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Efficient Laboratory Design

By David Driscoll, Director, Parkin Architects Limited

Laboratory design has undergone significant changes in recent years. Major breakthroughs in scientific research, combined with an escalating demand for sophisticated analytical equipment, have created new demands on the laboratory environment. It has become increasingly important to design labs which are functionally efficient and readily adaptable to inevitable changes. Laboratory environments must allow laboratory personnel to work as productively and efficiently as possible. The incorporation of a Lean workflow can only be accommodated if the lab components can be rearranged to allow the improved flow to be realized.

Flexibility, Adaptability and Expandability

The design of open labs, using modular, flexible bench work is the first step in accommodation change. Fixed benches and highly serviced equipment (sinks, freezers, fume hoods etc.) are located along the perimeter walls.  The large central space in the lab is occupied by flexible bench work, which is not fastened to the floor and can be readily reconfigured to adapt to a new function or piece of equipment. Mechanical and electrical services can feed these areas using a “plug and play” system of overhead services designed to allow easy disconnection and reconnection.  Laboratory environments must allow students and researchers to work as productively and efficiently as possible.

Improved Quality of Life

We have found that laboratory users are happier and more productive when labs are designed to be filled with natural light and views to the exterior. It is also beneficial to segregate equipment that is noisy, dusty or generates an abundance of heat in areas near, but outside, the central lab. Labs designed with these principles are pleasant and attractive and contribute to recruitment and retention of the best scientific minds.  Strategically placed, comfortable and collaborative spaces can encourage researchers to interact and share ideas.  This can lead to grant application ideas and may even lead to scientific discoveries.

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