Laboratories are crucial for facilitating research in medicine, agriculture and more. Whether you’re planning to design a lab completely from scratch or are beginning a redesign, this blog post will help you to create a space that runs efficiently and safely. Taking the safety of lab users into consideration from the very beginning will ensure that your client is happy, so be sure to research and order the correct equipment before you determine the size and layout of workstations.
Involve stakeholders and lab users from the beginning
When designing any space, it’s important to consult the people who will use it every day in order to create a lab that will be fit for purpose now, but also in years to come. Nobody understands a space better than the people who use it the most and the lab should be tailored to what it’ll be used for, as well as the people who will use it.
Research and order equipment
In order to choose the best equipment for the lab, make sure that you carefully consider client-provided equipment lists. Although the equipment is client-approved, you should think about whether it is truly suitable for the space, and how it will age as the years go by.
Any equipment that you order will help to determine the spatial planning of the lab: where to put power sockets and how to choose lighting, as well as plumbing and emergency stations. These are all crucial and their inclusion should be at the forefront of the lab’s design.
Determine work areas and emergency stations
Workstations should be mapped out according to health and safety regulations. Think about the best way to create an efficient work station: will lab staff prefer to sit or stand?
It’s also important that emergency stations and fire exits take precedence in the designing of the lab. Depending on the space, emergency showers can be ceiling or wall mounted, or even floor or platform mounted. They must be placed in a location that’s within 10 seconds of potential hazards – so consider their placement in relation to work stations carefully.
Plan for chemical storage and disposal
In laboratories, storage is a safety consideration. Whilst working with lab users, ask them about what needs to be where. In order to create a space that is flexible and meets requirements, you should identify the types of chemicals and gases that need storage and work out the most efficient and safe place to store them.
Consider heating, ventilation and air conditioning
If designing a building from scratch, consider a heating and air conditioning system that integrates with fume cupboard ventilation. This will help to remove toxic fumes away from the laboratory safely.
Maintaining an accurate temperature could be crucial to an experiment or research being successful. A comfortable temperature is also important to keep staff happy whilst they work.
Check measurements according to the plan
Be sure to check measurements according to the blueprint of the room. Workstations on wheels allow the space to be flexible – accommodating new additions to the team or changes to working practice.
Wide walkways are essential to accommodate equipment paths and turning circles, and it may be good to consider the width of the doors as well as which way they will open, as they should be suitable for pushing equipment through as well as a person walking alongside it. Automatic doors or double doors might also be worth considering depending on the nature of the lab and the budget.
Splash proof flooring and walls
Flooring and wallcoverings should be easy to clean and durable. Choose to paint them white, so that any spills can be easily seen and located easily. Consider a gently sloping floor with a centrally located drain so that water can easily be drained away after clean-up.
Choosing the right lab furniture
Lab furniture should be correctly sized and fit for purpose, with smooth, easy to clean surfaces. Comfort and practicality should be paramount – height adjustable stools with wipeable plastic cushions are perfect for ensuring that staff have the choice of a seat when working at a standing bench. Although benches are primarily for standing staff, consider that they should be deep enough to accommodate leg room when used with a stool.
Lighting is one of the most important features of any room. Natural light can increase productivity, but not every space is blessed with large windows. Give some attention to areas that might need a boost of light: which areas are furthest away from windows? Is it possible that lab users might need desk lamps as well as overhead lights?
Good lighting throughout the lab will reduce the risk of dangerous situations being escalated and make working in the lab more comfortable.
If the lab works with highly hazardous chemicals regularly, it might be worth considering building adjoining rooms for the convenience of staff members. Changing rooms, locker spaces and adjoining toilets are all important, and these transitional spaces allow users to get changed in a safe area without exposing their skin. If chemicals that will be used in the lab are corrosive, it might be necessary to have washing machines or decontamination booths as well.
Safety is essential
A well-designed lab that incorporates safety features means that users can concentrate and feel safe in the workplace. Eyewash and shower stations, fire safety systems and fume hoods are necessary additions that a safe workplace should include.
Regardless of everything else, safety comes first, so ensure that your designs meet health and safety laws as well as meeting your client’s exacting standards.