Laboratory Furniture Guidance
Laboratories are the heart and soul of any research activity, a prime requirement for innovation.
Science and technology personnel spend a great deal of their working hours in laboratories. Laboratories must be safe, durable, robust and comfortable, as well as inspiring spaces to influence and motivate the workforce.
What transforms an ordinary room into a well-functioning laboratory is the furniture – benching, shelving, seating, storage, sinks and fixtures.
The scientist in me thinks, furniture that can withstand exposure to solvents, chemicals and materials, is fitted to an organisation’s individual research activities and if cheerful, could boost productivity and staff happiness.
Some of our clients come with previous experience of renovating their labs and understand what is needed for their upcoming projects. For others, it is a totally new experience involving some tricky decision making. If, like me, you were never involved in a lab refurbishment project despite working in several laboratories, you might struggle.
Here are some pointers to think about and questions to ask – to yourself, your team, furniture suppliers and contractors.
1. Bench Framework
Will it be fixed, semi-mobile or fully mobile? Or would you be open to invest in the flexible lab system – a fully serviced, modern laboratory environment?
Not sure? Asking a few questions could help.
What are the main drivers of your project? How long do you intend to stay in the proposed space? Will your research focus change? Will the staff numbers fluctuate? Do you have aggressive growth plans? And so on.
Based on your answers a right solution can be found. For example, if you are a fast-growing life sciences company, a fully mobile system could be the best option whereas if you are a well-established analytical services company you might choose a fixed or semi-mobile system.
What type of material do you need?
Worktops must be impervious and resistant to common laboratory solvents, reagents (e.g. acids and bases) and disinfectants. Different surfaces for different research purposes are available but Trespa TopLab or Trespa TopLab Plus are the most commonly used surfaces because of their scratch, chemical and solvent resistance. Stainless steel and cast epoxy resins are commonly used too.
You can choose standard dimensions for bench heights and depths but if you have some specialist equipment or instruments in unusual sizes, bench dimensions can be customised. You may want to go for a size adjustable option for a part of the laboratory.
The standard specifications include:
900-950mm height and 600-800mm depth
If you choose a fully flexible, smart solution then drop-down services, integrated into the ceiling can be provided with options for electrical outlets, data points or gas taps on the service mast. This arrangement allows for easy re-configuration of the layout.
Traditional alternatives are benchtop supply through perimeter trunking or underfloor supply.
5. Seating & Storage
Laboratory seating must be stable and finished in a material which is easy to clean e.g. vinyl or hard plastic.
Various options for laboratory storage can be adopted such as mobile pedestal units on locking casters or fixed supporting units. Shelving over the benches or a mobile consumable storage unit for flexibility. Glass fronted tall storage units or epoxy coated to stainless steel racking. The possibilities are endless.
A basic HVAC unit can be as shown below,
6. Sinks, Safety Stations & Emergency Showers
A range of stainless steel, epoxy and vitreous china sinks are available. Based on your research activities a suitable choice can be made e.g. epoxy sinks in a chemistry lab whereas stainless steel sinks are more suitable for microbiology or medical labs.
Hand wash stations tailored to meet your needs with options for taps, bowls, dispensers and eyewashes with panels easily removable for service access. If you work in a chemistry laboratory or handle toxic materials an emergency shower installation may be required.
The Latest Trends:
The era of dark, dingy laboratories are gone. Upcoming laboratories are bright and colourful spaces. Worktops, storage units or seating can be fitted in a range of colours. These can even be matched to your brand and theme colours.
More and more organisations are going for modular, flexible furniture that can be adapted to the ever-changing research landscape.
Cost implications for mobile furniture?
For furniture suppliers cost differences between different options are not significant. Mobile furniture may appear expensive but can save money in the long term. Due to re-configurability, it can be taken away and re-used when you move. Big companies with storage space can store it away and bring out when research needs change.
In terms of service provision, a different approach might be required for contractors in providing drop down booms, pillars or points. This can be easily addressed by understanding your current and future needs and early engagement with fit-out contractors and furniture suppliers/manufacturers. A good contractor/supplier can offer tailor-made solutions, designed to satisfy the most complex user requirements.
Photo credits and special thanks for guidance goes to our laboratory furniture partner, W E Marson.