Get Maximum Productivity from Compact Lab Spaces
Why Compact Labs Are Gaining In Popularity
The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn renewed attention to the advantages of compact laboratories. Here are a few reasons why demand for these smaller labs has increased:
- Decentralize crowded laboratory operations
Many existing labs are too crowded to fully comply with social distancing requirements, so lab managers are looking at adding additional square footage in new compact labs to allow lab workers to work in lower-density areas.
- Increase clinical testing lab capacity
Testing employees for signs of Covid-19 infection has become standard procedure at many workplaces. Adding an on-site compact lab helps support efficient testing operations.
- Convert existing spaces into small lab environments
As space planning needs change due to the pandemic, facility managers are looking at converting existing spaces into compact laboratories. (See this kitchen to laboratory conversion project in Japan.)
- Deploy mobile laboratory resources in the field
Demand has also increased for clinical labs in the field, driving up the adoption of labs fitted in RVs, trailers, portable buildings, or, in the case of India, tuk-tuk style mini transport vehicles.
Of course, traditional pre-Covid reasons continue to drive demand for compact labs as well:
- Do more work in less space
Compact laboratories can help the bottom line in expensive real estate markets by increasing lab productivity without having to lease additional square footage.
- Provide surge capacity
Compact laboratories can provide temporary lab capacity to support short-term projects or allow lab operations to continue during major renovations.
Can You Really Do More Work With Less Space?
Can compact laboratories really deliver more functionality in less space?
The answer is yes — if you assess your needs carefully when planning your new lab project.
The first step is to identify the specific requirements of your new compact lab. Unlike larger lab facilities that can easily serve multiple functions, the most successful compact labs focus on providing the best possible work environment for a limited number of use cases.
Take the time to identify which lab functions you’ll need to support. Be specific.
Then expand on each of these use cases by identifying which processes and workflows will be required and which supplies and what type of testing equipment will be needed.
Now is the time to also identify specific regulatory considerations that need to be satisfied, as well as how to manage safety concerns (such as proper ventilation) as well as providing access to specific utilities, materials, and supplies (and how these can be stored safely in a small area).
Consider All The Available Space When Designing Compact Lab Layouts
Wringing the most efficiency out of limited space is a creative challenge.
Where can you find design inspiration?
Formaspace Design Consultants can offer their expertise based on years of experience, helping customers make the most efficient use of their available square footage. In fact, a good place to start your design planning is with Formaspace modular lab solutions, such as our Triton Integrated Lab Services Bench, which features built-in gas, water, and air services (as well as data and electric power) or our modular FabWall system that provides a solid backbone for mounting modular lab components, from demising walls and storage units to workbenches and wet sinks.
Keep in mind that most successful compact labs take a 360° approach to space planning by making the most of available vertical space — from the floor to ceiling — as well as providing ready access to functional equipment and supply storage located within easy reach behind the lab worker.
Take Advantage Of Multi-Function And Mobile Furniture Solutions
As you draw up your use case requirements list, it’s time to begin looking for opportunities where clever custom furniture designs could help you accomplish more in less space.
One useful approach is to look at each area of your proposed lab design to see if one, two, even three (or more!) functions could be combined.
For example, if you use a critical piece of equipment at the workbench only part of the time, could a custom, built-in mechanical lift allow the lab worker to safely move the equipment up and out of the way to quickly transition to other tasks at the workbench?
What about opportunities to put custom storage underneath the work surface or to the side, or even behind the lab worker? Remember, if you specify custom storage that’s designed to accommodate the exact measurements of your equipment, you’ll be able to fit more into a small space.
Mobile furniture is another way to get the most use out of limited spaces. Consider the advantages of using mobile carts to move sensitive equipment into place when needed, then returning them to designated storage areas when not in use.
Choose Lab Equipment Wisely To Save Space
Speaking of lab equipment, it’s pretty amazing how manufacturers have been able to integrate more and more functionality into smaller footprints.
In fact, many types of lab testing equipment that took up significant floor space just a few years ago have either integrated additional testing capabilities — thus reducing the need to use (and store) multiple devices — or have miniaturized their lab test equipment to such a degree that it can now fit neatly on a shelf, further freeing up valuable floor space.
When planning a compact lab, consider the benefit of investing in newer integrated test equipment that might help conserve value countertop or floor space.
Now is also a good time to assess your fume protection requirements. Large fume hoods take up a serious amount of space. Could a smaller snorkel (which can be moved away when not in use) be sufficient for your needs?