How to Plan and Design a Healthcare Science Lab

Often, when an institution begins to plan for a new or renovated Science Lab for their Healthcare Facility, they enlist the help of a Lab Planner, their in-house Engineering Team or an Architectural Firm that may be under contract with their organization. And before a project begins, some preliminary work must be to determine the type on project that will evolve.

A renovation can be as simple as replacing worn-out or damaged countertops, while keeping the existing cabinetry. You may choose to refinish wood surfaces, or electrostatically paint metal cabinets. Some facilities will choose to replace the entire lab with new cabinets, tops and accessories, while utilizing the existing configuration.

Worn-out or damaged tops may or may not contain asbestos.  This should be determined prior to removal so that if they contain asbestos, they can be removed and disposed of by a Licensed Asbestos Removal Contractor.

Depending on what type of work will be performed in this lab, countertop material can range in a variety of types as listed below:

  • Plastic laminate – for light duty work (using no chemicals or reagents.) Advantages are that this material comes in a variety of colors and designs.  Oak bullnose can soften the appearance and lend its design to cabinet and/or trim colors.

  • Phenolic resin – acid resistant material, easily cut, black core with either black or colored finish (similar to laminate color but with not the variety.)  Seems are epoxy together and maintenance is painless.

  • Modified epoxy resin – similar in acid resistance to phenolic resin.  Comes in solid colors as black, variations of grey, beige, white and some other colors depending on the manufacturer.

  • Solid surface – corian is the name that comes to most of us first, but there are many other companies that can provide solid surface.

  • Stainless steel – for rooms that require easy clean-up and disinfecting.

Lab areas that specialize in blood work should choose a countertop that is stain resistant, chemical resistant and lighter in color.  The lighter color will help show any blood that may have splattered from the work area and assist in clean-up and prevent contamination of the work space.

Additionally, should your lab contain metal cabinets that are in workable condition, Electrostatic Paint is a low cost option to refurbish the finish of an older cabinet.  This process can also be performed on-site, thus avoiding costly removal, trucking and re-installation.

Should this option fit your needs, or if you believe that there may be the potential to go this route, a quick call to a professional at Young Equipment Sales to explore this option would be a good first step.

The same process will be used with a total renovation, when using the same configuration (with the exception of the cabinets.)  The first is to determine what type of cabinets you would like to have, from the list of the following:

  • Plastic laminate – the low cost option for light duty labs.

  • Laboratory grade wood cabinets – generally in oak or maple veneer and full overlay.  These lab grade cabinets are finished with an acid resistant coating that will hold up for many years.

  • Painted steel cabinets – a wide array of colors, more institutional looking than wood, but a clean look.  Same acid resistant finish that cleans easily and can be refinished Electrostatically to provide years of use.

  • Stainless steel cabinets – as with the countertops, these cabinets can be used in sterile areas such as Operating Rooms and the Labs associated with, blood and tissue labs, etc.

  • Phenolic resin cabinets – the most acid resistant cabinets available.  These cabinets could be used in a highly chemical environment lab for prevention of corrosion.

Should you determine that your existing lab(s) will not function properly for your new design, a complete renovation and redesign may be the only way to tackle this project.

A design professional, such as a lab planner, interior designer, architect or engineer, or perhaps all may be required to properly design and outfit your new lab environment with functionality and proper work flow.

Once you have determined your equipment requirements, it will be time to design lab spaces for your highly trained staff.  Including a supervisor from each shift and department to assist with the design could provide greater insight into what worked previously and what tasks needed improvement.  Remember, you are starting with a blank canvas and the more colors that you have, the brighter and more interesting the final project will be.

Follow the same steps as above to make your cabinetry and countertop determinations.  You can also mix the types, for different areas, to give your lab(s) additional character as well as the functionality needed.

Before you start, you should review your options with a design professional from a copy such as Young Equipment Sales, someone who help guide you in the right direction and further educate you on the variety of options available to you.  They can also arrange for a visit to a recently completed project, to show you first hand, all that is just a solid plan away.