When considering a new lab space, there are a multitude of factors to consider, from budgeting to safety regulations to specialised equipment and workflow optimisation, to name just a few. Revamping an existing lab or creating a new lab environment is a challenging task! It involves creating a space that meets your operational design requirements and addresses crucial aspects of lab safety. Whether it's ensuring base building elements are in place or considering essential biosafety protocols, every detail matters.

At Crest Interiors, our extensive lab knowledge and experience span over 40 years. Understanding the intricacies of creating a functional and efficient laboratory is a key factor in our ongoing success in delivering premium lab facilities across a wide range of industries and sectors.

To assist in the planning and preparation of your next lab project, take a look at our list of considerations to help identify critical elements from the start to ensure successful project outcomes are achieved and delivered at the end of the project.

1. Define your objectives

Before embarking on the specifics of your lab fitout, it's paramount to clearly define your objectives. What are the primary functions of your lab? Are you conducting research, testing, or production? This crucial step will shape every aspect of the design and construction process, guaranteeing that the final space perfectly aligns with your requirements.  

Understanding the key drivers is also essential. Is your lab fitout based on consolidation or relocation? Do you need to maintain a live site during the fitout process? Determine the level of productivity and downtime you can afford and consider if the site needs to remain operational throughout the construction phase.  

Balancing these factors will help you navigate the complexities of the fitout process, ensuring that your new lab environment meets your operational needs and strategic goals. 

2. Assess spatial requirements

Thoroughly assess the size and layout of your required lab space. Consider factors such as the number of workstations needed, storage requirements, and circulation flow. A meticulously planned layout will boost productivity and enhance safety, enabling lab operators to move seamlessly between different areas without encountering bottlenecks or hazards.  

Account for essential factors like: 

  • Determining the necessary workspace for each individual. 
  • Assessing the number of people sharing space and resources. 
  • Plan the positioning of equipment and ensure accessibility to sockets, taps, and sinks. 
  • Estimating the required storage capacity to meet operational needs. 

Another key element in achieving the best efficiency in your lab is understanding the workflows of the lab users within your organisation. This understanding allows you to arrange the space to support their activities with minimal disruption. Create zones dedicated to specific processes and ensure that related equipment and materials are easily accessible within these zones. This approach reduces transit time and helps maintain a clean and organised environment.  

Planning for the optimal transfer of materials within the lab is important for maintaining efficiency and preventing workflow interruptions. Evaluate the typical paths materials take through the lab and design your layout to minimise unnecessary movement and handling. The placement of storage units, waste disposal areas, and frequently used equipment will support smooth material transfers. Ensure that equipment is positioned to support ergonomic use and safe operation. Group compatible devices together to streamline processes and reduce setup time. Additionally, ensure adequate space around equipment for maintenance and repairs without obstructing other activities. 

As you plan your lab space, consider the present needs and anticipate future growth and expansion. This forward-thinking approach ensures that your lab remains adaptable and scalable, ready to meet future demands.  

3. Finding the right space 

If you don't already have a building selected, look for a space that aligns with your lab requirements and confirm that your lease allows for necessary adjustments to avoid complications later on.  

It is also vital to ensure your lab is permitted in the location/building you are considering when relocating; it is important to confirm that the local zoning supports lab facilities. 

When selecting a space, consider not only its current suitability but also its potential for future expansion. Account for growth to ensure your lab space remains functional and efficient as your business evolves. 

As an additional step, it is good practice to conduct thorough due diligence. This approach will help you address key considerations such as space and business operation requirements, as well as the ability to harness culture and staff well-being in a way that cultivates job satisfaction. By reviewing aspects like location, amenities, facilities, services, floorplan size, and space planning, you can ensure that the chosen space meets all necessary criteria. 

4. Compliance & regulations

Adherence to Australian standards for laboratory design is a key step for ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, from safety to environmental considerations. Partnering with experienced professionals like Crest ensures meticulous attention to detail, minimising risks and liabilities through thorough due diligence and risk mitigation processes. 

In addition to regulatory standards, consider the importance of industry body certifications when planning your lab fit-out. Achieving certifications from industry bodies ensures your lab’s credibility and operational standards are met. These certifications often require rigorous adherence to best practices and provide a framework for continuous improvement. 

Internal company guidelines should also be carefully considered. Aligning your lab design with internal policies and procedures ensures consistency with your company’s operational standards and culture. This alignment enhances overall efficiency and maintains the integrity of your workflows. 

Integrating regulatory standards, industry body certifications, and internal company guidelines into your planning process allows you to create a compliant, efficient, and high-performing lab environment that supports safety and productivity. 

5. Specialty lab requirements

In the early planning phases of your lab fit-out, it's an ideal time to thoroughly evaluate the specific research or testing activities of your lab to understand and address specialised equipment and infrastructure needs. Consider the types of experiments, materials, processes, and any regulatory or safety requirements to ensure your lab design meets all necessary criteria. 

Also, during this planning phase, it is the perfect time to explore the specific equipment needed to ensure a functional and safe environment. For example, specialised equipment such as fume hoods and cleanrooms is crucial for controlling air quality and preventing contamination, particularly during sensitive experiments or when handling hazardous materials. Similarly, biosafety cabinets provide physical containment to safely confine hazardous substances, while extraction systems, such as chemical fume extractors, effectively remove harmful fumes and airborne contaminants. Also looking into adequate power supply and drainage systems for the seamless operation of lab equipment, ensuring both efficiency and safety. For instance, uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) and dedicated drainage systems for wet labs are vital to maintaining continuous operations through your fitout. 

6. Plan for the future

Incorporating flexible features from the onset allows for easy reconfiguration and expansion as your needs evolve over time. This flexibility accommodates changes in equipment requirements and ensures that your lab remains efficient and productive in the face of changing technologies and methodologies. 

Designing your space for multiple uses is also a smart approach. Think beyond separate functions needing separate spaces. For instance, instead of allocating dedicated areas for each specific task, consider creating multifunctional spaces that adapt to various needs. Shared workstations, modular furniture, and movable partitions can transform a single area from a research lab to a testing facility or a collaborative workspace. This approach saves on space planning and makes your project more cost-effective by reducing the need for redundant facilities. 

Designing with flexibility in mind promotes sustainability by reducing the need for frequent renovations or costly upgrades later down the road. It also allows you to optimise your space utilisation, minimise waste, and maximise the lifespan of your lab facility.  

7. Budget & timeline

It is important to establish a realistic budget and timeline. Overlooking factors like specialised equipment procurement, regulatory approvals, and compliance with safety standards can significantly impact the budget and timeline. 

A progressive budgeting and timeline management approach involves breaking down costs into manageable phases and providing detailed upfront cost estimates. Meticulous project schedules minimise the risk of unexpected delays or expenses, ensuring smooth progress of your lab fitout. Partnering with experienced professionals like Crest ensures successful management of the regulatory requirements, construction challenges, budget, and timeline goals.  

8. Ensuring lab continuity

Practical strategies and planning help your lab remain functional throughout construction, thereby minimising disruptions and maintaining operations. Looking into areas like the following can help ensure business continuity for your fitout.  

Staging Works and Temporary Lab Setups 

  • Staging Works: Schedule construction in phases to keep parts of the lab operational. 
  • Temporary Labs: Set up temporary labs to handle essential tasks, ensuring they meet necessary standards for equipment, environmental controls, and connectivity. 

Business Continuity Planning 

  • Connectivity: Assess how long the lab can function without connectivity and plan accordingly. 
  • Impact Assessment: Determine the impact of potential disruptions on critical processes. 
  • Alternative Solutions: Identify other labs where samples can be sent if needed. 
  • Financial Impact: Understand the financial consequences of downtime to prioritise continuity measures. 

Minimising Lab Interruptions 

  • Prioritise Critical Systems: Focus on keeping essential sites and systems operational. 
  • Decision-Making Process: Establish clear procedures for addressing disruptions. 
  • Integrated Planning: Coordinate team efforts to ensure smooth transitions. 
  • Forward Thinking: Plan for future risks and growth to maintain resilience. 
  • System Support: Ensure backup power, data redundancy, and alternative workflows for critical systems.

9. Collaboration & communication

Smooth internal and external collaboration and communication are instrumental for a successful lab fitout. Clear internal communication among team members ensures everyone is aligned on project goals and timelines. Externally, open channels with clients, suppliers, and subcontractors facilitate seamless coordination and timely issue resolution. For example, weekly progress meetings with stakeholders can ensure everyone is updated on the project's status and potential challenges are addressed promptly. 

Moreover, involving stakeholders—particularly the actual users of the lab—in the early phases of planning is highly beneficial. Their input helps create accurate designs and cost estimates early in the process, enhancing efficiency during the design and construction phases. This involvement ensures that the lab team receives a facility tailored to their needs, enabling them to perform their tasks productively. The earlier you engage stakeholders, the more likely you are to identify and address potential issues. This results in a smoother project flow and a lab space that truly meets its users' requirements. 

By implementing strategies that include the areas mentioned above can help maintain a well-functioning lab environment that supports safety, productivity, and business continuity during the fit-out timeline. 

Find out more

If you'd like to see how we have supported our clients as they navigate their laboratory and fit-out projects, take a look at some of our completed lab projects here. Alternatively, contact our team today to schedule a lab consultation and discuss your project requirements. Get in touch