How to Plan and Design an R & D Laboratory





A majority of R & D Facilities have their own engineering department that will initially be involved with a renovation or a re-design of an R& D Laboratory.  A larger facility that may be planning a larger renovation or an expansion would probably start with an architectural firm that specializes in Laboratory Design.  Whichever route is chosen, Young Equipment Sales can offer various types of design and budgeting ideas that are necessary to begin the process.

Before a project begins, some preliminary work must be to determine the type on project that will evolve.

Renovation or refurbishing:

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

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

Access to plumbing, electrical and HVAC will also play a determining factor in the renovation of a laboratory; the easier the access, the lower the cost.  If services are run under a slab, extensive concrete reconstruction will have to be performed to re-route or change the existing layout.  Access to a crawl space below would allow these changes to be done in a more cost effective matter.

Many new lab designs offer increased ventilation of the area, as well as adding multiple fume hoods to vent chemical odors away from the work area.  Access to the outside of the building is critical in developing a proper ventilation plan.

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 your project.

New renovation or expansion:

The type of “flow” required to utilize the work area(s) properly in your new configuration will have a big impact on the plan for your new renovation or expansion project. The first step will be to determine what type of cabinets you would like to have, from the list of the following:


  • Plastic laminate – a good low cost option for light duty labs.
  • Laboratory grade wood cabinets – these generally come in oak or maple veneer with 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.


Countertops out of the following materials should also be considered:


  • Plastic laminate – for light duty use (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.

Most R & D Laboratories utilize an extensive amount of both free-standing and counter-mounted equipment.  You need to plan to have enough counter space available for these items, so as not to interfere with the work areas needed to conduct the research required.  Fume hood configuration is also very important. Not only must they be accessible to the work stations, but they must also balance the amount of air removed and make-up air required.  An HVAC engineer would be needed to properly design this system.

Once you have determined your equipment requirements, it will be time to design lab spaces for your highly trained staff.  Perhaps 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.

Before you start, you should review your options with a design professional from a company 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.  We can also arrange for a visit to a recently completed project, to show you first hand, all that is just a solid plan away.

No matter which route you take, a quick call to a professional at Young Equipment Sales to explore this option would be a great first step.