Ensuring a stress-free lab design for your lab facility manager

May 03, 2023 | Lab Furniture

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Design professionals share a goal of creating the most ideal research environment possible. In minimizing potential headaches, a good designer asks questions regarding concerns based on the 2 types of tasks carried out by a lab facility manager: (1) management of researchers and research activity, and (2) management of the research environment (including space/utilities/equipment/materials).

To what extent the lab design enables the lab manager to efficiently accomplish tasks with minimum stress rests on these 6 key points that they should be aware of during the design phase and the related strategies that designers use to increase the probability of a project success for the lab manager. Lab Design shares the following: 

Providing the right menu of spaces. In order for a lab manager to provide researcher’s needs and gain researcher satisfaction, the research environment should have the right types of spaces, in the right proportions, to facilitate daily research activities.

A modern research environment will include spaces for thinking, doing and sharing. Oftentimes, the lab manager is the most informed person to make recommendations regarding research space types, sizes, and quantities. 

Developing a clear space allocation strategy. The lab manager has to decide and assign research spaces to certain resources. The space allocation strategy is dependent on whether the lab design is driven by people, process, or specialized tools and equipment. Knowing if the space is to be assigned to individuals or to teams, or if there is a preference for sharing lab functions and equipment over clearly delineated/dedicated workstations matters. The lab’s layout must be evaluated as a whole, made by the sum of its measurable parts. 

Aligning the layout with the mode of research. Determining the overarching research methodology or “mode” - if it is either discipline-specific or multidisciplinary -should be done early in the visioning of the project to influence the research environment’s layout. Aligning the layout to the intended research methodology allows the lab manager to easily manage future research activities. 

Keeping the practical aspects of lab functionality as simple as possible. A fundamental planning consideration and principle includes mapping or diagraming required spaces and pathways for the delivery of research materials, access for service and maintenance of systems and equipment, and waste removal. Design solutions should be simple, intuitive, and easily understood. This is done so managers won’t be forced to make compromises, make inefficient workarounds, and waste time rediscovering how certain functions are accommodated in the first place. 

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Planning for change management. Research activity evolves. This means that the built environment has to change to keep pace. The designer and the lab manager should work together in incorporating appropriate and flexible strategies for future adjustment, ensuring that these won’t impact research operations and incur unnecessary costs.

This includes relying on concepts such as:

  • rigorous modularity

  • inclusive and adjustable casework systems

  • flex zones between low and high-intensity research zones, allowing for expansion and contraction

  • accessible utility infrastructure

Conducting post-occupancy evaluation. This is to determine if the project goals have been met and can be done on core members of the project delivery team who reconvene 6 months to a year after the facility has been occupied. The lab manager can provide useful feedback while the design team can report on what worked and what hasn’t. The evaluation allows for the initiation of remedies to problems and preventing future mistakes.

Both the lab designer and the lab manager must be willing to articulate their concerns in order to reach consensus and meet the objectives. However, solutions need to be constantly confirmed or adjusted to align with expectations. 

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