Given the fast pace of change in today’s laboratories—from new breakthroughs in experimental science to the rise of a more open and collaborative approach to conducting research—are you and your facility ready to respond?
The solution is to create flexible, resilient lab workspaces that can adapt to new scientific research requirements as they come along—allowing you to make basic changes to your space allocation without having to incur the downtime cost and productivity loss of a full-scale renovation, for example.
Stop Doing Things the Hard Way in Your Laboratory
Changes in laboratory science keep accelerating, making it hard for lab managers to keep up. For example, have any of these recent trends affected your lab operations?
Revolution in Digital and Virtual-Based Science
Successive generations of increasingly sophisticated lab equipment have not only strained capital investment budgets, but they have also helped drive the shift toward digital and software-based scientific research. This, in turn, has led to the rise of computer-based tech labs, often at the expense of traditional wet labs, which increasingly play a less central role in many facilities.
The rise of Collaboration-Based ‘Team Science’
Science is becoming increasingly collaborative, with researchers working together with team members from different disciplines and backgrounds more and more, both onsite and at other institutions. Closed lab spaces originally designed for a single project or departments often need to be updated as a result.
High Cost of Doing Business in Science Hubs
Today’s science depends on the availability of talent more than ever. Certain cities and regions, such as the Cambridge area of Boston, have evolved into true science hubs, while large research facilities seek to replicate the phenomenon with purpose-built science parks. One downside to this concentration is spiraling real estate costs, which increase the pressure on lab managers to do more science in less space.
The bottom line is that this kind of rapid change in science can make your lab facility feel obsolete before its time. And if the changes over the past 20 years are any indication, we’re in for a whirlwind of new innovation in the coming decades. But there’s an easy way and a hard way to manage these changes in your lab facility.
Stop doing things the hard way. Take the easy route by designing more flexibility into your laboratory facilities from the start.
The key to future-proofing of laboratory design is flexibility. But what does flexibility look like in practice? In a nutshell, it means your lab facility needs to incorporate four design elements: collaborative synergy, functional modularity, ad-hoc mobility, and long-term sustainability:
The trend toward data-driven, collaboration-based science has led to major changes in laboratory design. Closed, self-contained labs supporting a single research project are being replaced by a combination of light-filled, open-concept research labs (designed to encourage collaborative synergy between multiple teams and projects) and “in-between” spaces (including libraries, collaboration spaces, and casual meeting areas) that allow researchers to meet and share information or write and study in quiet privacy. While some long-term researchers resist the movement toward these “open lab” concepts, many of the younger generations of scientists find this to be a welcome, familiar environment that mirrors the type of cooperative, project-oriented lab facilities found on today’s college and university campuses.
Traditional lab designs, with their fixed casework cabinets and benches built directly into the perimeter walls, made sense in a “closed lab world.” However, when it comes to future-proofing your lab, this approach has a fatal flaw: because casework is permanently attached to the walls, it lacks the flexibility to make even the simplest simple floor plan modifications when your needs change. The new approach to lab space planning is to build from the center out, using modular workbenches and lab partition modules. If you need to expand or modify your facility, the workbench components mounted to the modular center partitions can be swapped out easily, or if you need to make major floor plan changes, the partitions can be extended or moved to a different location entirely.
Lab flexibility is more than just changing floorplans without incurring major downtime. The furnishings in modern laboratory facilities allow researchers and staff to move (and reconfigure) the workbenches, tables, storage units, and more as their need change throughout the day. Here are just a few examples of what today’s mobile, reconfigurable furniture concepts have to offer:
Sit-to-Stand Workbenches, Tables, and Desks: Control the height of your work surface at the touch of a button with height-adjustable, ergonomic work surfaces that easily accommodate different-sized workers as well as allowing you to change your work position throughout the day to increase circulation and prevent back-ache.
Tilt-Up Tables: Transform a lab training room into an open collaboration space using tilt-up tables that can roll out of the way into storage or serve double duty as vertical presentation boards.
Mobile Equipment Carts: It’s too risky to move today’s ultra-sensitive electronic test equipment by hand. Custom-designed mobile carts, with optional built-in ESD protection, can safely transport expensive, sensitive equipment from the lab workbench area to the maintenance service bay or into secure storage.
Go Vertical with Transformer Racks: Gain more space in your lab by taking advantage of unused vertical space. Custom, movable storage racks can lift expensive equipment up out of the way, or lower it down for use — doubling or tripling your space utilization without the risk of incurring back injuries or damage to expensive equipment.
Dell Case Study Video: The tech lab at Dell Computer uses Formaspace custom-made storage modules that allow easy yet secure access to sensitive prototype servers.
Sometimes, despite all the best planning in the world, one day, you may face a scenario in which the future of your lab falls out of your control. Perhaps a company merger leads to a call for consolidating lab operations into another facility. Or the lease runs out and can’t be negotiated at a reasonable rate, necessitating a move. Or the building itself has reached the end of its “useful” lifespan.
They say “you can’t take it with you,” but you can—if you plan correctly.
Labs built with casework cabinetry have a finite lifespan. The unfortunate truth is that, more often than not, casework ends up destined for the landfill during a move or major renovation. On the other hand, modular laboratory setups have the potential for a sustainable, if not infinite, lifespan, thanks to the use of durable materials (e.g. heavy steel or stainless steel). The modular units can be disassembled easily with simple hand tools, then transported to a new facility where they can be reassembled to provide many more years of service. And, if you need more modules, such as additional workbenches or storage elements, the modular lab bench manufacturer can supply components that match your original installation, down to the exact color and materials.
Design the Lab You Want with Free, Easy-to-Use Online Tools
You know your needs best. Did you know that when it comes to lab benches, you can design them yourself to fit your needs?
The Virtual Workbench Builder from Formaspace is free and easy to use—directly in your browser or mobile device—without having to download any software.
Using the Virtual Workbench Builder, you can create a photo-realistic bench design in minutes. Select your frame materials, color, and finish. Choose the standard load capacity—1,000 lbs.—or heavy-duty (up to 1,500 lbs.). Then customize your design with your preferred features, such as locking caster feet.
Next, it’s time to choose your work surface material from a wide variety of options, including hardwood maple (with its warm, natural finish), chemically-resistant epoxy resin tops, durable and sanitary stainless steel, static discharge resistant ESD laminate, and more.
Finally, make your new workbench your own by choosing from different storage configuration and convenience accessory options, from display mounts to storage cubbies/shelves/cabinets, to built-in wiring and networking setups, lighting options, and more.
As you build your design, the database keeps a record of your options, so when you are finished, you not only have a photo-realistic rendering of the final product, you can click a button to get an estimate for building this exact piece of furniture, built just for you and your lab.
Formaspace is Here to Help
Formaspace is a leading manufacturer of lab furniture and supplier of lab equipment that’s been serving the laboratory market since 1981.
All our products are American-made, manufactured at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas. We deliver the highest-quality products possible, with short lead times and 100% on-time shipments.
The vast majority of our products are destined for Fortune 500 companies or college and universities (we count over 350 collegiate customers, including most of the Ivy League schools).
Workbenches are just a small part of what we offer. We can build 100% custom products, tailored to your exact needs – from mobile furniture units and custom storage products to building and installing the complete laboratory facilities for corporate and educational institutions.
Take the next step.