By Jess Hamilton

One thing that all laboratories have in common is that the scientific functions within them are equipment driven. Equipment can range in size from small, tabletop vortexers, microfuges, scales, or even handheld pipetters to space-intensive items such as freezers, anaerobic chambers, fume or biosafety hoods, automation robotics, or custom equipment.

Whether the client is an established life sciences company or a modest start-up that has outgrown incubator space, the most critical element in planning a lab fit-out is an accurate equipment list. It is the central design tool for the project and is integral to the process of laying out a lab.

Before design begins, an architect and/or lab planner works with their client to define their space program that includes a room list with functional requirements, key adjacencies, headcount, and square footage. Once the basics are established, the next step is to identify what will go into those spaces. For a lab, it is crucial to define early and completely the major furnishing and equipment components, along with workflow preferences.

Typically, the client will provide the architect and/or lab planner with an itemized equipment list that includes the make, model, dimensions, clearances, weight, and intended location, as well as all associated electrical, plumbing, and gas requirements per manufacturer specifications. If this is not possible, or if the existing equipment list is insufficient for planning and design purposes, the architect and/or lab planner may need to survey the existing equipment or develop this list with input from the client based on future projections.

This information is then entered into an equipment matrix, an essential tool for tracking equipment through design, calculating the mechanical and electrical loads, and coordinating locations for outlets, exhaust, or plumbed utilities. Laboratory equipment requires many different utilities that must be coordinated with either base building or lab-specific systems, and sometimes even with other lab equipment. When the utilities are installed in the correct locations on day one, the client can begin operations on time and avoid costly delays.

A complete equipment matrix typically contains additional details that are especially useful to the design team. Examples include identifying requirements for associated computers, UPS or backup power, and specialty casework or storage. This is beneficial to the design process as it identifies any items that require coordination or special consideration.

For a start-up client advancing from an incubator environment to leasing their first new space, the equipment list is an informational linchpin. The design team will work with the end users or procurement team to help develop and maintain their equipment list throughout design and up until move-in day. The team will work with the client to populate the list with projected items through projected growth and workflows for equipment that may be purchased in the future. If needed, a specialized consultant may be brought on to help procure lab equipment.

A detailed equipment list provides the architect and engineering team with key information related to structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design that supports equipment function and performance. Close communication and coordination between all design disciplines on the team is essential for the systems to perform in harmony in support of the equipment. The design team’s job is complete when the equipment is moved into the laboratory and connected – ready for the scientists to get to work.

This article was featured in High Profile Monthly.