Laboratory design: Questions you should answer before starting construction

Every organization expects different things from its laboratory – things that have to be identified before the design process gets started. It is a tall order: Laboratories have to effectively support internal workflows, comply with laws and regulations, be cost-effective and readily adapt to future requirements.

Below, you will find answers to the biggest questions that come up when building, converting or modernizing a laboratory building:

  • Build or convert? – How much does a laboratory building cost, and what can I do during the design process to ensure my laboratory is not just cost-effective, but future-proof, too?
  • What laws, regulations, guidelines and safety rules do I have to follow when designing my laboratory?
  • How soon can I start using the laboratory?
  • How do I find the right partner for my laboratory project?

Design for the future

Take special care to future-proof your laboratory, starting with the design process. After all, you want your laboratory to have a long lifecycle and handle all your needs – even ones you may not yet know about.

The project preparation, scoping and requirements clarification phases should relentlessly focus on the following requirements:

  • Functionality
  • Quality
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Cost certainty

Finely honed environmental awareness is also needed, especially in the laboratory environment. Energy efficiency and conservation of resources such as lab supplies play an important role.

Flexible budgeting creates freedom to add extras

In addition to basic laboratory requirements, you should carefully consider ways to structure the lab environment to encourage even better collaboration among everyone who works there.

Work environments are generally shifting to open-plan architectures that give workers opportunities not only to share ideas that inspire and energize one another but also to unwind and socialize.

Open plans have proven their worth in the laboratory environment, too – from multi-user labs to working floors with sprawling laboratory access areas that support all types of laboratory use. Flexible partition walls and overhead service carriers allow rapid room rearrangements; special work and equipment rooms help to clearly structure work areas.

When designing your laboratory, aim for clearly zoned laboratory space with an open-plan core, multi-user laboratories and separate special work areas.

“A professional, user-centric scoping and requirements clarification process is essential for the success of the construction project. A building’s functionality, efficiency and long-term performance can only be considered ‘needs-driven’ if the design process starts with the users.”

Laboratory design is a complex process that works best when you bring in an experienced partner – one who can steer you clear of common mistakes from the start:

  • Failure to take the steps needed to conform to the building code or regulations on building safety, hazard assessments, occupational health and safety or hazardous substance handling
  • Failure to take the steps needed to avoid expensive downtime due to insufficient redundancies or inadequate maintenance schedules
  • Excessive demands on air-conditioning in laboratory buildings and laboratories drive up air-handling equipment costs and energy consumption unnecessarily
  • Rooms too spacious or cramped
  • Mistakes in room program design

Standardized design process, customized solutions

The basic approach stays the same whether you are building, converting or modernizing a laboratory:

The laboratory design process itself, however, is highly variable. To be successful, it is important to witness laboratory processes in person, identify what steps and actions they entail and find ways to optimize them further. Without this kind of personal workflow assessment, it is impossible to design rooms that not only support efficient, ergonomically friendly teamwork but are versatile enough to accommodate many different usage scenarios.

It is also crucial to involve employees in this process. If you want to know what laboratory planning workshops can achieve here, just read our lab story .

The Infraserv strategy: build for the future, drive budget certainty, cut long-run costs

Laboratory execution is a complex endeavor best left to specialists in order to minimize costs, time and construction defects. Organizations who lack the requisite knowledge and experience often struggle to realistically assess the cost and effort involved in designing and building a laboratory.

Our first step: We sit down with you to determine what services your laboratory requires. What do you really need, and what is just nice to have? We then work out your available budget and set the completion and commissioning dates.

“Budget certainty should have the highest priority, but that doesn’t mean a design can’t be cutting-edge. The laboratory is designed and built for the customer’s current needs.”

Don't forget the hazard assessment!

Hazard assessments identify the potential risks to which laboratory workers are exposed in the course of their jobs. They are a key component of the laboratory design process and aim to protect employees from hazards, ensure equipment is fail-safe and avoid cross-contamination from the start.

Infraserv experts perform hazard assessments for our customers and ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations during and after the design phase.

Infraserv sees laboratories through a customer’s eyes

At Infraserv, the laboratory design, construction/conversion and operation process always goes through a standardized cycle:

Based on this general framework, Infraserv develops and executes a highly customized laboratory solution for every customer – one that addresses their current needs but remains future-proof and ready to respond to new requirements.

We begin by holding highly focused workshops with the customer to identify all the customer’s and users’ requirements. The resulting profile is systematized and documented. We also consider all laws, regulations and safety rules that apply to laboratories. All this information goes into developing a program of requirements.

For Infraserv, integrated design means holistically capturing and deeply understanding the various requirements that laboratory buildings have to meet in academia, research and industry. That is why we try to immerse ourselves in our customers’ day-to-day operations and fully understand their operational processes before we even start the design process.

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