Recent trends in new lab designs require that labs be more flexible than they have been in the past—allowing changes to be made quickly and inexpensively to accommodate the often- changing specific research and development
targets for the organization. These new labs (and often
existing labs) also need to be more sustainable—allowing
cost effective utilization of power, resources, and waste
management systems. Of course, during these flexibility-induced changes and increasingly restrictive sustainability
requirements, the labs also have to be clean—to varying
specific standards depending upon the specific research
being performed. Many times the labs could require increased levels of cleanliness that will directly impact the overall structure, operation, and maintenance
requirements of the facility.
Obviously, when planning, designing, and constructing a new lab, all of the possibilities and requirements cannot be fully accommodated and built into a new lab,
otherwise the costs would be prohibitive. But the rule here should be that some
different research activity may be required other than what is the initial planned
activity. It should be one of the lab planner, lab manager, and lab designer’s primary
concerns that future requirements will be established for these new labs and possibly within a time-frame of one to three years. Often these requirements may include
some increased level of environmental isolation, automation, analytical instrumentation, sustainability, and/or cleanliness.
The primary drivers for these changes are the overall costs and time required
for building either entirely new structures or implementing massive renovations to
accommodate the new research requirements. Of course, there are limits to what
can be accommodated within an existing structure, and common sense rules have
to be considered when evaluating new applications for an existing laboratory facility.
However, the use of structurally sound design principles and the initial implementation of quality instrumentation and monitoring systems can go a long way toward
making the transition easier and more cost effective in the long-run.
Implementing a new lab configuration should minimize the structural and operating system changes that are physically required for the change. Walls should not
be torn down or new duct work or utilities installed or removed, all of which may
create unacceptably large amounts of particulate matter and sources that could disrupt research applications for a long period of time. Changes from one application
to another should also be considered as an ongoing process. The successful ability to
quickly and efficiently make one change will provide the incentive and consensus to
perform similar activities in the future when research activities dictate that it would
be wise to do so. That first successful change-over will likely make a second and third
change-over go faster and with less problems. Of course, there are always unforeseen
problems that could occur in these types of transitions; however, a good plan being
put in place with input from all related parties should minimize those problems.
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