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Lab Design: An Overview

Despite the pop-culture caricature of ‘the scientist’ as being disorganized and reckless, the majority of scientific facilities are run according to strict guidelines and designed to optimize safety and efficiency. Best practices and popular methods of designing labs and research facilities of course evolve, but general truths remain intact regarding the proper approach to lab design. 

The OnePointe Solutions team has years of experience helping clients around the country to design, build, and furnish top-tier labs. We understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why we offer custom design solutions to our clients in every industry. When we tackle lab design, we focus on flexibility, safety, and user experience, helping our clients to create labs that will support their work throughout every phase. 

Whether you are about to tackle your first lab design project or are simply in search of a general overview of lab design, you have come to the right place. Here, we’ll cover the basics of the process of designing a lab, and share tips, tricks, and advice to help you create a safe and efficient environment.

Lab Classification

The first place to start when beginning the process of designing a lab is to determine what type or classification of lab is needed for your particular circumstance. Some research facilities are equipped with both wet and dry labs, since their work may require the use of a wide range of tools and equipment. Other institutions build one or the other since their work may be more specific and require less extensive resources. 

Wet Labs

Wet labs typically perform liquid sample research and testing, working with biological samples, corrosive chemicals, acids, pharmaceuticals, and more. As the name suggests, wet labs need to be designed to handle moisture, and should be outfitted with anti-corrosive, easy to clean materials to prevent cross-contamination, damage, or accidental injury. Wet labs must be outfitted with sinks, drainage and plumbing, piped gas, extensive filtration and ventilation, and fixed casework for secure housing of chemicals. Wet labs may also include some features that are more commonly found in dry labs like computers and other pieces of equipment. 

Dry Labs

Dry labs typically handle data over physical samples and have fewer requirements in way of plumbing, gas, and ventilation. In many ways, a dry lab is designed similarly to an office space, since dry labs have extensive wiring and electrical requirements to maximize efficiency. Since dry labs typically do not handle samples or corrosive chemicals, recirculated air (like you would find in an office) is sufficient and provides adequate safety. Importantly, dry labs do require cooling, since electrical equipment can produce a lot of heat. 

Lab Layout and Floorplan

Once you know what type of lab you plan to build, you will need to select a space. If you are building a lab in an existing building, you should choose a large, open area with access to ventilation, water, gas, and all other utilities. Additionally, you should do your best to choose a space with few limitations (i.e. pillars, unnecessary walls, narrow doorways, etc.). If you are in the process of building a new facility, the same qualities should be considered when constructing the space that will eventually become your lab. 

The space you choose must be large enough to accommodate everything including special equipment, personnel, furniture, storage, samples, etc. When assessing a space, keep in mind that approximately 25% of it will be used for large equipment. Similarly, storage and casework options will take up a significant amount of space, so it is important to select a floorplan that will allow ample room for everything plus a little extra. 

Open vs. Closed Labs

“Open” lab design has become increasingly popular over the past decade, with focus shifting from the individual needs of the researcher to the overall convenience and flow of the facility. The closed labs of the past had more in common with office space cubicles than the large, collaborative research environments we often see today. Open labs allow researchers to share space with one another, with their equipment, and with support staff, creating greater communication and enhancing collaboration. Additionally, open labs allow all members of staff equal access to equipment, storage, tools, and facilities. 

In addition to fostering better collaboration and teamwork, open labs also tend to be more flexible than closed labs of the past, allowing for the easy movement of equipment, furniture, and personnel within the space. An open concept makes it easy to revise a floorplan, adapt to changing practices, and expand to meet future needs. 

Maximizing Flexibility

Though often designed with a specific purpose or type of research in mind, one of the most important qualities of good lab design is promoting flexibility. The majority of laboratories undergo changes to their staff, research, and work yearly, often needing to revise their methods to keep up with these changes. Some facilities may completely change the nature of their work several times, requiring them to completely redesign their labs to effectively take on a new task. Because of this, it is important to design labs to be flexible and easily rearranged based on changing needs. 

Custom Furniture

One of the easiest ways to future-proof your lab and increase its flexibility is to select custom furniture. Custom furniture can be made with modular features that make switching up the layout of your lab super easy. Choose everything from size and shape to materials and coatings to create the most versatile lab possible, and focus on modular/flexible storage to make accommodating new samples and supplies as seamless as possible.  

Standard Lab Furniture

While the exact specifics of your lab design will be determined by your facility’s particular needs, some standard pieces of lab furniture can be found in most laboratory environments. At OnePointe Solutions, we specialize in designing, building, and installing furniture for lab for research, educational, and industrial clients around the country. Here are some standard pieces of furniture that can be found in every lab that you’ll need to select to complete your lab design. 

Storage

Regardless of the nature of the work to be performed in your lab, you will most certainly need to select an ample amount of storage. Storage space is vital to keeping sensitive tools, equipment, and materials safely organized, and helps to keep workspaces free from clutter. Unlike other pieces of furniture, storage doesn’t necessarily need to take up any floor space, since vertical shelving and suspended cabinetry are easy to install and maintain. When designing your facility, be sure to overestimate just how much storage you will need, since you are likely to accumulate more equipment, tools, and materials over time. 

At OnePointe Solutions, we offer a wide range of laboratory casework and storage options that make it super simple to keep your lab safely organized. We can accommodate virtually any need, custom building storage solutions to suit the specific needs of our customers. Among standard cabinets and wall shelving, OnePointe Solutions offers the following types of storage casework: 

  • Base Cabinets
  • Mobile Cabinets
  • Modular & Fixed Reagent Shelving
  • Sink Cabinets
  • Suspended Cabinets

Tables & Workbenches

Every lab needs comfortable tables and workbenches to provide a space for lab staff and research personnel to perform vital testing and analysis. Depending on the type of work being done in your facility, specific needs will vary, but all facilities should be outfitted with durable, comfortable, customizable workbenches. 

Tables and workbenches from OnePointe Solutions can be made according to your exact specifications, and custom outfitted with a wide range of special features, durable materials, and custom accessories like computer mounts, power strips, shelving, and much more. In addition to special features, our workbenches can be made in a variety of configurations, and include ergonomic supports to facilitate a comfortable, healthy, efficient working environment. Most importantly, we offer a wide range of countertop materials, so you’ll be able to choose the one that best fits the needs of your facility. 

Seating

Like comfortable, well-built workstations, ergonomic seating is an important component of any lab environment. Comfortable and designed to promote good, healthy posture, our seating options can also be crafted from a number of materials, making them suitable for every environment. Key to maintaining a healthy environment, all seating options from OnePointe Solutions are made from easy-to-clean materials that won’t collect harmful microbes or chemical residue. 

Working with a Designer

If you are new to the lab design process, and just don’t quite know where to start, OnePointe Solutions can help guide you through the process. Backed by a team of experienced and knowledgeable lab designers, you’ll be able to carefully assess the needs of your facility, and make appropriate selections to create an efficient and safe environment. Our team can help every step of the way, from organizing the floorplan/layout of your facility to selecting furniture, choosing materials, and installing important furniture and equipment. 

There are dozens of choices to be made throughout the process of designing a lab, but having a team of experts on your side can help you to feel secure knowing you are making the right choices. Experts in lab design, lab furniture, and optimizing efficiency, the OnePointe Solutions team also works with experts in the fields of HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and flooring, and can help connect you to the best professionals in the industry. 

Design, Build, Install

In addition to helping our clients plan and execute their lab design goals, OnePointe Solutions specializes in designing, building, and installing high-quality lab furniture. When we meet with our clients, we work to create furniture solutions that are specifically designed to fulfill the specific needs of our clients. We custom design furniture orders, build them right here in the U.S. to our clients’ specifications, then pay one last visit to our clients to help install their custom furniture.

Ready to Design Your Lab?

Give us a call at (866) 222-7494 to speak to a lab design specialist today. They will work with you through the process to ensure your lab design goes smoothly.

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

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