Flexible vs. Standard Lab Designs

Laboratory spaces of yesteryear are fading away in place of newer, more efficient flexible spaces. But what does this entail? At IDO, we’ve had the honor and privilege of working with these types of mission-critical environments for the past 30 years. Working inside laboratory spaces alongside various life science groups, we often relocate, reorganize, shuffle, consolidate, and create new environments from a shelled space. You name it, we’ve probably done it.

The problem we frequently face is when one specific type of life sciences group moves into a previously occupied lab space that was originally designed for a different type of science. Think chemistry vs. biology. They use different types of equipment in their studies and have varying needs based on space. For example, a lab group is moving into a space brimming with fixed fume hoods and ventilated balance enclosures (VBE). They are requiring open benchwork and collaboration areas in their new, more flexible design. In addition, the noted fume hoods are more often than not fixed units, which once removed, can require extensive repair to floors and/or walls. Older labs are also equipped with fixed casework, which again, requires wall and floor repair. Not to mention the changes in utility services when going from fixed to flexible! As the sudden need for lab space increases, these types of modifications and retrofits can become quite costly. Even when working with the proper professionals and service technicians, these retrofitted lab spaces are often not the complete, ideal working environment. They were typically found to be cramped and inefficient working spaces. This is where we come in with our design, move management, and space-planning expertise.

One of the more memorable capital projects IDO worked on was for a major lab conversion from the standard lab occupation to a more open, flexible space. In this instance, walls were removed in between individual labs and opened to a much larger, open floor space. Freestanding benches and CIPs (ceiling interface panels) for utilities and services were also installed. Instead of the standard hard-line, stagnant utility drops and services seen in previous standard lab designs, the CIPs were integrated into the ceiling structure. Which led to additional placements of flexible casework throughout the space. This also connected the utilities and services into the bench and instrumentation installation via flexible hoses. Often, an extra hose is tucked into the ceiling for added flexibility and movement within spaces. Measures taken on the front end of this design enhanced the overall flexibility and ensured that its’ occupants would be more comfortable, move freely, and work more proficiently within their newly redesigned footprint.

Modern labs must be dynamic and built to accommodate change. The ability to re-arrange on demand proves to support the theory of more engagement and collaboration among its’ occupants. The speed and efficiency of making these changes to lab spaces help enable the evolution of science and its’ incredible advancement in the modern world.

Want more information on lab spaces we’ve worked on? Curious if IDO can help you or your organization add flexibility to your space? Click here to contact us today.

Written by Amanda Medlen