Laboratory expansions are exciting, but they’re also complex. As fantastic as it may be to embrace the promise of increased space and resources, the process must also be viewed from a practical perspective.
How will the expansion impact future workflows? What will happen while the laboratory is being renovated? What features should the updated expansion include, and what should be avoided?
All of these concerns are at the forefront of a designer’s mind.
As experts in scientific laboratory design, OnePointe Solutions knows about the unique challenges of updating a lab. Our team has worked with countless companies and improved an untold number of research spaces.
We’re always looking for new challenges, and we look forward to sharing some of the details of our working princess with you.
What Are the Chief Concerns During a Laboratory Expansion?
Much like laboratory relocations, extensive renovations and expansions are complex feats. There are many moving parts, and everything must fit together perfectly for the result to be worthwhile.
Some of the biggest concerns that designers and contractors will have as they create laboratory expansions are:
- Continued occupation
- Location and layout
Can Laboratories Continue to Operate While Expanding?
One of the most important concerns designers and — in particular — contractors will have to tackle during an expansion is the building’s operational status.
Larger labs can often run uninhibited during a construction project, as materials can be relocated to different locations. However, smaller locations may have to implement safety precautions for staff members.
As construction progresses, lab workers often face power or water outages, unstable HVAC performance, hazardous construction zones, and excessive dust and debris. These dangers are further exacerbated by the highly sensitive nature of scientific research.
Site managers should plan activities accordingly.
Other common ways to address the hazards presented during large construction projects include:
- Additional PPI (i.e., masks and gloves)
- Hard hat use
- High visibility hazard flags or cones
- Movement restrictions
- Proper high-visibility signage
- Rotating space use
Some invasive parts of a construction project — including HVAC rerouting, electrical upgrades, and demolition — may require internal operations to cease entirely. In these situations, site overseers must plan accordingly. Ideally, alternative accommodations can be found. However, if this is impossible, the lab must find proper storage locations for any materials impacted by the temporary shutdown.
Basic Specifications and Layout
The beginning of an expansion’s planning process covers its most basic qualities. Designers will work alongside site managers and workers to determine what is needed. Those needs must then be met in a cost-effective manner.
The best laboratory expansions are future-proofed, meaning they have more than enough space. Though the additional working areas may seem superfluous, they provide laboratories with opportunities for future growth.
Generally, designers aim to meet the needs of a laboratory as it grows over the coming decade. Idealized steady growth projections are frequently used to determine the client’s needs.
Once a space is established and immobile features are placed, designers and site managers should consider the functionality of a laboratory. Needs change over time, and emergent situations may require additional resources.
Multifunctional features like OnePointe Solutions’ FLEX system give workers plenty of stable space to work without limiting the area to a set number of uses. Standard steel tables can be improved with the addition of casters and anti-vibration accessories.
In some laboratories, designers may deem it necessary to use mobile dividers over static dividing walls. Aside from the positive impact this has on a project’s budget, this choice enables an endless number of possibilities for a laboratory’s layout.
Workers should also have clear paths to and from each area.
Isolated expansions may be visually stunning, but they harm a site’s workflow. Scientific research requires a free and steady exchange of information, and inhibiting this flow makes everything more difficult.
The larger a laboratory gets; the more concerned designers will be about the workflow. In most situations, these large research facilities will house multiple departments, and these groups must have quick access to one another.
For example, hospitals will frequently concentrate laboratories in a central location. This gives researchers enough room to work within their individual departments while allowing free access to each department.
Material Storage After a Laboratory Expansion
Regarding the final product, laboratory designers must pay close attention to the preferred storage options. Visually, new casework and countertops in the new expansion should match existing fixtures.
Traditional contractors may require laboratories to dismantle and discard old cabinetry to fit prefabricated factory-made casework. However, at OnePointe Solutions, we fabricate our own casework and countertops, and we can create solutions for every space, shape, and design. These options can be enhanced with functional accessories, such as epoxy drying racks and additional built-in storage.
Future-Proofing Laboratory Storage Solutions
As an ever-evolving field, scientific research requires rotating equipment. More efficient strategies frequently equip old standards, but these solutions require more storage space.
In some situations, current events may impact the way facilities must store materials. While these heightened safety requirements may be for public welfare, they usually lead to a lack of laboratory storage space.
Designers must consider these factors as they work on a laboratory’s design, and expansions should include ample secure storage (i.e., biosafety cabinets and medical casework).
Handling Hazardous Materials
During any laboratory construction project, contracts should be alerted to any hazardous materials in a building. In most commercial and residential buildings, the most concerning material exposures include fiberglass and asbestos. However, laboratories are particularly dangerous.
Site managers will need to mark any hazardous storage areas clearly; ideally, workers should remove these materials before construction begins.
In some situations, old or expired materials may be discovered during the pre-construction cleaning. Workers and site managers are responsible for these materials, and they must work together to dispose of them properly.
Comfort and Furnishings
Equipping workstations with adjustable height surfaces and ergonomic seating can improve the efficiency of a laboratory by allowing workers to sit for longer periods. Seating should also be adjustable to accommodate each worker.
Again, OnePointe Solutions is always happy to work with site owners. Our office furniture is custom-made in-house, and we can fabricate comfortable desks, seating, and front-facing reception furnishings to fit any specifications and style. Functionality can be improved with the addition of any of our many accessories, including monitor mounts, power strips, shelving, and tool balances.
The OnePointe Solutions Experience
At OnePointe Solutions, we take pride in our work. We have always prioritized customer service, hiring only the best construction professionals. When you work with us, you’re guaranteed a smooth and stress-free laboratory expansion.