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Building an Academic School Lab: K-12 & Higher Education

Giving young people a safe environment in which to explore the sciences is the key to educating future doctors, techs, analysts, researchers, and scientists who will lead us into the future of scientific discovery. Students at every level can begin to learn the fundamental building blocks that can help them create a career in the sciences, but efficient learning requires adequate learning environments. 

When designing and building an academic lab, there are several important considerations to make to determine exactly what your school’s needs are. At OnePointe Solutions, we offer comprehensive laboratory design services to clients with a wide range of needs, including academic institutions in need of classroom furniture and equipment. Each school’s needs are different depending on the ages of their students, the size of the institution, and more. 

Here, we’ll share everything you need to know about the process of building an academic school lab and share some tips, tricks, and advice for successfully equipping students for a future in science. 

How Many Labs Does Your School Require? 

Whether you are renovating your building, or are building an entirely new school for students of any age group, you will need to determine just how many labs your institution will need to build. The number of labs your educational institution will need will depend on several factors, including the number of students attending, the size of respective rooms, and the availability of certain utilities like HVAC/air, gas, and water. 


Labs are a specialty classroom and must meet different standards than regular classrooms for topics like English or history. Depending on the region in which your institution is located, there will be specific requirements regarding the maximum number of occupants, specific safety requirements, minimum square-footage requirements, and more. 

Here’s a simple formula to calculate how many labs your school might need. First, find three numbers: 

  1. Maximum student capacity of school (ex. 2,000)
  2. Maximum students per classroom (ex. 25)
  3. Periods per school day (ex. 6)

Divide A by B to find x → 2,000/25 = 80

Divide x by C and round up to the nearest whole number to find the number of lab spaces your school will need → 80/6 = 13.33 (rounded up) = 14. 

To calculate how much space you will need, refer to local requirements and standards. 

Designing a Layout

Unlike professional labs, most educational laboratories are used for a variety of purposes and need to be flexible enough to accommodate classes covering biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, and more. The OnePointe Solutions design team can help you throughout the design process, offering experience and knowledge to help you develop the best and most efficient layout. Working with a professional designer can also help you to stay within your budget, and they may even be able to save you money by showing you better or more efficient design options along the way. 

Balancing Practical and Theoretical Study

When designing an academic lab, it is important to ensure that the space can be used both for practical and theoretical study. Practical experiments and hands-on learning are some of the most important aspects of science education since it is through these experiential lessons that most students develop the desire to pursue science at a higher level. All good science classes should include an ample amount of hands-on practical study, and the lab should therefore afford ample space for students to watch demonstrations, work in teams, and perform solo experimentation. 

In addition to experimentation and hands-on learning, all academic labs should be usable for theoretical study, including note-taking during lectures and demonstrations, using textbooks and academic resources, test-taking, and so on. Academic labs should easily be able to transition from theoretical to practical teaching within a single period, and both should be considered equally during the design process. 

Flexibility

Because academic labs are typically used for more than one subject, for more than one group of students, and multiple purposes within a single period, flexibility is perhaps the most important quality of an academic lab. Workstations should be relatively easy to move to accommodate different configurations, class sizes, or group activities, and storage should be made as flexible as possible to hold changing materials throughout the school year. Modular shelving, non-fixed furniture, and lightweight seating are all great ways to increase the flexibility of the classroom. 

Dos & Don’ts of Building an Academic Lab

While there may be varying requirements for different institutions depending on their regional laws and regulations, there are some general dos and don’ts of building an academic lab. Here

Don’t Block the View

No, we aren’t referring to the views out your classroom’s windows, we’re referring to the view students will have from different spots in the lab. No matter where students are seated or standing, they should have clear sightlines to the teacher and any demonstration being given. While in professional labs, it may be appropriate to include overhead storage or suspended technology on workstations, it is better to keep furniture lower to the ground to ensure every student can see.

Don’t Crowd the Space

Choosing a space that is too small is far worse than choosing a space that is too large since overcrowding can create safety concerns and reduce the efficiency and focus of the classroom. As important as it is to choose an area within the school that offers adequate space for the lab, it is equally important not to overfill the lab with students, furniture, or equipment. Clear pathways and ample space for movement will reduce the incidence of accidents and injury and will help to keep students and their work in order. 

Don’t Underestimate Storage Needs

An unorganized, cluttered lab makes both learning and teaching more difficult. To keep your labs tidy and ready for use at a moment’s notice, be sure to include ample storage space for all equipment, tools, supplies, textbooks, and miscellaneous student items and projects that may require storage throughout the year. When working with your architect or designer, be sure to emphasize the importance of storage, and consider overestimating and opting for additional cabinetry or shelving. Remember: a place for everything and everything in its place. 

Do Build Your Lab In a Well-Lit Area

Like comfortable temperature and air quality, the amount and quality of light present in a classroom has been shown to impact learning. Students do better when they have access to natural light and outdoor spaces, and typically are more able to focus in well-lit, open classrooms. When choosing an area of your school in which to build a lab, choose one that has large windows and ample natural light. Access to windows can also help to improve lab safety, offering more ventilation than closed-off classrooms. 

Do Invest In Extra Equipment

When purchasing tools and equipment for your academic lab, you should purchase enough supplies for every student to have their own equipment. Having enough equipment to allow every student to participate in experimentation and practical learning simultaneously aids in the teaching process and helps to enhance classroom organization and focus. In addition to purchasing enough equipment for every student, you should also consider investing in extra tools to replace broken, lost, or over-used equipment as needed. 

Workstations

Scientific classroom workstations are the most important piece of furniture to select when designing and building your academic lab since they will be used by every student in every class. Workstations should be adequately sized, easy to move to enhance flexibility, and durable enough to withstand ample experimentation and exposure to various chemicals and solvents.

Standard classroom workstations from OnePointe Solutions are designed to accommodate four students and can be customized to include a number of efficiency, organization, and safety features. Perfect for grade and high-school classrooms, we can easily add lighting, height adjustability, ergonomic features, additional storage, and more to support students at every level. 

For higher education institutions with more specific or advanced requirements, we offer many other workstation layouts and designs that can all be customized to your precise needs. 

Safety

As in any lab, safety should be the priority for your academic laboratory. Depending on local regulations, you may be required to have a certain number of eyewash/shower stations, sinks, fume hoods, fire extinguishers, and more. Regardless of local standards, each institution should put effort into designing the safest and most efficient lab classrooms as possible, which should include the selection of high-quality furniture, materials, and equipment. 

At OnePointe Solutions, every workstation we make is designed, crafted, and carefully assembled by our team of professionals, and never handed off to third-parties. We use premium, high-end materials, carefully selected for durability and resistance to wear, and always choose the most appropriate materials for our clients’ specific needs. 

Ventilation & Air Filtration

In addition to premium furniture and storage options, OnePointe Solutions also offers a variety of ventilation solutions including fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, and snorkel arms. Fume hoods are used to draw toxic fumes and particles (created during the process of experimentation) away from the classroom, filtering and separating the clean air from the particulate matter before recirculating it. These air filtration tools are used to reduce the negative impact of harsh chemicals on human health, and to create safe, contained environments in which to experiment without the risk of inhaling toxic chemicals. 

Storage

Clutter and disorganization lead to unfocused students and stressful learning environments. Organization helps to promote focus, and can even help students to learn more quickly. Creating an organized classroom laboratory can also help to prepare students for professional research settings where they will be expected to keep their workstations carefully cleaned and clear from mess and unnecessary clutter. 

At OnePointe Solutions, we offer a wide range of storage options and casework to help keep your lab classroom organized. Our storage systems can be made using several materials, and with a number of special features to help create a more efficient classroom. Sink cabinets, for example, can turn a hand-wash station into a space for storage, or give you an area for washing test tubes and other pieces of equipment. Modular shelving options can be changed based on need, so you’ll be able to keep up with the fast-paced curriculum of the school year. 

Need help designing a school lab?

Call us at (866) 222-7494 to speak to a design representative today to get started!

Questions? Concerns? Want to start today? Get in touch. 866.612.7312

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