Things every life science company should do before building a lab

Author Ivan Smiljanic Read bio
Tags: laboratory life science
Date: September 9, 2020

All building renovations or construction, especially laboratories, involve many obstacles and issues that must be resolved, and many tough decisions have to be made along the way. Even though it is possible to delegate most of these tasks to the design professionals, active participation in resolving these problems and in related decision-making enhances the probability of the superior result being obtained.

Our many years of experience have allowed us to get more familiar with building out laboratories and now we’re able to identify and build lab spaces that are compatible and optimally sized for the science. Here are some of the most helpful advice for life science companies, we learned along the way.

Find the right partners

Finding and partnering with the right contractor, architect, and MEP engineer on a laboratory build is very important. Finding partners that have previously worked on laboratory builds will help with minimizing errors, especially those related to facility regulations and engineering. The ideal situation would be finding partners who have worked together in the past and have proven to be efficient, and are able to drive the planning stage and mitigate design gaps.

Skilled and experienced service professionals will help you avoid wasting precious time and money on things like installing the wrong type of pipes, having casework that interferes with electrical devices or any other functional issues that may impact the laboratory’s efficiency.

Create a detailed equipment list

In order for a laboratory’s spacial and utility planning to be shaped by architects and engineers, they will need a detailed equipment list. This list should include equipment dimensions, gas, HVAC, power requirements, and any other details that cross your mind that might impact the laboratory’s design.

It is crucial to include predicted equipment in the list to be able to install any future electrical, mechanical or plumbing needs in time.

Develop a space program

Any laboratory renovation or build-out has to start with space programming. This step helps with determining a base square footage that’ll be needed for equipment, workspace and estimated headcounts. Space programming also documents the square footage for utility and facility functions, circulation and loss.

Once you have the base square footage, you’ll be able to look for spaces that are the perfect fit in terms of size, that will meet your current and future operational needs.

In order to develop a successful space programming, you will need to get input from all scientists, laboratory occupants and stakeholders. This will establish all pre-design criteria and organize the specific lab needs, such as radioactive labs and tissue culture rooms.

Space programming should also include any adjacencies and process flow relationships that can eventually help with the shaping of the design and increase efficiency levels.

Environment, Health, and Safety should be involved at the early stages

EH&S provides necessary guidance on the operation, design, and maintenance of laboratory systems, such as chemical limits or fire safety regulations. Involving environment, health and safety in the early stages of planning are important since it affects the overall design and lab functions.

Good EH&S partners, whether you are outsourcing or using in-house services, will help with determining the maximum quantities for chemicals in any given space and advise you on the control and storage you may need for bio and chem laboratories. 

Environment, health, and safety will also help you to understand HVAC needs for fume hoods and bio labs needed to maintain the personnel’s safety. This is important for engineers and architects when planning the systems to support all these requirements.

During our many years of experience, we have seen some poorly planned laboratories as well as optimally designed ones that support and strengthen companies’ science. Following these steps should help you with building out laboratory space that is up to every standard.