In the wake of the pandemic, few scientific disciplines have grown as much as virology. This field, which focuses on the study of diseases, is growing rapidly, and many labs are finding it hard to keep up with the increased demand.
Many laboratory managers are seeking to expand their spaces to accommodate these needs, but this comes with unique challenges.
Virology labs require a wide range of specialized equipment, all of which must be kept accessible without stifling the flow of a workspace.
Basic Virology Lab Design Considerations
On the surface, a virology lab will need a mix of security and accessibility. Staff should have swift access to samples, but the materials must also be stored safely. Because of the nature of virology, which often deals with infectious diseases, every sample is dangerous.
Most virology laboratories are divided into seven different spaces:
- Sample storage and processing
- Handwashing area and PPE storage
- Nucleic acid processing and storage
- Rapid-testing and PCR
- Biowaste containment
- Data and offices
- Additional spaces as needed
Traditionally, these spaces would be sequestered with immobile built-in walls. However, this old-fashioned solution offers little flexibility and may create cramped spaces.
OnePointe Solutions designers have found ways to maximize space and optimize the flow of a clinical virology laboratory by using mobile dividers and partitions.
This approach offers more flexibility while maintaining a defined sense of purpose for each area. Workers can easily move the dividers around to create newer, larger spaces as needed.
Moreover, with the addition of any of our many accessories, the dividers can become useful features within the lab.
Safety Concerns for Virology Lab Design
Designers must also consider the safety of a virology laboratory’s workers.
A clinical virology laboratory will often have three key safety components:
- Biosafety cabinets
- HVAC systems
- Personal protective equipment
Each of these safety features requires special consideration, especially when the ductwork and plumbing are hard-wired into a space.
Moreover, the surfaces used in a laboratory must be carefully considered. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of how to design a virology lab, yet proper implementation is essential to a laboratory’s overall safety.
Smooth surfaces — such as anti-microbial casework and durable epoxy countertops — should be used throughout a virology laboratory. In doing so, designers reduce the risk of cross-contamination and potential infections among staff members.
However, not all smooth surfaces will work; some are prone to retaining bacteria. For this reason, many virology laboratories prefer stainless steel casework.
Additional safety considerations include:
- Bio Waste disposal and storage
- Building access
- Fume hood installation
- Non-slip surfaces
- Structural integrity
How to Design a Virology Lab
Once designers understand the basic layout of space, work can begin on the project’s design. The process is often the same for expansions and remodels, but extensive construction and relocation projects require more time and planning.
At OnePointe Solutions, our skilled designers begin with a laboratory’s footprint. Careful attention is paid to the location of pre-existing fixtures, including air ducts and plumbing, and essential services (i.e., eye wash stations, faucets, and safety showers) will be placed in the most accessible and cost-effective manner.
Once these critical needs have been met, designers can plan a space’s layout.
What Lab Furniture Goes Into a Virology Lab?
Meeting the needs of a virology laboratory can be tricky. Designers must create enough storage for general supplies, hazardous chemicals, dangerous biohazards, and biowaste.
Both samples and materials must be kept from tampering and suboptimal conditions, yet workers must have free access to everything. This diametric opposition of needs creates a unique challenge for laboratory designers, and additional concerns may be raised in regard to a laboratory’s existing layout or ineffective safety measures.
Laboratory Islands and Countertops
Above all else, a laboratory must have ample storage and working surfaces. Designers meet these needs with a mixture of static laboratory islands and mobile FLEX systems.
In both situations, the designer must consider the workspace’s access to safety features. Workers at a building’s periphery should have the same access to critical emergency equipment as those at its core.
Otherwise, the building has insufficient safety measures and will need extensive redesigns in the future.
To prevent such inconveniences, skilled designers build future-proof laboratories. These spaces utilize all available floor space. At OnePointe Solutions, we tackle this problem with a threefold approach:
- We Build Our Furniture In-House: The most important aspect of our design is the furniture, which will be manufactured in-house. Each facet of a laboratory — from its casework to its countertops — is custom-made to fit your project. This ensures that every possible inch of space is utilized and reduces the need for costly workarounds.
- We Customize Our Products for You: Our in-house manufacturing gives laboratory managers the power to create furniture that is built for their individual space. Every desk, chair, and table can be equipped with accessories to optimize its use by adding stabilizers, storage, drying racks, and more.
- We Understand a Laboratory’s Needs: Designers at OnePointe Solutions specialize in industrial and commercial design. Our employees have worked with countless laboratories, optimizing workspaces for an untold number of scientific disciplines.
Aside from ubiquitous countertops, a virology lab requires plenty of microscopic work. This need may be met with standard islands and counters, but these solutions cause undue stress on joints.
The many hours spent hunched over a microscope will often add up, causing workplace injuries and costing managers many hours of sick time.
Properly adjusted workspaces prevent such problems from occurring. OnePointe Solutions manufactures its own microscope bench, which features a full range of adjustable features.
When paired with a properly calibrated seat, these workspaces become comfortable fixtures within a laboratory.
Additional consideration may also be given to a laboratory’s mass spectrometry equipment. The machinery required for this process is large, and unskilled designers often fail to account for its presence.
Improper planning often leads to poorly placed equipment, which is hard to access for maintenance.
At OnePointe Solutions, our designers know that a virology lab will need plenty of space for its spectrometry supplies. Our custom-built mass spectrometry tables offer workers a fully adjustable experience, improving their overall comfort and performance.
Finally, a designer must consider storage solutions. Each space will require a unique approach, as each section of a virology lab has its own needs.
Some spaces (i.e., sample storage) require more secure options, while others (i.e., break rooms and data areas) should focus on standard workplace utility.
Within a clinical virology laboratory, the most useful casework will be made of antimicrobial materials or stainless steel. These options prevent decay and bacterial growth, both of which can easily contaminate sensitive samples.
Designers will also place biosafety cabinets at key locations, allowing employees to access otherwise dangerous materials without risking their safety.
The OnePointe Solutions Difference
If you find that your virology laboratory needs an update, it’s time to enlist the experts. At OnePointe Solutions, we understand your needs.
We know the complexities of laboratory design, and we’ve worked with dozens of businesses, producing efficient solutions for each. Contact us or call us at (866) 612-7312 and we can discuss your plan and vision.