Growth in Laboratory Design: Mobility, Sustainability, and a Reflection of How We Think

It wasn’t long ago that fixed cabinetry, casework, benches, storage cabinets, and tables were built for a specific space, with no intention to be moved. But today laboratories are beginning to reflect an evolution in how scientists think- on their toes and forever changing. As laboratory workers begin to embrace the art of working as a team, to keep up with the eminent demand in discovery and innovation, it’s more important than ever for the design of workspace to adapt.

We’ve seen similar shifts in office design as well, think open floor plans and community work benches that companies like Google and Houzz are revered for. Society has picked up on the fact that through team work innovative discoveries are tangible. Companies have grown to realize that we desensitized from the world around us to do technology. In order to keep your employees engaged, the space they work in must reflect the fluidity they crave. This means designing desks so that employees can stand and respond to e-mails. Goodbye cubicles and hello community workrooms.

Not how your company operates thus far? Maybe changing the design of your workspace is just the kick in the caboose you need! May you be inspired by the four biggest trends in laboratory design that have come about in the last decade:

Mobile Design

Laboratory furniture and work benches are now on wheels. Why? Because we are maximizing productivity. In order to truly maximize our workspace lab furniture must be flexible enough to move through the space like scientists do. Mobile designs offer a durable yet flexible product that allows you to access tools and perform experiments in a safe, organized, and in the most efficient manner. Another reason we are seeing a shift to mobile designs in laboratories is because of the forever changing demands of safety within a lab. This will allow your company to meet new challenges and that’s why its more effective than anything permanent you can invest in. Modular systems eliminate the need of reconstruction and give you the ability of incorporating electrical and other plug and play services. This will give your lab the best possible work flow and help experiments, research, and your employees thrive.

Sustainability

This has come about in two ways, we have become a more aware and knowledgable society interested in preserving energy. With that interest comes an abundance of research at our fingertips (thank you Google) to illustrate how we can reduce consumption and help the environment. The second part of this interest and shift to sustainable laboratories is monetary. High-tech laboratories of today consume a plethora of air and power so sourcing companies that go the extra mile to ensure energy saving devices is worthwhile. At Genie Scientific we utilize variable air volume systems with fume hoods (VAV). While Genie does not provide a VAV system, we work alongside HVAC contractor’s to provide VAV ready hoods.

Logistics

Lab are growing to be open floor plans with low to no-panel workstations. They are moving away from industrial spaces and moving towards a more homey and practical work environment. Laboratories aren’t recluse anymore they bleed into office and conference room space so that they can show off the innovation. Some companies have build rock climbing walls, created space for their workers to drink coffee and have a comfortable place to sit while doing so. All of this promotes a culture that celebrates work and pleasure, community and culture, convenience and comfort.

Integration

Another significant change seen in laboratory design is the integration of multiple fields within a lab. Not only do labs and office space collide but so do the subjects they are researching, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, transitional medicine- wet & dry labs. The co-mingling culture helps people working in any field thrive through sharing ideas and collaborating.

The millennial generation has really thrown the world for a loop, they were disinterested in getting their license, more interested in living at home longer, and now they’re even changing the way that we interact in a workspace. But in a world where we communicate with loved ones far too often via text messages, rather than sharing important news face to face, it is refreshing to see a shift in our want to be apart of a community again. Our want to strip down the walls the stand in between us, our want to stand on two feet and move throughout a given space, this want is what allows science to flourish. We are proud to design, manufacture, and install laboratory equipment that serves this higher good.

How To Clean Your Steel Laboratory (Powder Coated & Stainless)

Steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, is constructed to withstand the maximum stress that a material can undergo without stretching or breaking. It is for this reason that the laboratory industry entrusts in the strength and dexterity of this element. It holds the infrastructure of buildings, automobiles, ships, appliances. But surely that’s not the only reason we like gravitate towards steel in commercial and industrial workspaces, it also falls back to what aesthetically pleases the eye. Steel is clean, contemporary, and devoid of trends. It has been around long before our grandparents age and will outlive the human race.

You’ve just bared witness to our ode to steel but now for the realists inquiry, how on earth are you suppose to clean it? It’s challenging to scratch or damage, yes, but steel does expose fingerprint smudges and water marks with great ease. If you have a steel refrigerator you know it’s nearly impossible to keep your loved one’s handprints off the handles and the same goes for fume hoods. Their sole purpose is to be a vessel for experimentation. With experimentation comes test tubes that runneth over and eventually layers of unknown gunk, aka genius, that even the most OCD of folks have given up on tending to. We are here to offer you the cleaning guide to both stainless and powder coated steel:

Direction of the Grain

Before we break into what to use to clean you must master the art of how to clean. Cleaning in the direction of the grain is especially important for stainless. If you look closely at your fume hood, or lab cabinetry, you can visually see a horizontal or vertical direction in which the grain moves. Do not rub in a circulation direction, although you gravitate towards this wax-on-wax-off motion, you must flow in the direction of the grain for optimal results.

Vinegar Myth

Many will recommend vinegar as an all-natural cleaning solvent for pretty much anything in your home but when it comes to degreasing your kitchen range hood, or removing bacteria or mold from your fume hood, there are many other household cleaners better equipped for the job. A recent study in the Journal of Environmental Health confirms that, “Vinegar was more effective in reducing microbial containment than alternative cleaners but least effective in removing soil”. If you strive to remove biological microorganisms from your lab then vinegar can be used but if your goal is to remove liquids or other matter then reach for an alternative solution. Since dirt is often the most common containment you will be cleansing your laboratory or home of see our alternative below.

Cleaning Alternative / Types of Containment

What should you use as an alternative? Regular dish soap and water! Grab a bucket and mix soap with a few drops of liquid detergent in warm water. You can use a lint-free rag to wash the surface (of powder coated steel) making sure that you clean beneath the grooves and alongside the not so visible surfaces. Disclaimer: be mindful of sharp corners, often they are squared, sharp, and with adequate pressure applied they can wound. Follow up by rinsing with cold water. Powder coated finishes resists rust caused by oxidation so you can actually allow the water to dry on the surface without harming the paint (similar to baked on powder coated finishes of a car). If that doesn’t do the trick then try using a pH-neutral household cleaner. Avoid solvents, these are liquids or gasses that can dissolve or extract substance like grease, oil, or paint and they can obstruct the finish of your powder coated furniture.

We recommend using a bristle brush, sponge, or clean cloth. Avoid paper towels and cotton rags as they will stick to the coating. Also avoid using a carbon steel brush or steel wood because they may leave particles along the surface which can lead to unfavorable rusting. Once you have cleaned the surface with soap or a household cleaner, be sure to conclude your cleansing by applying an additional layer of water to rinse away any leftover soap or cleaning product. As for stainless, you can spot treat greasy fingertip smudges by using a glass cleaner or rubbing sodium carbonate with water (with a soft rag). Again, rinse with water afterwards. Avoid using chloride-contained detergents.

Since all steel furniture have varying finishes, we are happy to speak with you further and lend advice about the best cleaning regimen. We hope you reach out to us via Twitter @geniescientific or you may feel free to call us at (714) 545-1838.

Laboratory Airflow Struggles & Solutions

Preventing airflow from creating lab accidents is key to safe research practices. Today there is technology designed to control indoor flow rates by communicating with the exhaust. Depending upon what the exhaust reads, the monitoring devise will alter air flow rates throughout the laboratory, manage temperature, and operate pressure as figures fluctuate. Research suggests that the desired outcome can be achieved but it’s far more complicated than you may think, here is why:

The UK based publication, Lab News just released a report citing 70 laboratories that have reported incidents with airflow system. One of which is the $214 million dollar lab designed for Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Documents expose that the germ laboratory, which experiments with infectious agents, has trouble with airflow containment. While the agency says that no one has been infected, contaminated air exposed to strains of influenza and other microbes shouldn’t be exposed to the air we deem ‘clean’. This falls back to airflow containment systems that architects, engineers, test and balance firms, and commissioning agents have designed for a specific laboratory space. These systems are designed to minimize energy consumption while providing researchers with a comfortable work environment. But the last, and arguably most important feature, distributing air that supports operation and exposure to control devices is falling short. Federal safety guidelines require sustained directional airflow, drawing in clean air towards potentially contaminated areas.

Airflow systems are designed to help regulate laboratory staff’s exposure to toxins and infectious agents. But with notable laboratories struggling to prevent containment, we thought it was timely to break down key factors that we take into account in Genie designed laboratory, for containment and to prevent airflow obstacles. Here is our breakdown of the three most important things to consider when purchasing an airflow monitoring system for your laboratory.

Standards

OSHA provides laboratory safety manuals for chemical hazards. Always look for an OSHA certified airflow monitoring system for your laboratory. Variable Air Volume (VAV) systems, Usage Based Controls (UBC), Occupied/Un-Occupied modes, and Energy Recovery Unites (ERU) are interdependent components. They work alongside Air Handling Units, which distribute air throughout the ductwork and supply air control devices. They also supply air for exposure control devises, exhaust air flow control devises, exhaust ductwork and exhaust fans. Air distribution needs to be harmonious in order for airflow to remain clean throughout the laboratory, and this is up to the lab designer to ensure this happens. Chemical fume hoods are dependent on the same air supply. To achieve the best results, fume hood placement is essential, so is fume hood density, operating modes of air distribution system, air distribution effectiveness, and air diffuser selection.

Placement + Density

Your fume hood should rest in a close proximity to differs and transfer air openings.Depending upon the size of your laboratory and the amount of contaminants (risk exposure) you will select a monitoring airflow with measurements and instruments suited to sustain your fume hood’s and laboratories. Fume hoods should be located towards the back of your laboratory, with at least 4 feet distance between the hood and adjacent doors and 4 feet from main traffic in the laboratory. The fume hood should also have 8 feet distance from doorways so there is no cross-draft. The density of the hood depends calls for different air diffusers to deliver air volume. Lab designers ideally keep cross draft, at the plane of the sash, to a maximum of 50% of the designed face velocity. The volume of air that is being delivered is proportionate to velocity. If a diffuser is not mounted flush to the ceiling, or free standing (for laboratories with high ceilings) then discharge characteristics with diffusers are more important. Diffusers should be arranged 5 feet from laboratory hoods and should be two times the area of the fume hood design opening. “The 2:1 ratio can help determine the number of diffusers required to provide adequate make-up air to the lab. The number and size of the diffusers together with the area of the NDZ provides a natural limit to the allowable fume hood density”. (Laboratory Airflow Distribution Task Sheet)

Alarm

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Once your laboratory has been designed with these items in consideration, the last thing you’ll need is an airflow alarm to alert the user if there is a problem with containment or product protection. Airflow balance is fragile, and exposure to hazards containment is uncalled for, so alarms that are pressure sensor-based provide the best protection to worker safety. To read more about Genie’s air monitor alarm’s click here.

Contact Genie’s technical support at (714) 545-1838 or via e-mail at genie@geniescientific.com to speak to a consultant about your specific laboratory and we can give advice about our recommendations for the best airflow system for you!

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