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Lab Design

The following Good Laboratory Design Principles are the output of a small-scale project that aims to produce simple guidance for the design of university and research laboratories, and especially those which are refurbishments. It is being resourced by AUDE and S-Lab, with technical support from AECOM. 

A completed Word document with all principles and examples can be found here.

The document is being produced to distil lessons from the many excellent projects that have taken place within the sector – for example, many of those applying to the S-Lab Awards – so that they can be applied more broadly. It also seeks to ameliorate some of the issues which have occurred in less successful projects, and to respond to growing financial and other pressures on the sector, and the consequent need to make new projects even leaner in design and operation than they are currently. Hence, as well as covering the design and estates aspects of refurbishment, it also views new build and refurbishment as an opportunity to consider longer term working practices within a laboratory.

The document has been prepared with great awareness of the relatively small size, and tight time constraints, of many refurbishment projects. Hence, it has been kept as simple as possible, but with the scope to ‘drill down’ into specific areas that are of particular relevance and importance. It is also intended to provide a mechanism to draw in and learn from the insights of other people with relevant knowledge, but who are sometimes not involved until a late stage, if at all. These include technical support staff, maintenance staff, specialist suppliers and others. This is reflected in a two level structure with:

Level 1 being a set of high level principles (currently 22) aimed at giving context, and providing an agenda for high level discussion between interested parties. These can be found on the next page.

Level 2 fleshing out each principle into actionable criteria for relevant stages of the RIBA 2013 Plan of Work. The current document is a first indication of what these will be. Each criterion will have links to illustrative material from case studies of shortlisted S-Lab Award applications and other sources. The main aim of the criteria is to engender discussion, direct attention, suggest concrete measures that can be implemented into the design and construction and provide a framework for on-going assessment of the project. Not all criteria will be relevant to a specific project and so a selection process will take place at an early stage.

It is also hoped that some of the principles, criteria and materials can be useful to other schemes, e.g. the RICS Ska Rating scheme with regard to ventilation and containment and other issues influencing energy consumption and environmental performance, Soft Landings.

Prepared by S-Lab with support from Aecom 24/9/15.

Please send any comments to s-lab@istonline.org.uk.

Good Laboratory Design Principles:


1. Have an effective and inclusive decision process.

2. Ensure that the design and its implementation properly considers lifetime use of the space.

3. Ensure that there is a good understanding of all relevant regulations and good practice measures and that these are met in practice.

4. Ensure that the design specification and intent is implemented properly.

Configuration & Work Practices

5. Ensure adequate and effective space for write up, technical support, logistics, storage and maintenance.

6. Explore opportunities to reconfigure working practices and maximise interaction to take advantage of refurbished space. 

7. Optimise siting and monitoring of dangerous and/or resource intense activities and equipment.

Ventilation and Containment

8. Ensure safe working conditions in both contained and general laboratory spaces.

9. Ensure that ventilation can be varied in response to user demand.

10. Ensure that ventilation equipment and configurations are as efficient as possible.

Health, Safety and Well Being

11. Ensure adequate lighting and maximise daylighting and visibility.

12. Ensure that health and safety is a key influence on project decisions.

Equipment and Furniture

13. Ensure that all equipment is fit for purpose, right sized and right sited.

14. Ensure that all equipment provides value for money on a lifetime basis.

15. Ensure that all furniture, fixtures and finishes are suitable for laboratory environments.

Laboratory Services

16. Explore potential for centralised support systems.

17. Minimise waste and manage effectively.       

18. Minimise requirements for water usage.

Laboratory Operation and Management

19. Ensure that the future management and operation of the refurbished laboratory is a key influence on project decisions.

20. Identify and ameliorate threats to business continuity.

21. Identify and properly consider opportunities to improve use and management of chemicals, consumables, materials and samples.

22. Ensure that use of electricity and water can be monitored, managed and minimised.


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