In this article, we look at some of the key aspects to a great laboratory design. Every laboratory type has its own unique purpose, and the design consideration can determine the effectiveness of the return on investments of your proposed space. The effort put into the design phase can pay off many times over especially with larger laboratories with many researchers.
The first consideration is space constraints. Will you be utilizing existing space? Are you moving into a new space? Are you extending an existing space? It is a great idea to understand your current space requirements in the footprint in meters are squared so you can look at a before and after of your changes.
The dynamics of a laboratory can change dramatically with time due to automation and technology while in a lot of cases the footprint of the space remains the same. In this case it is important to look at the efficiencies within to determine the possibilities.
More tradition spaces seem to be closed and segmented and providing there is minimal load bearing internal walls, it doesn’t take much to open a room up for an open plan design bringing with it transparency and collaboration.
Understand lineal workflow
Understanding existing and proposed workflow is an important factor to developing an effective space. Take the time to look at your process from start to finish and map this in a lineal workflow. The team at Westlab can assist you with this process if need be. Understanding your workflow can assist you with minimal crossovers on your motion or spaghetti diagram resulting in a more efficient layout.
Look at your process as a pipeline. Where does your sample come in what is the process? Can you utilize division of labour to make your process more streamlines? Larger process laboratories use a term “Sample is king” this means that it is important to look at the workflow of both your sample and people alike.
Identify and include all equipment in your lineal workflow diagram. Where will the equipment need to be placed? Is there more than one process that requires the same piece of equipment and if you purchase another piece to duplicate, will this reduce motion? How much motion will this reduce?
Look at power and gas requirement. Is your equipment going to need 3 phase, 10 Watts or 15 Watts power sources? This is an important consideration when planning so as to reduce or eliminate customization and variations through your project. Also consider drain requirements, and gas requirements.
Is visibility important to the purpose of your laboratory? Are looking to create openness and transparency? The layout and service spine selection can play a large part in the visibility of a laboratory. Large central hanging and floor mounted services create visible obstruction to the visibility especially if there is loaded shelves on central islands.
Consider slimline service spines with under mounted points to reduce visible obstruction. The services required can determine the service spine type to ensure that the right service provision within the service conduit.
Visual management can go a long way to create efficiencies allowing you to identify objects, consumables area by colour on label to reduce search downtime. It also allows for self-management especially if visual management is communicated clearly and precisely.
What are your laboratory dynamics? This will determine the system and material properties that you choose for your laboratory. Will you be using heavy acids or bases? Will you be needing heat resistance? Do you work in a high humidity environment? Do you use aggressive staining agents?
In one sense there is no perfect all-around material to use as a benchtop or sub straight in a laboratory. Understanding the physical requirements allows you to make “long term” decisions that will result in better return on investment.
Look at current challenges you face in your current lab and determine how you can overcome each aspect by talking to a specialist about your challenges. There are many products and materials in the market that can assist in this area.