Design Approach

The use of chemicals and other potentially hazardous substances differentiates laboratories from other types of buildings. By their very nature this introduces risks and hazards not present elsewhere, even laboratories in different fields have different risks, thus it is imperative that the design process ensures that the health and safety of the occupants is considered by experts in the field. The comfort of the occupants and the energy efficiency of the installation are additional factors that need to be considered in developing an optimal design.

These considerations are carried through all our offerings, starting with the design of our equipment range and how their operation would contribute to the risk mitigation through engineering controls in any laboratory. Our furniture and storage range expands on this ensuring that we are able to offer a complete solution to most laboratory applications. Finally, our range of service offerings ensure that the design intent is carried forward throughout the life of the laboratory by ensuring that the equipment is well maintained and working effectively.

Safety

Laboratories design should ensure that the health and safety of all occupants. Potentially hazardous substances such as chemicals, radioactive materials and infectious biological agents could be manipulated and handled as part of daily experiments conducted in the space. Thus the protocols and workflows of these should be used as inputs into the risk assessments together with the regulations, standards and guidelines which have been published by the relevant industry groups and authorities. Simply understanding these and complying with them is a good first step in ensuring the safety of the laboratory occupants.

Comfort

The comfort of workers in the laboratory is primarily concerned with balancing the air flow rates and temperatures with the airflow rates required by the extraction systems. Worker comfort and thus productivity is greatly impacted if the space is too hot, cold or draughty.

However care must be taken in positioning air conditioners and air supply grills as these could negatively affect the performance of fume cupboards, bio-safety cabinets and other extraction equipment thus significantly reducing the protection that they provide.

An additional consideration is the ease of use of equipment, it may be tempting to use highly specialised equipment such as glove boxes which isolate the worker from harmful material, but if they are inappropriate for the hazards would severely impact the worker comfort and productivity.

Energy Efficiency

Laboratory HVAC systems are generally designed as once-through systems with no recirculation. Filtering, heating, cooling and humidifying large volumes of air is incredibly energy intensive, particularly in applications where large volumes of air is extracted through fume cabinets and hoods. The cost of this would be a significant running cost to the company, and any saving through intelligent design would have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

Productivity

The efficient use of the limited space available to a laboratory is often one of the primary focusses when a new laboratory is being built or an existing one is being renovated or upgraded. This can only be achieved if the designer has a thorough knowledge of the processes and protocols to be followed and the relative frequency that each will be performed.

Thus a detailed understanding of workflows, storage requirements, preparation areas and admin requirements are required. If an existing lab is to be upgraded a simple tool such as a spaghetti diagram can be useful in understanding current shortcomings and possible improvement areas.