Design & Consultancy
The use of chemicals and other potentially hazardous compounds separates laboratories from other types of building spaces. Protecting the health and safety of laboratory and building occupants must be the primary concern. Comfort and energy-efficiency are also of considerable importance. The space temperature must remain comfortable for occupants while maintaining an appropriate temperature for chemical processes. At the same time, facilities are under pressure to minimize operating costs. Even including the general criterion of safety, not all laboratories are alike. Different laboratories contain different hazard levels and uses. As an extreme example, it would be inappropriate to design a high-containment biological laboratory as if it were a general chemistry laboratory due to the high consequences should a biological laboratory’s containment be breached. A host of criteria, including safety, comfort and energy efficiency, must be considered when a laboratory is planned or renovated in order to determine the optimal design.
Laboratories are designed to maintain the health and well-being of occupants. Potentially hazardous substances used in different laboratories include chemicals, radioactive materials and infectious biological agents. These materials can be manipulated daily as part of experiments, research or production. Safety must remain the primary goal of a laboratory. Complying with those requirements is a primary step in achieving laboratory safety objectives.
Laboratory safety has to be balanced with worker comfort. Comfort primarily is concerned with maintaining appropriate temperatures and air velocities. Worker productivity will suffer if the space is too warm or too cool. Similarly, spaces with high air currents are perceived as drafty and cool. Air currents also impact safety by limiting containment in fume hoods and other protective equipment. Ease of use of the laboratory equipment is also a factor in worker comfort. Laboratories employing highly specialized equipment, like glove boxes, may be safest. However, this equipment carries an ease of use penalty inappropriate for the hazards encountered in most chemical laboratories. Laboratory equipment and layout must allow staff to perform necessary tasks with minimal additional effort.
Laboratories are normally designed as once-through systems, without recirculation. Conditioning, supplying and exhausting the large volumes of air used in laboratories consumes sizeable quantities of energy. Reducing these energy costs has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. Laboratories must be designed so that energy efficiency gains do not reduce safety and comfort.