Lab Space Planning Guide

6 minute read

Designing any interior workspace comes with a list of essentials to satisfy the users’ needs and also utilise the space fully. When looking to fit out a lab space, however, whether that’s for medical research or educational purposes, there are even more considerations to take into account. A laboratory design needs to be engineered to a high standard so that it meets a number of accessibility and safety standards, depending on the type of lab you’re constructing. This can range from wet labs to dry labs, research labs and optics labs, which all have their own unique elements to factor into your planning and installation process.

A scientific research lab with a lot of white cabinets and counters. AI generative laboratory interior

Collectively they all need to make way for collaboration, wellness, the ability to be flexible, carry out research and be environmentally sustainable. From work surfaces to lab benches and fume hoods, lab design goes above and beyond your standard office space due to health and safety aspects that need to be taken seriously. Bringing on board professionals with experience in this field who can assist with your build project from start to finish will certainly be a helping hand. Not only will they be able to guide you on how best to use the space, but also the legislation involved, and those additional features you may not have thought about in the first instance.

Types of Labs

When it comes to starting a new lab design project, the most important factor to start with is what the laboratory will be used for. This will help identify what kind of space you need and how you can build the interior around it to reach your goals.

Wet Lab – Designed for labs that will contain liquid and chemical substances which will require a certain amount of contamination and spillage control.

Dry Lab – In contrast to a wet lab, dry labs do not contain liquid substances and are usually computer-based.

Research Lab – An agile space that can be used as both a dry and a wet lab.

Optics Lab – A lab that usually requires humidity and temperature control as it’s a dry lab that features lasers and optics.

Factors to Consider When Planning a Lab Space

Due to the nature of laboratory spaces where there are hazardous materials within reach and at times multiple people working within the same space, there are a number of considerations to bear in mind. From space to safety, special equipment, ventilation, lighting and windows, they all have a special purpose to maximise the success of your project build so that it will be utilised and functioning to its best ability for years to come. Your main priority is to keep people safe and secure whilst carrying out scientific processes and procedures with ease whilst adhering to regulations and legislation so that no one gets hurt.

Lab Space

Whether you’re building a new facility from scratch or renovating an existing area, look at how big the space you’ve inherited is and is there enough room for people to work in alongside all the necessary equipment? Perhaps you need to get creative with the limitations you have with clever storage systems to maximise the space. You don’t want to have a cramped space for people to operate in as this can be dangerous. Before moving your furniture in, create a floor plan that includes clear traffic flows that direct people towards emergency exits. Doing this with precise measurements will make the planning stage much easier as you’ll be able to see the concise dimensions that you’re working with.


Above all, your main focus should be safety as you don’t want to put others in harm’s way or face any issues down the line. A leading consultant or fit-out company will be able to advise on this matter and what processes should be put into place to ensure that you’re doing everything by the book such as what certifications you need to have and what safety precautions you need to take such as the right signage. Accessibility also comes under this area as there should be enough space for wheelchair access and so fume hoods can be used safely for people at all heights.

Special Equipment

Unlike your standard office, laboratories will contain specialist equipment. Therefore you’ll need to consider what type of equipment is needed for the lab in question and whether or not it’ll function properly in the space. Think about how heavy the equipment is and if you’ll need to counterweight loads on the floor or shelves. Is the equipment sensitive to vibration, and if so it shouldn’t be located near public areas where there’s a lot of foot traffic. Does it need to be contained in a temperature-controlled room because it may be sensitive to either hot or cold environments? Finally, be considerate of those working nearby if you have noisy equipment that may need to be placed away from offices or working areas where others are trying to concentrate.

Laboratory Ventilation

If you’re handling liquids or chemicals that produce toxic or dangerous fumes, then proper ventilation systems are key. Fume hoods are the perfect solution for this as they can protect individuals from harmful gases. Ducted fume hoods make sure that fumes don’t escape into the lab and instead exhaust them outside of the building when attached to a standard HVAC. Additionally, ductless fume hoods use specialist filters to remove dangerous fumes from the air and replace them with filtered air back into the lab. If your lab will be used for multiple uses then a ducted fume hood should be on your equipment list as it covers all bases.

Lab Lighting and Windows

Windows in laboratories have many benefits. Not only do they stream in natural light, but they also add another level of security as staff can keep an active eye on what’s happening within the working space. Also, natural light can help to lower energy costs without the need to install more lighting and can have an effective impact on the well-being of the employees who won’t feel so claustrophobic behind closed doors. If you are planning on additional lighting, then consider solar power or green roofs to be more sustainable. Interior windows are also a great bonus if you have visitors to the building who will be able to view operations without disturbing what’s going on within the control environment.

Why Choose Cobus Spaces?

Design and installation experts for over 40 years, Cobus Spaces leads from the front when it comes to office fit-outs, refurbishment and project management. Working in commercial, public, private and educational fields we collaborate with clients who are looking to overhaul their space and make it into an area of inspiration and productivity for employees, employers and students alike. From start to finish we have big ideas but also pay close attention to detail and are renowned for delivering high-quality results that are timeless and tick all the right boxes. Searching for an established company for your lab design? Leave it to Cobus Spaces.