Trained laboratory personnel must understand how chemical laboratory facilities operate. Given the chance, they should provide input to the laboratory designers to ensure that the facilities meet the needs of the functions of the laboratory. Laboratory personnel need to understand the capabilities and limitations of the ventilation systems, environmental controls, laboratory chemical hoods, and other exhaust devices associated with such equipment and how to use them properly. To ensure safety and efficiency, the experimental work should be viewed in the context of the entire laboratory and its facilities.


9.B.1 Relationship Between Wet Laboratory Spaces and Other Spaces

Modern laboratories, particularly in academia, often have contiguous spaces that include wet laboratories, computer laboratories, instruments, write-up spaces, office areas, and other spaces with varying degrees of chemical use and hazards. Maintaining a positive safety culture and at the same time meeting the safety and comfort needs of laboratory personnel are challenging under these circumstances.

   Wherever possible, separate wet chemical areas or those with a higher degree of hazard from other areas with a physical barrier, such as a wall, divider, or control device. The objective is to protect the computer laboratory or otherwise low-hazard area from the risk of the higher hazard, and thus eliminate the need to use protective equipment in the low hazard area.

   When such areas cannot be physically separated, or where the risk cannot be eliminated completely, individuals working at the computer or in the write-up area need to evaluate what level of protection may be needed to control the risk of exposure to the hazards in the other areas. For example, all individuals in a computer laboratory must wear eye protection if there is a risk of eye injury from operations in a contiguous area.

9.B.1.1 Relationship Between Laboratory and Office Spaces

Almost all laboratory personnel require both laboratory and office support space. Their desire to be aware of procedures and to have a constant presence in the laboratory usually demands that office space be located near the laboratory. The need for personnel safety, evolutionary technology allowing for computer-based research and data monitoring outside of the laboratory, as well as a desire to foster better interaction between researchers has driven the offices outside the laboratory proper.

Locating all offices outside the laboratory environment allows for a safer workspace where food can be consumed, quiet work can be done, and more paper and books can be stored. Locating the office zone very close to or adjacent to the laboratory for easy access and communication is desirable.

Some laboratories have office spaces within research areas. In this design, it is best to have an obvious separation between the laboratory area and the office area using partitions or, at a minimum, aisle space, but preferably using a wall and a door that can be closed. Occupants should not have to walk through laboratory areas to exit from their office space. Visitors and students should not have to walk through laboratories to get to researchers’ offices, because those persons do not have personal protective equipment (PPE). (See Vignette 9.1.)

9.B.2 Open Laboratory Design

Traditionally, laboratories were designed for individual research groups with walls separating the laboratories and support spaces. Group sizes ranged from 2 to 10 people, and most groups were completely self-contained, each with its own equipment and facilities (Figure 9.1).

Since the 1990s, the trend has been for researchers to collaborate in a cross-disciplinary nature; chemists, biologists, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists work together on a common goal. At the same time, laboratory designers have moved to open multiple-module laboratories that allow a wide variety of configurations for casework and equipment setups. These laboratories often support large or multiple teams and are configured with relocatable furnishings.

Even when not using a multidiscipline approach, many facilities have moved toward larger, more open laboratories with the belief that working in teams raises overall productivity, promote open communication, and facilitates resource sharing. Team sizes, in some disciplines, have risen and are frequently as high as 12 to 20 individuals.

9.B.2.1 Considerations for Open Laboratory Design

There are advantages and disadvantages to open laboratory design.

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