Laboratory Design and Planning Guide for 2021

We have aided in the designing and building of countless laboratory projects nationwide, creating safe, high-tech environments for researchers to perform groundbreaking research in the worlds of pharmaceuticals, cannabis testing, diagnostic research, pathology, forensics, and more. Our clients love the flexibility of our designs and rely on us for our years of experience and expertise.

Our lab design team has created innovative research spaces for over a decade. It has acquired a wealth of knowledge regarding architecture, design, scientific research, codes and regulations, and much more. If you are embarking on your first lab design or build and looking for guidance, you have come to the right place.

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Here are some of the best practices we have developed and relied on to design and build high-quality labs for researchers and educators nationwide throughout the years.

Key Lab Planning Considerations Before You Begin

While there are many factors to consider when designing your lab, a few key considerations apply universally to laboratory planning, whether you need to develop a biology lab design or a cleanroom. These factors are the first ones you should consider and have solutions to before your first stakeholder meeting and should be part of any well-rounded master plan.

If you are designing a computer lab or a clinical lab at a hospital, Most future design and construction decisions will rely on these factors, so establishing them early can help prevent confusion or missteps.

Environmental Health and Safety

Even high school science laboratories handle harsh chemicals and toxic fumes, so even if your lab will not be handling a volatile virus, environmental health and safety should still be of utmost priority. If your lab will require control areas, be sure to note this now – you will need to consider safe perimeters and storage of hazardous materials when finding the perfect space for your lab.

Elements to keep in mind when considering health and safety
features of your lab:

  • Type of work being conducted
  • Type and number of occupants
  • Control areas
  • Biosafety levels

Planning Your Lab’s Budget

Determining exactly how much can be spent on the project from the very beginning is key to staying on budget. Without a steadfast budget, overspending, or improper allocation of funds can bring even the most well-planned project to a screeching halt.

All stakeholders will need to be informed of the budget in order to work within its constraints, so having this information ready before your first stakeholder meeting can help get the project off to a strong start. Lab budget planning in industries like dental labs and tissue culture lab vary greatly from planning for space labs or cleanrooms.

Regulatory Codes and Restrictions

Like environmental health and safety, the codes and restrictions you will need to familiarize yourself with will depend on the type of lab you plan to build. Becoming familiar with the sometimes complex and conflicting federal, state, and local codes before a project begins can help you avoid problems down the line, designing and building in accordance with
ordinance standards from the very start.

Sticking closely regulatory and fire codes can also help you ensure you are building a safe, sustainable environment. Though sometimes difficult to navigate and work around, federal, state, and local codes and ordinances are all designed with the common goal of keeping labs and their surrounding environment safe.

When choosing from various biosafety cabinet brands, be sure the one you use is compliance with all necessary rules and regulations.

Kick Everything Off with a Stakeholder Meeting

Designing and building a lab of any size or scope requires a lot of forethought, planning, and cooperation, so getting everyone on the same page from the very beginning is key ensuring everything runs smoothly. Every detail of your project must be meticulously managed since an inch of inaccuracy can impact both the productivity and the safety of the lab environment.

In this initial meeting, you should ensure every project stakeholder is fully informed of the scope and scale of the project and is prepared to manage their area of expertise. The following stakeholders should be present at all meetings throughout the length of the project:

  • Lab Owners
  • Designers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Contractors
  • Facility and Maintenance Personnel

As the project progresses, rely on feedback and input from stakeholders to ensure the project is being executed correctly. Hearing concerns over design or furniture choice once everything is complete will simply result in lost time and money, so paying close attention to concerns or questions during the process is vital to staying on budget and avoiding delays.

The type and quantity of stakeholders can vary. A team of contractors and engineers for a stem cell lab is likely to be significantly different than those involved in creating a vivarium or molecular biology lab.

Acquire a Comprehensive Equipment List

Building a lab can be expensive, and without proper planning, it is easy to find yourself suddenly over-budget. Most laboratory equipment like HPLC instruments and mass spectrometers can cause a very large dent in a lab budget, in addition to the specialized benches required to operate these products.

Working closely with designers and research specialists to make a comprehensive equipment list can help you ensure funds are set aside for their purchase and will help in the overall design process.

Knowing types, quantities, and storage requirements of all equipment set to be included in the lab will help you create an accommodating design, and help you budget accordingly.

Size Your Lab Appropriately

It may seem like an obvious point, but you must select a lab layout and physical space that is sized appropriately for your purposes. Far too often, lab floor plan requirements are underestimated, resulting in over-flow, inadequate storage, and cluttered working conditions.

Though you may feel inclined to try to be economical with space, allowing for ample storage and the possibility of expansion will serve you better in the long run. This step will require participation from lab managers, personnel, and designers to accurately determine just how much space is needed to perform necessary functions efficiently and safely.

Design Around Existing HVAC Systems

Chances are you will not be building an entirely new lab, and therefore will need to learn to work around the existing HVAC systems. Your team of mechanical engineers will play a vital role during this step and should work in conjunction with your design team to ensure coordination between laboratory fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, snorkel and exhaust hoods, and the facility’s existing HVAC system for proper lab pressurization and fume hood containment.

Leave Room in Your Lab for Reagent and Specimen Storage

Flammable liquids and materials, hazardous chemicals, and harmless everyday items all require space for storage, but one of the most common mistakes we see new lab designers make is forgetting to leave the room. Clear workbenches make for safer working conditions, helping to prevent unsafe contact between chemicals, avoid fires, and prevent spills.

In industries like molecular diagnostics, cleanrooms, rare disease, genomics, and radiology, specimens and instruments can be very sensitive and require high-end cabinetry and storage systems, including modular shelving and movable storage racks.

A beautifully designed lab can quickly become cluttered and overrun with equipment, tools, and materials without the proper allotment of storage, and in the case of hazardous and toxic chemicals, clutter can pose a serious health and safety risk. In labs handling infectious agents, extra precaution and specialized storage is required to prevent contamination or the
spread of disease within the facility or to the surrounding environment.

Choose Appropriate Laboratory Work Surface Materials

Floors, walls, and ceilings can accumulate dust, chemical residue, and other particles, potentially creating hazardous breathing conditions for lab personnel. Gaps, seams, and porous surfaces collect residue and particulate and can make the job of achieving a sanitary environment near impossible.

During the construction phase, it is important to choose appropriate lab countertop materials for the space.

Avoid porous surfaces, flooring with large gaps, or materials that may absorb water, cleaners, or other chemicals. Resistance to abrasions, heat, cleaners, solvents, chemicals, and oil are also important qualities, helping you to ensure spills will not destroy your flooring or walls. Choose floor surfaces that are easy to clean, smooth, and durable; vinyl, linoleum, resin, and rubber are popular laboratory flooring choices due to their resistance to bacteria, water, and chemicals.

Check Door Widths

Bulky equipment and large pieces of lab furniture may not be able to fit through standard doors, requiring double or expanded doors for easy maneuvering within the laboratory facility. Safe and easy handling of large equipment and furniture will help the productivity and flow of your lab, requiring you to allow for ample door clearance and space to maneuver between workstations.

During the construction phase, determine whether the doors in your facility will accommodate the size of your equipment; if not, this is the time to make the necessary alterations.

Select the Right Scientific Furniture

Many first-time lab designers think that they will be able to get by with generic, bargain-basement furniture, only to find out that their workbenches quickly become wobbly and fall apart, their casework was not built to accommodate their work, and their seating is not quite as comfortable as it was advertised to be. At OnePointe Solutions, we specialize in designing and manufacturing quality lab furniture custom built to fit your exact specifications.

We carry a huge range of products to help you create a productive, safe, comfortable lab environment that will accommodate all of your equipment, personnel, and storage needs. Our furniture is made right here in the U.S. from high-quality materials for long-lasting high-quality results our customers rely on. Here are some of the many types of lab furniture we offer:

Flexible Lab Casework

Storage and organization are key to the success of any lab, which is why we provide high-quality lab casework to help make the task a little easier. Our team at OnePointe Solutions designs and manufactures metal, stainless steel, wood, and plastic laminate laboratory cabinets designed for easy cleaning, durability, and flexibility.

Our casework is suitable for exposure to harsh chemicals, biological materials, heat, water, and other substances commonly found in a laboratory setting.

Choose from flexible casework options created to accommodate your lab as it grows and changes, and enjoy long-lasting durability from high-quality materials and our SEFA tested designs. We offer free-standing cabinets, drawers and cabinets built into workbenches and tables, and mounted casework for additional verticle storage.

Biosafety Cabinets and Fume Hoods

Protect the air quality of your facility and maintain safe working conditions for laboratory personnel with biosafety cabinets, fume hoods, and fume snorkels. Prevent personnel exposure to toxic fumes and infectious agents, and ensure proper filtration and removal of contaminated air from the lab environment.

If you are developing a plan for a biosafety lab of levels 2, 3, or 4, we can help you plan around those requirements.

Portable fume hoods and fume snorkels offer additional flexibility in a busy lab environment and help to remove toxic fumes in low-risk situations. Biosafety cabinets used for research regarding high-risk biological agents can be used consistently, and allow for safe handling of under-researched or newly discovered viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents.

By connecting directly with your facility’s HVAC system, fume hoods isolate and remove and filter contaminated air before recirculating it through the facility.

Laboratory Workbenches and Tables

Regardless of the type of lab you are designing, lab benches and tables will play an important role. Workbenches provide integral worksurfaces for research, data analysis, testing, and equipment storage, making them one of the single most important pieces of furniture in any lab design.

At OnePointe Solutions, we design durable workbenches and lab tables with tons of optional accessories so our clients can customize as much as they want. Perfect for use in any laboratory setting, our customizable workbenches feature the following surface material options:

Ergonomic Lab Seating

The majority of work done in a lab is performed sitting down, but hours of bending over a microscope or charts can cause serious back pain. Discomfort, pain, and muscle tension as a result of long periods of sitting can reduce workplace morale and productivity, and even impact personnel absenteeism.

At OnePointe Solutions, we offer a diverse line of ergonomic seating options to help create a comfortable, efficient work environment.

We include special features like contoured waterfall cushions, 6-way armrests, and the latest-knowledge in laboratory ergonomics to create comfortable seating that promotes good posture and blood circulation. Choose from ESD, cleanroom, industrial, office, and medical seating in a variety of materials and configurations, or work with us to build a custom lab chair designed to your exact specifications.

Speak to a Lab Designer for Help with Your Project

Need help with the full design of your lab? We offer 100% free drawings and design consultations.

At OnePointe Solutions, we are dedicated to designing and creating custom laboratory environments to help further scientific research and discovery. We are a leading lab design and construction company that specializes in developing efficient floor plans and manufacturing custom scientific furniture.

Our completed projects range from basic classroom laboratories to biosafety level 3+ enhanced labs.

We will fly out to your facility anywhere in the US and work with you to develop a laboratory floor plan with exact furniture specifications and pricing. OnePointe Solutions offers comprehensive lab design services complete with on-site consultations, 3D drawings, advice from experts, and the best industry pricing available.

Avoid complicated timelines, budgeting complications, and the laundry list of management responsibilities by letting the experts at OnePointe Solutions handle the details for you. You can contact us by calling (866) 612-7312 or by filling out a contact form online.

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

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