10 ASK THE FACILITIES GAL
Tripwires: Key Issues to Consider When
Following are some common issues capable of
Designing Controlled Environments
In a military context, a tripwire is an unseen element, hidden from view. When disturbed, a tripwire commonly triggers a trap or explosion – wreaking damage, casualties, and chaos. In the
world of controlled environments engineering, trip-
wires are unforeseen or unanticipated project issues
with the potential to wreak havoc in the operations
of a facility, and its budget.
becoming project tripwires in the cleanroom or lab:
1. Future planning: My column last month — “Fail
to Plan, Plan to Fail” — looked at how to avoid
disasters out of the gate, including the spectre of
changing processes, by carefully planning projects from the outset.
2. Flexibility: None of us can clearly see the future,
but all of us are required to make what amounts
to an educated gamble about where our business
is going, how it’s growing, and what its production requirements might be in order to design
flexibility into the floorplan and supporting
3. Structural issues: Never purchase real estate, and
never assume your existing building can handle an
expansion, without first consulting a structural engineer. Make sure you understand a building’s structural limitations before green-lighting a project.
4. HPMs and their regulation: Hazardous production materials (HPMs) are standard components
of manufacturing and research operations. A
common tripwire: regulations pertaining to the
storage and transport of HPMs within a facility which can literally change floor-by-floor.
Research the regs, and plan adequate and compli-
5. Entrainment issues: Indoor air quality (IAQ) is
critical to the operations performed within clean-
rooms and labs, as well as the health of employees.
It’s important to do a scan of the surrounding
external environment, and continually monitor it
for changes during the life of your facility, to pick
up any activities that could impact your air quality.
6. Humidity control: My colleague, Brad Hodges,
PE, said it well in his article, “The Sticky
Challenge of Relative Humidity”: “Failure to
properly measure and control relative humid-
ity in the cleanroom can result in lower yields,
increased scrap and waste, contaminated product
inadvertently reaching consumers, customer lines
down, increased liabilities, and decreased reve-
nues — among other situations best avoided.”
7. Adequate mechanical space: Don’t let the planning and layout of your mechanical space be an
afterthought. Give it its due, with an eye towards
not only fitting in all your required equipment,
but with another eye on future needs and adequate space around the equipment to allow for
ease of maintenance.
8. Emerging standards and regulations:
Promulgating new standards and regulations is a
lengthy process, which can be a good thing when
trying to get a view into proposals that have the
potential to impact the planning of a project and
your HVAC requirements. Always take the time
to research what may be on the horizon.
9. Energy considerations: Sustainability is more
than a buzzword. In many municipalities, LEED
certification is a requirement. Don’t get tripped
up by failing to know what the regulations will
require of your project, nor the expectations of
your organization’s management around sustainability. Re-engineering HVAC is expensive.
10. Utility and road capacity: If you’re planning
a major expansion or a new, greenfield facility,
regulatory reviews will require the proposal be
serviced by adequate utility and road capacities.
While it sounds simple enough, this can become
a major and expensive headache if you run up
against these issues after wading too far into a
11. Waste disposal issues: While there are national
environmental regulations to adhere to, at its
most basic all waste disposal is local. Before
undertaking a capex project, ensure that your
proposed project has adequate and cost-effective
waste disposal options.
Kate Everett, PE, LEED AP, is a principal and
director of mechanical engineering services at SMRT
Architects and Engineers. She has more than 25 years’
experience engineering complex, sustainable mechanical systems for science, technology, healthcare, education, and government clients. firstname.lastname@example.org;
Katherine M. Everett,
PE, LEED AP
SMRT Architects and
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