, and associated work spaces, carpeting is banned.
  • Spill/leak resistant, easily cleaned, non-porous, coved.
  • Seal any floor penetrations with caulk or sealant to prevent migration in the event of a spill or flood.
  • Walking and working surfaces should be built to create a solid, firm, and non-slip environment for employees. Wet surfaces should have a Dynamic Coefficient of Friction of 0.42 or higher (i.e. high traction surface).
  • Ensure that relevant slip resistance design standards are met during installation, if required.
  • Drainage must be maintained and gratings, matting, or elevated platforms must be provided if wet procedures are employed.

Laboratory General Ventilation Design

Laboratory design ventilation_©
  • Keep supply air intakes away from probable sources of contamination such as fume hood stacks, vehicle emissions, and portable gas-powered tool exhaust.
  • Lab exhaust must be completely exhausted (no re-circulation or reuse of lab exhaust).
  • Create and balance mechanisms such that lab rooms are somewhat smaller than corridors and adjacent rooms.
  • For occupied rooms, the design goal is 8-10 room-air changes each hour, and 4-6 for empty rooms. EHS (Environmental Health and Safety) must approve any designs with air change rates of 8 or higher.
  • With EHS permission, laboratories with air change rates of 8 must have an emergency purge button.
  • For energy savings, occupancy setbacks based on a mix of time-of-day and occupancy sensors are permitted.

Special Operations | Designing a Laboratory

Special Operations Laboratory_©

The following areas and operations provide greater or exceptional risks and must be planned in collaboration with EHS and other relevant departments:

  • Animal research
  • Autoclave/glassware washing rooms
  • Automated film processors
  • Biological safety level 3 (or higher) labs and tissue culture rooms
  • Flammable storage rooms
  • High magnetic field generating equipment
  • Irradiators
  • Perchloric acid fume hoods
  • Radioactive iodine fume hoods
  • Robotics

Rajita Jain is an architect by profession who engages with the dynamics of urban spaces and the people. She aims at developing ways of amalgamating cultural and traditional beliefs with modern day technology to give the urban fabric a vernacular sensitivity.