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Bruce Simon
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7 Important Tips for Designing your Lab Space

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Several years of experience have demonstrated the following best approach to designing and building new lab space for all types of tenants – from small biotech firms to international life science companies. Below are 7 top tips for those either looking to expand their lab space or those simply starting from scratch.

1. Select the right architect and team of experts. Most importantly, select a team of experts to avoid costly mistakes and efficient use of your company’s dollars. The first step in moving forward once the location is established is creating a design based on what the ultimate use of the space will be. Once a design and budget are created it is critical to have the project reviewed for value engineering. There are a variety of differing standards which when applied to a final design can dramatically affect the final price and achieve the same result.

2. Choose cost-effective building systems. Due to high monthly expenses to operate a lab, it is critical to consider both the initial outlay for the building system as well as the ongoing charge for utilities when making your selection. Choosing cost-saving options such as installing hoods with a turn-off switch can reduce utility expenses.

3. Do not convert office spaces. General office HVAC systems are not built to maintain proper airflow quality required of most scientific laboratories. Systems which have not been designed with laboratory use in mind will be compromised by adding fume hoods. Improper ventilation can cause stuffiness and poor air quality for employees.

4. Consider future costs when leasing existing space. Existing lab build-outs may be cheaper to lease but can also be at the end of their useful life. All building systems should be thoroughly inspected prior to occupancy. It is also important to budget for any possible future repairs.

5. Utilize vendors and materials specific to lab users. Lab build-outs are very specialized and expensive. They are created with anticipated long term use. Therefore it is important to have both experienced vendors who understand clean room environments and specific materials to withstand spillage and heavy continuous operation of building systems.

6. Invest in a quality generator. A power failure can destroy many months of hard work developing a cell or molecule. A generator is critical to prevent loss of science and can be sized for the minimum electrical output needed to operate essential equipment.

7. Design for the future when planning for your growth. Determine the type and size of space you and your staff will need at the start and estimate your future growth timeline. Taking on expansion space too soon incurs additional overhead, but failure to plan for the expansion can also be costly. Adjoining space can be controlled by either negotiating options or paying a percentage of rent to reserve it. The expansion areas must be present in the initial design. Sections of lab build outs are very costly to relocate; therefore it is best to plan for future expansion in the appropriate contiguous sections. This allows for growth into various components such as additional R & D, warehouse and lab space at the appropriate time with minor impact to current processes.

These tips will save you time and money in the long-run and can prove critical to your success when budgeting.

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