Tag Archives: Lab Design

Why Modular Lab Design Concepts Make Sense for Any Lab

Trends come and go—and it can be beneficial to understand the reasons behind the rise and fall of new ideas.

One of the hottest new developments is modularity. This trend began with government requests for modular lab units that could be easily packed up and shipped to new locations as needs changed.

While you might not need to pack up your lab for delivery to the newest natural disaster or environmental testing site, many of the principles behind this trend can be useful for our own lab design, especially for the purposes of renovation or expansion.

Modular Lab Design: Adapting to Changing Demands

One reason to embrace the concepts behind modular lab design is that they facilitate adaptability. Equipment, task, and mission changes occur frequently, and a modular approach to lab design allows managers to more easily and efficiently adapt to those changing demands.

Also, with a modular approach, renovations can more easily replace outdated facilities and equipment. Localizing vacuum systems, installing ductless fume hoods, and upgrading to movable dedicated lab furniture all contribute to a lab design that’s easier to modify as needs change.

Dedicated Lab Furniture Designed for Safety

With the right dedicated lab furniture, your modular approach to lab design provides additional benefits. Lab safety, for instance, is always a key consideration. Every module must connect with the next in a pattern that allows for free and easy movement between portions of the lab—and out the doors in the case of an accident.

Our IonBenches come on caster wheels so that they can be easily moved around the lab, even with heavy, expensive mass spectrometry equipment installed on top. Well-placed dedicated lab furniture also ensures that technicians don’t bump into each other at critical moments due to awkwardly positioned or inferior furniture.

The Flexibility of Modular Design

Beyond addressing lab safety concerns, lab furniture should also be specifically designed to meet the dynamic, changing needs of busy labs. In the same way that modular configurations accommodate the particular needs of specific researchers or projects, our IonBenches can be quickly moved to address new parameters or requirements. Plus, our custom additions provide additional storage drawers and specialized hardware for mounting computers and other instruments.

Choose the Right Partner for Your Project

Whether you are creating a modular lab design from scratch or looking to refresh an aging lab to meet present-day demands, finding the right information can be a challenge. Often, a simple online comparison won’t allow you to sufficiently determine the best fit between your particular lab design needs and the lab furniture available.

That’s why you should contact our expert, Tim Hawkins. He specializes in understanding the needs of modern labs, including the trend toward modular lab designs, and can help you with dedicated lab furniture that will meet your needs now and, in the years—and lab design changes—ahead. Contact Tim at tim.hawkins@farhawk.com or 888-669-1233 today to discuss your specific requirements.

Mass Spec Lab Design Trends: Supporting a Collaborative Workplace

07Proper lab design can be critical for successful research. Over the years, many mass spec lab design trends have come and gone.

It’s why we think it’s important to stay up on the latest trends unfolding in the field—and it also gives us the opportunity to mention how well our dedicated lab furniture can fit into labs designed using the latest ideas.

Collaboration Is Key

These days, there’s a definite move toward more collaboration. Historically, facilities tended toward a siloed type of mass spec lab design. Today, however, “open labs” are increasingly the trend.

They allow for team-based work, problem-solving, and a more social approach to lab culture. One reason for this trend is that many millennials have been taught to approach problem-solving as a team, bouncing ideas off each other. Open labs help support this methodology.

Retaining Some Closed Mass Spec Lab Design Options

While the open lab is helpful in many cases, there are other situations when closed labs are more practical and efficient. For example, when large amounts of equipment dominate, such as in many mass spec labs, it can be more cost efficient to opt for a traditional “closed” lab design, surrounded by open spaces that allow for shared use of the equipment.

Some procedures, such as glass washing, tissue culturing, and dark room work, are also better suited to closed labs. Quiet, enclosed spaces tend to be more efficient for data analysis and report writing as well.

Addressing Energy Demand

Another trend being addressed by the latest types of lab designs are “green” or environmental concerns. Research labs typically use a good deal of resources, consuming as much as five times more energy and water than say a teaching space.

As a result, implementing environmentally sustainable designs and gaining LEED certification can be especially beneficial, potentially saving money in utility and operations costs.

Flexibility Remains Important

For years, we’ve been talking about the importance of flexibility in lab design. In fact, adaptability seems to be an ever-more-valuable aspect of mass spec lab design. Whether it’s due to the growth of interdisciplinary sciences or a desired decrease in long-term renovation costs (and lab downtime), designing a mass spec lab space that can be easily reconfigured is a key component for success.

One innovation that serves this type of flexibility is the overhead service carrier. By supplying everything from air and gas to localized exhaust and power, overhead carriers allow for lab benches to be reconfigured easily while still connecting to critical components. Power trunks can also be installed in each service carrier, allowing a mass spectrometer to be placed anywhere within a particular lab space.

Lab benches such as our IonBench MS are key players in this trend toward flexibility. When mass spectrometers are placed in open lab environments, it’s critical to keep them quiet. Our roughing pump enclosures reduce noise by 75 percent, enabling collaborative conversations to more easily take place. In addition, our solidly built, lockable casters make moving massive equipment a much easier and safer prospect.

To learn more about how our IonBenches can support integration of the latest modern lab design trends, contact us today.

 

Ventilation Safety Recommendations for Your Lab Design

FanGood laboratory design is not just about efficient workstation layouts, component placements, and emergency exits. Dedicated lab furniture, storage units, and other components must be carefully and mindfully placed to avoid tripping hazards and other lab safety issues.

But that’s not all. Ventilation is a key lab safety factor that must be considered also in any lab design. Every lab must include the ability to safely remove contaminated air and circulate sufficiently cooled or heated air to prevent unwanted spontaneous reactions or overheated equipment.

Here are some considerations for incorporating safety cabinets, fume hoods, and canopy hoods into your new lab design or renovation project.

Biological Safety Cabinets

A biological containment system is only effective if airflow around the cabinet remains within spec during use. Thus, every biological safety cabinet must be installed and tested appropriately to ascertain sufficient airflow. OSHA states that biological safety cabinets must be certified each year—but also every time they are moved.

This means that if your renovated lab design entails rearranging equipment, you will need to be certain there is sufficient airflow in the new location, and also have the cabinet re-tested after the new setup is complete.

Unlike mass spectrometers, which can easily be moved around the lab on dedicated lab furniture with casters, your biological safety cabinet needs to remain where it is installed. Otherwise, it will need to be recertified every time a move occurs.

Chemical Fume Hoods

Fume hoods provide the primary control for protecting lab techs who work with flammable or toxic chemicals. This means that they hold a primary place in any lab safety process. As with biological safety cabinets, OSHA requires that chemical fume hoods provide sufficient airflow throughout any lab procedure.

When creating any new lab design, care must be taken to ensure that nothing will block the airflow through the baffles or baffle exhaust slots. Sufficient safe storage for all chemicals must also be located nearby, so that technicians are not tempted to store chemicals within the fume hood, which is also against OSHA regulations. Including a backup power generator for each fume hood is also recommended to prevent accidental loss of airflow during any power failure.

Canopy Hoods

It is important for any lab designer to remember the difference between fume hoods and canopy hoods. Canopy hoods are only intended to vent heat in general, or for specific processes, such as autoclaves.

While industrial-level ventilation may not be necessary, canopy hoods must still vent air outside the lab workspace, and preferably outside the building completely. Canopy hoods are also not meant to be used for personal workstations, so an adequate lab design must allow for this.

Lab Safety Knowhow for You

To learn more about the ventilation and electrical needs of today’s working labs, or to find out how dedicated lab furniture—including our customizable lab benches for mass spectrometry—can increase the safety and efficiency of your lab, reach out to talk with us today.

 

Incorporating Storage Safety Recommendations into Your Lab Design

StorageWhile every lab is different, labs in general have a number of common elements that factor into safety. Every laboratory design must incorporate assessments of the procedures expected to take place, the lab safety of the researchers and technicians conducting those procedures, and the types and volumes of hazardous materials they will be using.

But you don’t just need to consider lab technicians’ safety as they’re working with hazardous materials—you also need to plan in the lab design stage for how they’ll safely store those materials when they’re not working with them.

Secure Shelving Requirements

Some storage requirements are fairly straightforward. When storing any chemicals or other hazardous materials on open shelving, it’s important to purchase dedicated lab furniture shelving that includes edge guards.

These edge guards should measure between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch in height and should run around all four sides of the shelf. Whether the shelf units are out in the open for easy access or tucked away in a well-ventilated storage closet, the edge guards should prevent any containers from spilling onto other hazardous materials or nearby equipment or personnel.

Corralling Corrosive and Flammable Materials with Dedicated Lab Furniture

When it comes to hazardous liquids, specialized storage cabinets are required, and you must integrate space for them into your lab design. The National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories have approved certain types of dedicated lab furniture for both flammable and corrosive liquids. Specially designed storage cabinets must be resistant to fire and corrosion, and acids must be stored separately from bases.

Cylinders holding compressed gas must be securely attached to a stable structure, using non-combustible metal chains or similar materials. You should avoid anything that could burn in a fire, such as cloth or leather straps. This is why it’s critical to understand exactly what types of procedures will take place in research labs and incorporate sufficient cabinets and supportive storage spaces and anchors into each new lab design.

Implementing Signage in Your Lab Design

Along with using appropriate dedicated lab furniture for safe storage, each shelf unit or cabinet will need to be labeled with the correct signage. All cabinets that will hold flammable liquids must have a sign saying FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS. Cabinets or shelving that will hold acids must have an ACIDS sign. Cabinets containing alkaline liquids must be labeled BASES or ALKALIS. Finally, all strong oxidizers must be identified with a sign saying OXIDIZERS.

There is more to these signage requirements than a simple organizational strategy. Separating hazardous materials lessens the likelihood of accidental, and potentially dangerous, chemical reactions. The signs also provide tired lab assistants with an additional visual reminder not to store hazardous materials in the wrong place.

Increase the Safety of Your Lab

Naturally, we are strong advocates for using the right types of dedicated lab furniture in every laboratory design. Whether you’re planning space for hazardous materials cabinets or mobile mass spectrometry lab benches, using specially designed and dedicated lab furniture will always contribute to increased lab safety. To learn more about the advantages of our space-saving, movable mass spectrometry or HPLC benches, contact us today.

 

 

Lab Design Tips that will Save You Energy and Money

HVACWhether you’re retrofitting an existing lab or constructing a new laboratory building, there are a number of elements which must be considered in every laboratory design project. One of these is how much energy the lab will consume, and what can be done to keep costs down without jeopardizing the work being done. Here are some energy-saving lab design tips that can impact the bottom line while allowing any lab to perform perfectly.

Getting a Lab Design Handle on HVAC

By far the most expensive energy guzzler in most labs is the HVAC system. In any lab design, the heating/ventilation/air conditioning system must provide comfortable, clean air to every room in the building at all times. This can mean completely changing out all the air in the entire facility as much as twelve times per hour—as opposed to the standard four times per hour of a more typical office building.

Naturally, doing this takes a lot of energy, but there are ways to decrease the cost. Most lab HVAC systems can be programmed for different volumes at different times, so if your lab doesn’t operate on a 24/7 schedule, you can decrease the air cycling rates when the building is unoccupied. More sophisticated HVAC systems can also perform real-time air quality testing, which allows the system’s computer to increase rates when air contaminants are present and decrease them when the air is testing clean.

Preventing all that Conditioned Air from Escaping

Another energy culprit in many labs is the fume hood. Because this piece of dedicated lab equipment vents air to the outdoors, it also whisks away that carefully cleaned and cooled (or heated) air from the HVAC system. Fume hoods themselves also take energy to operate—as much as three residential home energy systems, in fact. You can therefore save energy on both your HVAC system and your fume hood by training lab workers to always close the sash when the fume hood is not in use.

Factoring in the Human Element

As noted above, tackling energy savings is often related to addressing the attitudes and practices of lab technicians. For example, you can save up to thirty percent on the energy bill for your ultra-low temperature freezer by upping the thermostat by just ten degrees, but you may first have to address your researchers’ fears of sample damage. Teaching techs to use task lighting, and to turn out the lights at the end of the day, may seem insignificant, but it can reap major rewards when the energy bill arrives each month.

It’s also true that you often have to invest in your energy savings up-front, during the laboratory design process. When considering the cost of a lab design or retrofit, you may need to advocate for a more expensive, air-monitoring HVAC system in order to save energy costs in the long run. You should also invest in dedicated lab furniture that fully supports your lab equipment and allows it to run most efficiently. Our MS lab benches filter out vacuum pump noise, making for a quieter and safer lab, take up thirty percent less space and can even help with your HVAC costs in your new lab design. To learn more about integrating our dedicated lab furniture into your new laboratory design, contact us for a free quote today.

 

 

Lab Design with Soundproofing in Mind

Sometimes lab QuietBench_Shh1design and lab safety go hand in hand. This is especially true with noise. While dedicated lab furniture contributes to noise reduction, as we talk about often, so can lab design when it comes to soundproofing.

After all, it can be just as difficult to focus on your experiments when you’re able to hear instrument noises and voices from an adjoining lab coming through the walls, as it is if the sound is emanating from an unenclosed vacuum pump beneath the mass spectrometer you are using. As we often point out, it is critical to create a quiet lab environment for safety and the sake of the work being conducted.

Understanding Wall Design and Soundproofing

Many people think that insulation is the only variable that matters when it comes to soundproofing a wall. This is not the case, however. To understand why, we need to remember two basic physics lessons.

The first is that sound travels more easily through connected materials (aka “structural paths”) than it does through empty space. This matters because conventional or “standard” walls are constructed by nailing drywall to either side of a single row of studs. As a result, sound travels from the drywall on one side, through the stud, and out through the drywall on the other side—thus easily transmitting sound through the wall, from one room to another.

The second physics lesson tells us that the empty spaces between sections of drywall and the spaces between studs also transmit sound—although not as much as a structural path. This is why many lab designs incorporate insulation into those empty spaces between the walls. But insulation is usually insufficient because it’s just filling in the holes between the structural paths, which remain in place.

Laboratory Design with Soundproofing in Mind

A common solution in the past has been to add more insulation, creating thicker walls but not solving the problem because the structural paths remain, transmitting sound between rooms.

One of the newer solutions to come along in lab design is the idea of a staggered-stud or decoupled wall. In this case, two sets of studs are offset, and drywall is only nailed to one side of each stud. This allows for a continuous band of insulation to be woven between the studs within the wall. Since there is no structural path all the way through the wall, this approach provides a demonstrable positive effect in reducing noise transmission between different labs.

Not All Sound Travels the Same

Unfortunately, not all frequencies of sound are equally baffled by these methods. Insulation, for example, has a more positive effect reducing middle- and high-frequency sounds, but less of an effect on low-frequency sounds. As a result, additional barriers to sound should be incorporated into your laboratory design—like our MS Bench.

With its integrated vacuum pump enclosure, this dedicated lab furniture provides a 75 percent reduction in noise, with a guaranteed sound suppression of 15 dBA. By integrating our benches for mass spectrometers into your new lab design, you will create an additional sound barrier. Coupled with the insulation of modern staggered-stud walls, our dedicated lab furniture ensures that your new lab is as quiet as possible, with no sound carryover from mass spectrometry research taking place in adjacent rooms.

New lab design should always incorporate the results of proven research, whether it involves structural advancements, instrumental improvements, software or even furnishings. Dedicated lab furniture is worth the investment in a quieter lab; request a quote today to learn more.

 

Keeping Tabs on Trends in Laboratory Design

QuietBench DesignDesigning a new lab is an exciting adventure. Innovation is a constant in modern labs, so lab design must keep pace. Whether you’re constructing a new laboratory from scratch or transforming existing facilities, your design must take many things into account, from work styles and collaboration to building security, safety, and even the furniture used by different researchers.

Here are some of the latest trends in new laboratory design projects.

Getting Together

Long gone are the days when investigators labored away in solitude. Today, collaboration is the name of the game. This means you need to create “social buildings” that foster connection, with meeting spaces and break rooms where researchers can socialize.

While this once might have been a foreign concept—perhaps even anathema to managers who were afraid that researchers would not get as much work done—today we understand that successful scientists need to learn from what others are doing. Even a pair of window seats in an atrium can provide just the place for bouncing ideas off of each other.

Collaborating over research also means creating labs that allow entire teams to work together. For lab design professionals, interdisciplinary research units require attention to new kinds of concepts, including flow and circulation patterns of researchers. Offering group-based offices and write-up spaces also provides enhanced opportunities for the team to move forward.

Another way researchers are getting together is through “open” rather than “closed” laboratory layouts. This means creating a laboratory design that allows researchers to share dedicated lab furniture, equipment, and support staff, as well as space. When offices are moved over to one side, meetings can take place while others are working in the lab space itself. While not every type of research—or researcher—can handle such an open-concept workspace, most lab designs are no longer created around the constellation of a single principle investigator.

Preparing for Change

Of course, all this innovation and collaboration can result in a higher rate of change, which means laboratory design must be more flexible than ever. Whether the goal is easy expansion, being able to accommodate new equipment, or efficiently changing configurations in order to accomplish new tasks, labs are increasingly being designed for maximum adaptability.

As a result, they tend to be more generic, with flexible engineering systems (to address evolving safety issues), equipment zones that can be modified during the build-out phase (to keep pace with change in a typical three-year building process), and mobile dedicated lab furniture that can easily be transferred from one lab to another.

High-quality bench space is also critical in any lab design, because modern experiments are equipment-intensive. Safely stacking both equipment and supplies requires high ceilings and flexible shelving, while safely operating that equipment requires good lighting and attention to appropriate sprinkler system coverage.

Lab Design with the Computer in Mind

The pace of change in modern labs is due in large part to the exponential growth in computer usage. Thus any laboratory design must incorporate the use of technology. Building-wide wiring and cabling provide for collaboration, but must also retain sufficient flexibility to allow for configuration changes within individual labs. Virtual labs are also becoming more common. Whether you’re using telerobotics or virtual reality, modern lab design must be prepared to accommodate those evolving needs.

Within individual labs, specialized benches and workstations must maintain ergonomic standards even as they also support heavy and technologically sophisticated equipment. Dedicated lab benches such as ours include lockable hardware enclosures, monitor arms, and keyboard drawers to accommodate the technological needs of the modern lab.

Integrating Dedicated Lab Furniture into Your New Lab Design

Naturally, we’re keeping an eye on these lab design trends, because our goal is to create lab benches that will meet the need of any modern laboratory design now and in the future. And because IonBench lab benches reduce lab mass spectrometry noise, they also foster better communication and collaboration within the lab. To find out how our dedicated lab furniture can meet your lab’s needs, contact us today.

Time to Revisit Your Lab Design? Include Dedicated Lab Furniture in the Solution

Dedicated Lab FurnitureThe concept of “continuous improvement” can be a tricky one for many lab managers and lead researchers. While a regular review of workplace processes is always a good idea, sometimes it can seem as if all your time is being spent in review processes of one type or another, instead of research.

On the other hand, the research lab is a dynamic and constantly changing environment, and sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to the impact one lab design change can have on other existing processes and protocols.

This is why it’s a good idea to regularly review your lab—everything from staffing levels to the suitability of your dedicated lab furniture—in order to make sure it is operating at peak efficiency. The case study below illustrates how taking the time for such assessments can benefit a lab’s ongoing effectiveness.

Lab Design Case Study: Holy Spirit Health System

The growing Holy Spirit Health System in Pennsylvania thought it had an issue with insufficient staffing levels. This was exacerbated by the fact that skilled lab professionals were difficult to find, which left Holy Spirit short-handed. Workflow problems were surfacing, along with issues in turnaround times, training, and competency. Fortunately, they decided to address the efficiency issues first, using the popular LEAN program to help assess the situation and come up with optimal solutions.

What they found was surprising. By addressing inefficiencies in lab design, maximizing resources, and utilizing automation, they were able to address the workflow issues and improve turnaround times without the need to hire any additional staff. While leadership had assumed there were inefficiencies in the system, they’d been too close to the day-to-day operations to be able to see the lab design shortcomings for themselves.

By simply redesigning the lab to address workflow issues and bringing in one additional machine to automate a common process, Holy Spirit’s hospital labs improved time from order to collection and decreased the rate of repeat blood draws, which improved customer satisfaction.

Is Your Lab Ready for Change?

The Holy Spirit Hospital labs are not alone in seeking to improve efficiency. Many research labs around the country are embracing redesigns in an effort to get the most out of existing resources without increasing costs. Some are even fortunate enough to be planning a new lab design from scratch.

Regardless of where you are in the process, it’s critical to evaluate every aspect of your lab. Not just staffing, but also each piece of equipment you use and the dedicated lab furniture supporting it. Using the right furniture will improve efficiency by making access easier, reducing noise, and protecting equipment, as well as eliminating the mistakes that frustrate staff and decrease customer satisfaction.

So if you’re ready to do more with less, practice some of that continuous improvement by taking a good look at your lab and its processes. Whether you can do that yourself or wish to call in some professionals to assist you, the results will be worth the time and effort. A fresh viewpoint from consultants who have seen other lab design scenarios can be helpful in understanding how your workflow is getting bottled up and your turnaround times are stalling.

To learn more about what to consider when assessing dedicated lab furniture in your continuous improvement review, contact us today.