With new technologies and methodologies changing rapidly, laboratories today have adopted new processes in the way experiments are performed, discoveries are made, and tests are conducted. Perhaps more important now than ever before is the need for lab managers and lab architects to stay flexible in the planning of their lab design project, whether it is a new facility or the renovation of an existing laboratory.
Embracing flexibility in lab design can deliver significant cost savings. A testing laboratory at a large tech company was faced with financial challenges recently—but for good reasons. The lab division of the company, dedicated to testing top-line servers, saw its market share grow rapidly and determined it needed to expand its operations. The company estimated the cost of a building expansion at $100 million but instead turned to a Texas-based lab furniture manufacturing company for a more costeffective option. The company developed and installed lab benches with hydraulic shelves to offer the flexibility of movement—up, down, forward, and backward. This enabled laboratory technicians who previously worked with three workstations, testing one server at a time, to utilize a single-unit workbench and server rack testing with four servers at a time.
Things to consider when designing your wet or tech lab:
Remain flexible in your choice and anticipate relocation
Fixed casework is considered a standard solution but often requires significant investment and downtime if modifications are needed. Modular furniture enables reconfiguration of the lab layout and efficient expansion for new usages while realizing space and cost savings. This is especially true at facilities with multiple laboratory units, where a “building block” approach helps ensure components can be repurposed as needed, affording maximum flexibility of space for future needs.
Most labs of any size inevitably need to relocate at some point. Whether within the same facility or across town, the move might be due to an expansion in project work, updated real estate/facility requirements, changes in technology, or the need to relocate to attract top talent. Modular lab furniture delivers time and cost savings through more convenient takedown and shipping options as well as greater flexibility in reconfiguring furniture components to accommodate the new laboratory layout. A potential bonus is that reutilization of the lab components is good for the environment and might earn your organization LEED sustainability credits.
|Criteria||Modular Lab Furniture||VS||Fixed Casework|
|Repurpose||Countertops and cabinets are replaceable||Permanently installed|
|Relocate||Can be moved to any location||Permanently installed|
|Mobility||Mobile with added casters||Permanently installed|
|Production Time||3 weeks and expedited shipping available||8-12 weeks–Cannot be expedited|
|Shipping and intall time||4-10 days (USA)||2-4 weeks (USA)|
|Total Cost||Less expensive than large casework projects||Less expensive than modular furniture for small projects|
Leverage time and cost savings
Time is crucial in your lab project work and it’s vital in lab design planning as well. While it might sound like a truism, time is money. Modular lab furniture is typically produced, shipped, and installed in one-third to two-thirds less time than traditional, fixed (bespoke) lab furniture. Modular furniture has lower long-term cost of ownership than fixed furniture. According to a study performed two years ago that compared order sizes using casework versus modular furniture, the number of benches increased as modular furniture decreased in price. In other words, if the lab size is small, casework might be cost-effective, but as the lab size becomes larger, modular becomes cheaper.
Toughness relates to value as well. To protect your investment in expensive equipment and accessories, ensure that the laboratory furniture you select meets stringent durability and safety requirements.
Utilize the correct materials and arrangement for lab benches
Key to an efficient and exceptional lab design is the selection of the lab bench, typically the workhorse of daily laboratory operations. Choosing the correct lab bench countertop surface is also vital as chemicals and substances can easily corrode a lab bench. The correct surface for the type of project work will ensure the durability and long life of the lab bench and the safety of personnel.
For wet labs, choose chemically resistant countertop surfaces for lab benches that are easy to clean and resistant to bacterial growth and corrosion.
Three widely accepted choices for countertops are:
- Epoxy resin—Provides exceptional physical and chemical resistance required in cutting-edge laboratory environments.
- Phenolic resin—Is nonabsorbent and provides a high resistance to chemicals.
- Stainless steel—Consists of a low carbon steel that contains about 10 percent chromium, giving it unique stainless, corrosion-resistant properties.
|Product Comparison||Phenolic Resin Countertops||Epoxy Resin Countertops||Stainless Steel Countertops|
|Application||Moderate||Heavy Duty||Moderate to Heavy Duty|
|Material||Paper and Resin Based||Silica and Resin Based||Metal Alloy|
|Corrosive Resistance||Moderate to High||High||Moderate|
|Carbon-based Resistance||Moderate to High||High||High|
|Heat Resistance||Moderate||High||High (Discolors)|
|Lead Time||1-3 Weeks||2-4 Weeks||3-4 Weeks|
For cleanroom labs, choose stainless steel, epoxy resin, or phenolic resin. For electronic labs, surfaces with built-in electric dissipation capabilities will protect sensitive equipment being assembled or serviced from accidental damage from static shocks.
Many tech labs use electrostatic dissipation (ESD) equipment in their project work, and dedicated electrostatic dissipation protected areas (EPAs) are a necessity since static charges as low as 10V can damage sensitive components. Built-in ESD work surfaces provide distinct advantages over the portable ESD mats that were once popular. Compared with ESD mats that can easily become damaged from day-to-day occurrences such as working with chemicals and solvents directly on the mat or dragging heavy equipment across the surface, ESD workbenches offer dual layer high-pressure laminate (HPL) protection. Plus, the entire ESD workbench countertop surface is impact-, wear-, temperature-, steam-, and water-resistant. Cleanup is also simple since the bench surfaces are washable with an approved ESD worksurface cleaner.
With your lab furniture needs in mind and several options available, lab managers can now use an online option for evaluating different lab configurations. This new resource— 3DConfigure, from Formaspace—enables users to generate photorealistic lab bench renderings in real time.
Lab managers and lab architects can customize products for current and future projects and receive free, same-day, online renderings of different lines of workbenches.
The online tool makes it simple to customize products, such as the selection of frame and surface countertop material, type and location of storage components and lighting, computer monitor mounts, height-adjustable components, anti-vibration, and ESD-resistant materials.
Photorealistic renderings enable users to save and share custom configurations for future review as well as visualize lab bench options from all angles. With labs needing to accommodate both current and future needs, flexibility is key. Innovative web applications help users visualize their lab layout and component options in real time.
For more information, go to www.formaspace.com/laboratory-furniture.