Laboratories provide a high-tech environment needed to discover ground-breaking advancements and develop innovative approaches to the growing challenges in the world. Successful laboratories are a result of collaboration, extensive planning, and coordination. Even the smallest detail performed incorrectly can cause a major impact on the function of the space. The list of the details is endless, but before jumping to the details, let’s list down some of the most basic aspects to consider while designing a laboratory. Let’s see ten of such aspects to consider and stay informed on while designing a laboratory!
One should design the laboratory such that they completely separate it from outside areas. Having a closed laboratory will help in achieving unauthorized people not stepping into sensitive areas during the execution of hazardous operations and help contain spills.
2. Security with Lockers
The laboratory shall have security regulated materials such as Centers for Disease Control, Drug Enforcement Administration controlled substances and radioactive materials and have adequate storage for them. Having adequate storage for hazardous materials will help in avoiding access.
3. Filtered ventilation
Insects, particularly mosquitoes and flies, are known to be potential carriers of disease. To keep insects from reaching the lab, while experimentation is in progress, an installation of window screens need to be considered if they are capable of being open. These references are to be considered especially for laboratories with biological materials.
4. Non-pervious Flooring
The flooring must be non-pervious, meaning any surface or material that would not allow for the passage of water through the material and into the underlying soil and should have wall covers. One can achieve it with the usage of glue, heat, epoxy coated concrete slab, epoxy coated flooring etc. Cabinets are to be installed in a way to ensure spills cannot penetrate underneath them. Wooden planks or tiles need to be avoided since the liquids can seep through the small gaps between them.
5. Waste and Chemical storage
Sufficient storage space with a provision of appropriate cabinets and partitions shall be considered so that incompatible gasses could be stored physically and separated. Materials, in combination with other substances, may cause explosion or fire or may liberate poisonous gas and hence, should be separately stored. When designing the shelves it is important to consider space for secondary containers. It is recommended that the solvent storage should not be located under the laboratory fume hood, as this is one spot that can help in catching fires in the laboratory.
The space should also be designed to safely and conveniently accommodate the temporary storage of radiological, chemical and biological waste. The release of waste in the centralized accumulation areas should be prohibited.
6. Designing Furniture & Location Paths
All the furniture proposed for the laboratory should be sturdy, and all work surfaces must be impervious to the chemicals. The top counters should incorporate a lip to help prevent run-off on the floor. The lab benches must be resistant to the chemical actions of the reactive substances and disinfectants. Wooden benchtops are not recommended, as unfinished wooden surfaces can tend to absorb liquids. Also, wood is prone to fire. Fiberglass is to be avoided as it can degrade if strong disinfectants are applied. It also releases smoke when burned.
One should provide the laboratory areas with adequate natural or artificial illumination to ensure sufficient visibility for efficient operational safety.
All the equipment anchored, supported and braced elements to the building should be in accordance with the earthquake norms. Shelvings that are 48 inches or higher have the potential for falling during an earthquake. Brace it permanently or anchor it to the floor or the wall. This practice helps to keep these items from falling in the event of an earthquake and ensures that safety while exiting the space is not possible.
Laboratories are more prone to fire hazards. Hence, it becomes necessary to choose the materials wisely, plan sprinklers/ fire extinguishers, etc. adequately, and provide several refuge areas to avoid harm. There should also be emergency exits planned in case of natural hazards.
9. Break rooms and Exits
The design of the laboratory building must incorporate adequate additional facilities for personal hygiene tasks and food storage or consumption. The consumption and storage of food, handling of contact lenses, and application of cosmetics in these areas may be contaminated by any toxic material or any blood-borne pathogen. Exits should be planned efficiently and in several spots to ensure immediate evacuation in case of emergency. There should also be adequate signages for the exits or refuge areas.
The design of the laboratory should be such that it’s easy for the clan. Benchtops must be seamless in a one-piece design to prevent contamination. Laminate benchtops are to be avoided. The penetrations for plumbing, electrical and other considerations must be sealed permanently. If benches are designed to abut the wall, they must be covered or be provided with a backsplash against the wall. Walls should be provided with hard, non-porous washable paints. The spaces in between benches, equipment, and cabinets must be accessible for cleaning and allow for servicing of equipment. The laboratory furniture must be non-porous & smooth on the surface to resist the absorption of liquids.
- Clark Nexsen. 2022. Top 10 Tips for Successful Lab Design. [online] Available at: <https://www.clarknexsen.com/blog-top-10-tips-successful-lab-design/>
- [Accessed 29 May 2022].