Configuring your laboratory environment with the right lab furniture and lab benches is a multifaceted challenge. Not only is it an important part of the research process that combines elements of office space and research lab, but it must also be implemented in a way that encourages efficient scientific work.
Though there are many differing viewpoints and questions about how to make the best use of research facilities, there are some unchangeable facts that everyone can agree on.
Having an optimal lab design is critical to any lab workspace, and even the tiniest laboratory design flaw can result in delays and an increase in mistakes and accidents, so it’s critical that a science laboratory be set up to the highest of standards.
Continue reading below to learn more about how to choose the right laboratory furniture for your science laboratory and how LabTech Supply Company, Inc. can ensure you are maximizing the most out of your facilities.
What Should You Consider When Designing Your Lab?
Laboratories all over the world provide the high-tech environments that researchers need to develop groundbreaking advancements and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.
Extensive planning, collaboration, and coordination between the laboratory design team and all impacted stakeholders are required for successful laboratories and successful design solutions.
Even the tiniest detail can have a detrimental impact on laboratory function and safety/biosafety if done poorly, so it’s vital to get these places just right for the workers who use them.
Continue reading below to learn more about several considerations you should keep in mind when designing your spaces.
Pre-Plan with Scientists
Laboratory design necessitates a lengthy period of pre-planning. Brainstorming with those who will be using the facilities is critical, as the lab can be tailored to the needs of the research, and extraneous elements can be quickly identified.
This is a much talked about topic in laboratory design since it is vital to involve all stakeholders early and regularly in the laboratory design process, but it can also pose a variety of obstacles. Collaboration with workers provides designers with a level of precision that is particularly useful in the case of unique or unusual scientific research.
This group could include a lot of people with a lot of different perspectives, but bringing those perspectives together creates an invaluable foundation.
Failure to include a diverse stakeholder group at the start of the project and early in the laboratory design process will almost certainly result in a cascade of future issues affecting laboratory design, construction, and long-term lab use.
Most significantly, kicking off the project with an all-inclusive kick-off meeting develops a shared vision for the project, which can then be utilized to assure consistent execution throughout the laboratory design phases.
This may seem obvious, but entering a lab where wall-mounted piping interferes with shelving or electrical devices conflict with casework is all it takes to see the negative impact of poor coordination.
These conflicts cause headaches for contractors and future maintenance personnel, as well as a negative impact on the lab’s appearance. The lab planner, architect, and engineers must collaborate and thoroughly back-check drawings in order to create well-coordinated drawings.
Location, Layout, and Access
The location and lab layout should also be considered when planning its design.
Lab layout is influenced by factors such as ease of maintenance, equipment accessibility, HVAC requirements, and ergonomic furniture. To improve access and workflow, benches for write-ups, admin work, and sample preparation should be placed around perimeter walls. Lab bench height and depth should also be considered during preparation to account for the ergonomic use of instruments.
Consider the lab’s flexibility, as well. Once everything is in place, changing things can be difficult, but these issues can be avoided if you account for preparation and build flexibility into your lab from the start.
Although it may appear that sizing the lab to meet user needs is a given, a visit to a lab facility will often reveal that this is not the case. Not having adequate bench and equipment storage space or facilities, inflexibility or limited growth, and limited lab functionality can all result from a failure to properly size the lab to meet user needs.
This problem frequently manifests itself in lab spillover into unwelcome areas such as corridors and common areas, posing a variety of safety/biosafety risks. The laboratory design team may scale the lab suitably by establishing the number and kind of lab users, identifying any existing lab equipment, and estimating the size of floor-mounted tools to be installed.
The laboratory design team can coordinate effective, efficient use of space through diagrams, plans, and workflows, safely maximizing opportunities for shared facilities and collaboration between scientists.
How Adaptable Should it Be?
Though we talked about using scientists’ insights to fine-tune the process, research methods and practices will evolve over time. Because of the aforementioned flexibility and adaptability, your lab will be prepared for things that researchers may not need right now but may face in the future.
Even if these future implications aren’t considered, a flexible environment is essential because two or more researchers may be performing different tasks or have different needs for a comfortable working environment. Laboratory design should be easy to reconfigure in order for it to remain flexible.
Workbenches and equipment stations can be rearranged to meet the needs of a new project without the need to hire additional staff. Arrangements that reduce the researcher’s physical strain, as well as plenty of natural lighting, can significantly improve the researcher’s performance.
Identifying necessary control areas early in the laboratory design procedure allows lab planners and architects to create a natural building design that features desirable aesthetics while also meeting all code and safety/biosafety requirements. Lab planners and architects can produce a building design that has desirable aesthetics thanks to emerging design trends aimed at transparency and determining critical control areas early in the design procedure.
Failure to recognize the presence of flammable, combustible, explosive, and potentially hazardous chemicals early on can result in code violations, egress and exit issues, HVAC duct routing issues, and a lack of adequate chemical storage rooms.
Pliable casings can provide the ultimate laboratory benefit in an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing world, especially in environments where a project changes frequently. However, because pliable casework costs 20 to 35 percent more than fixed casework, the lab planner must conduct due diligence in guiding the client through a discussion of their specific needs and plans for lab facilities to determine if the investment in pliable casework is the best option.
Additionally, involve health officials in the early schematic lab design phase to determine these control areas, identify the types and maximum quantities of hazardous chemicals that will be present. Use these totals per lab to establish area grouping that helps the overall building and lab design and generate control areas that allow for future changes in lab use and/or a potential expansion in the number of people working in the lab.
Safety is Integral
It’s critical to have safety features on hand when designing your lab. This allows researchers to concentrate on their tasks rather than being overly concerned about emergencies and accidents in a well-designed lab.
Ventilation systems should be tailored to the activities of researchers to allow them to perform their tasks to the best of their abilities, knowing that the proper precautions have been taken. Additionally, biosafety cabinets, fire protection, emergency showers/eyewash stations, and clearly marked emergency exits should all be easily accessible.
Planning for appropriate and adequate storage is critical in any lab setting with heavy chemistry and chemical experiments to avoid potential safety hazards and code violations. Designers can identify the type of chemical and gas that require storage and determine the types of storage that are required by working with health officials early in the laboratory design procedure and collaborating with lab users and managers.
Lab planners must collaborate closely with the team’s mechanical engineers to ensure that the fume hood and HVAC monitoring systems are in sync for lab safety, containment, and pressurization.
This collaboration ensures that proper air change rates are met based on facility and lab needs, as well as lab pressurization and fume hood containment. This effort also supports a safe, effective lab environment and facility by removing the potential for inappropriate, dangerous storage on bench tops or inside the fume hood.
How to Design and Plan a Compact Laboratory Efficiently
Efficiency and accuracy will always be the primary goals for laboratories of any size. However, how can you overcome the ostensible challenge of restricted size if you’re looking to downsize or working in a laboratory with limited square footage?
The goal of compact lab design is to create a workspace that can comfortably accommodate employees and tools of any size by emphasizing workspace optimization and encouraging collaboration between designers and lab managers. In fact, compact lab design principles can be applied to labs of any size, not just those that are already small.
Let’s look at several principles of compact laboratories in greater depth, as well as how you can use them to plan and design your workspace to create a more efficient lab environment.
Choosing the Correct Storage for Your Laboratory
By keeping lab items out of the way but keeping them close at hand, well-designed storing units can make a lab more efficient.
Remember to think about storing options when using mobile carts and workstations. Cabinet and overhead shelving can be added to these. Include under cabinet lighting for safe and efficient workspaces on the counters below any overhead cabinets, as well as pass-through cabinets that allow tools to be accessed from either side of the island counter.
High, wall-mounted cabinets can help you save space on the counter and on the floor. Permanent storing options include wall-mounted casings and under-counter cabinets.
Other examples of compact lab design ideas in action include lab benches and lab tables with customized equipment enclosures. Such a principle eliminates the need for secondary storage by housing tools directly within or on workstations, keeping frequently-used tools within reach without taking up space.
Furthermore, analytical instruments can also be stored in specially designed carts or within the built-in enclosures of benches designed for pumps, waste, and computation.
How to Choose the Right Lab Furniture
Examining each area of your proposed lab design to see if one, two, or even three functions could be combined is one useful approach.
Consider the benefits of moving sensitive tools into place with mobile carts and then returning them to designated storage areas when they’re not being used. Remember that if you request specialized storage that is built to accommodate the specific proportions of your equipment, you’ll be able to cram more into a little space.
Important Considerations For Laboratories
Modular furniture saves space by adhering to the room’s limits or by being created with extra housing for equipment, tools, personal things, and more. This type of furniture is also designed to be flexible enough to accommodate multiple types of work, configurations, and add-on accessories and features.
While rigidity limits standard furniture options, modular furniture can be reconfigured to accommodate changes in research, equipment, and machinery. This also makes it easier for lab facilities and staff to transition from one job to the next, reducing clutter by including additional storage and organizational features.
In a lab setting, there are numerous options for mobile and pliable furniture. The choice between permanent fixtures and pliable options should be based on the lab’s designation.
Mobile workstations and custom storage can help staff customize the most efficient workspace if the lab is used for various processes at different times. Fixed casings and cabinets provide the most stability and weight-bearing capacity for larger, heavier tools.
To accommodate for various items required for each task, it is best to have flexible storage options with a combination of custom drawers and cupboards. For maximum efficiency, you must be able to keep frequently used items close at hand.
Mobile stations can also be configured with upright support to hold shelving or wall cabinets, depending on the process. Having a few mobile stations in your lab allows you to overlap processes and save counter space, so be sure to examine all of the options for mobile carts and workstations, as they can be extremely useful in most labs.
Guide to Electrical Safety in the Lab
The electricity required by laboratories isn’t in short supply, whether it’s in specialized devices like autoclaves and centrifuges or everyday tools like computers and light fixtures. Because it’s used in so many different things, it’s easy for it to become a hazard if the tools are damaged or misused.
If left unattended, faulty tools, overloaded circuits, and other dangerous electrical conditions pose a serious safety risk and can result in accidents and injuries. Understanding the dangers of such threats and how your staff can protect themselves is critical to ensuring your laboratory is free of electrical hazards.
Let’s take a quick look at electrical safety in the lab in more detail so that you and your workers can stay safe and compliant while performing their duties.
Electricity can pose the following risks in a laboratory setting:
- Electric shock
- Cuts and lacerations
Using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is perhaps the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and those around you when working on electrical systems. There are many types of PPE designed to keep you safe from electrical hazards, so make sure you’re using it safely.
If your lab has any high-voltage electrical systems, always use a standard operating procedure (SOP), as well as a lockout/procedure. The term “lockout” refers to the installation of a physical lock or block on circuit breakers and switches in order to prevent tools and machinery from starting up unexpectedly, and ensures that other employees don’t remove the lock by accident.
When it comes to electricity, don’t cut corners in the name of efficiency. Even the tiniest time-saver can pose a risk.
To avoid potential dangers, your lab should have a set of procedures and best practices for working on any type of electrical system. Ensuring that everyone adheres to the standards you establish can help to reduce the risk of electrical injuries and fatalities.
Contact LabTech Supply Company, Inc. for the Best Furniture for Your Laboratory
If you need assistance in choosing the best furniture for your laboratory, LabTech Supply Company, Inc. is happy to assist you in creating the ideal working environment. Regardless of how you intend to use your laboratory, we can help.
For more than 30 years, LabTech Supply Company, Inc. has provided customers with a wide range of lab tables and lab benches for all types of laboratory work environments. All of our laboratory furniture and equipment is assembled in the United States to ensure that our customers receive only the best laboratory equipment that fits their budget and meets all industry standards.
We want to help you create the most efficient laboratory possible with high-quality laboratory furniture at an affordable price. To learn more about the wide range of lab tables and lab benches available and how they can help you get the most use out of your lab workspace, contact LabTech Supply Company, Inc. today.