Lab Renovations: How to Minimize Disruptions and Increase Efficiency

Disruptions in the workplace are always costly, regardless of whether they’re planned for or not. When it’s time to begin lab renovations or relocation, you can pretty much guarantee lost time and efficiency, distracted staff, and increased frustrations.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the effects of those disruptions. Knowing what to look out for—and planning accordingly—can be half the battle.

Involve the Right People

Successful lab renovations depend upon thorough communication. This means involving personnel from all levels of the organization. Senior managers provide broader perspective and an understanding of laboratory goals. Experienced scientists provide a detailed understanding of lab functionality and utilization needs. And middle management brings its unique perspective—plus a careful eye on the budgetary bottom line.

If all levels of personnel aren’t involved, or if they come and go over the course of a long project, important voices can be missed when critical decisions are made.

For example, does your new lab design need to support a siloed or collaborative work environment? Is there mass spectrometry equipment that needs to easily fit through multiple doorways and around corners? Questions like these, and many more, can affect the design and functionality of your remodeled lab and cause problems if they are not appropriately considered.

Document and Verify Existing Lab Structures and Dedicated Lab Furniture

Lab renovations can be tricky in that sometimes assumptions are made, which—absent independent verification—can result in costly mistakes down the road.

Say, for example, that the floor plan for an initial renovation project indicated that lab gas was being piped to each workstation. Designers toured the existing facility but didn’t move the lab furniture to confirm the piping, since all the furniture had been bolted to the floor to increase stability. When the tear-down begins, workers then discover gas canisters behind lab benches and learn from staff that the piping was never installed due to lack of funds.

Such a discovery could result in more complications, and possibly more expenses. What if the new lab layout didn’t allow space for gas canisters behind every workstation, or the new lab furniture had no accommodation for canisters? Certainly the cost to install a new piping system or add an external storage room would contribute to the cost of your lab renovations.

To avoid such problems, gather as much up-front documentation and information as possible. Surveys, 3-D laser scanning, and interviews with informed stakeholders, like on-site facility managers, can provide crucial details that might otherwise be missed.

Also, from a long-range perspective, investing in moveable dedicated lab furniture can be beneficial. The IonBench, for example, with its strong, lockable caster wheels, not only offers more flexibility for varying lab layouts but also makes it easy to move your mass spectrometers and other equipment when planning a new lab configuration.

Upgrade HVAC Systems

Lab renovations are usually precipitated by a change in scope or increase in demand. If the HVAC needs of the upgraded facility are not taken into account, however, efficiency can suffer—possibly on a catastrophic scale, in the case of a systems failure. HVAC upgrades need to address not just the power needs of additional equipment but also the heat mitigation of those instruments.

With change, however, also comes opportunity. Lab renovations can reveal possibilities for collaboration, such as the opportunity for two teams to share a single, infrequently used instrument, thus decreasing its heat generation by a factor of two. And when positioned on moveable lab furniture, that instrument could be rolled easily and safely from one lab to another.

Maintain Operations During Lab Renovations

Inevitably, construction work will cause disruption during a renovation. Careful planning and thorough communication, however, can ensure that renovations are minimally invasive and do not occur during critical phases of particular projects.

Asking questions is key. What would be the impact if water or gas was shut off during the workday? How can the noise and dust of demolition be minimized? What renovations will lead to off-gassing that might affect staff and instrumentation? Can some projects be moved to a secondary location during lab renovations?

Questions like these are helpful, and we have an expert who knows what to ask. Tim Hawkins has the experience to walk you through what needs to be done in advance, helping you customize dedicated lab furniture for your renovation while guiding you along the steps toward a finished lab. Contact him today at 1-888-669-1233 or