Setting up a lab creates an exciting opportunity for creativity, collaboration, and innovation. However, lab design becomes a high-stakes enterprise. With safety, finances, and reputations on the line, planning and preparation offer invaluable tools to set a lab up properly. Form follows function, so beginners need to decide their lab’s purpose before getting the right equipment and procedures in order. When lab founders understand their goals, and the steps involved to get there, setting up a lab becomes straightforward, effective, and even enjoyable.

setting up a lab

The Steps to Setting Up a Lab

1. Sourcing the Required Supplies

The equipment required for setting up a lab varies dramatically based on its desired purpose: a research lab, a manufacturing lab, and a teaching lab all require different quantities and standards of equipment.

When starting out, it is always best to estimate how many people will be using the lab. Considering the numbers and their needs, beginners acquire basic universal equipment first and specialise from there. Most labs require safety gear, laboratory glassware, Bunsen burners, pipettes, timers, scales, storage, and refrigeration. Complex, specialised equipment beyond these basics commands serious capital investment. When setting up a lab, sustainable funding ensures the facility gets up and running.

Luckily, some firms and universities offer loans or lease deals, or collaborative equipment rotas to aid scientific research. Beginners should investigate loans and grants, as well sales and deals, to acquire the correct equipment affordably. Some firms offer glassware repairs and product warranties, which help sustain beginner labs.

2. Ensuring Laboratory Safety

Keeping everyone safe should be a laboratory’s top priority. Beginners fulfil this priority by identifying, minimising, and mediating potential hazards. Minimising hazards begins with sourcing and installing sturdy and reliable equipment and utilities. For any lab, these include plumbing, electricity, ventilation, gas for Bunsen burners, and even basic things like tough, even surfaces. Laboratories should plan fire drills and spill drills, with assembly points and emergency equipment like fire extinguishers and first aid kits.

To identify specific hazards, setting up a lab requires predicting hazards zones, where things like spills, breakages, trips, and contamination might occur. Technicians can mitigate these risks by carefully monitoring and moving dangerous chemicals, using the proper protective equipment, and installing sinks, waste disposal, and emergency showers.

Well trained and prepared staff offer the best chance to maintain safety and foster a healthy working laboratory.

3. Setting up a Lab Layout

Beyond safety precautions, setting up a lab layout helps beginners foster collaboration and maximise efficiency. Layout plans predict workflow and foot traffic, dividing laboratories into specialised zones for storage, experimentation, and analysis. For a kind of scientific Feng Shui, floorplans optimise flow to make the most of laboratory space, customising the ideal work environment. This zonal division helps planners to separate heavy traffic areas from high-risk areas and save time and money on storage and utility infrastructure.

Space becomes a greater consideration in teaching laboratories, as students need stools, desks, and protective gear. Floorplans allow designers to transition the room from a lecture space to a practical laboratory. This allows enough room to keep students’ belongings away from fragile and hazardous chemicals and equipment.

Keeping work safe and easy, stringent floorplans provide a firm foundation for anyone setting up a lab. They also support evacuation procedures, allowing designers to prepare multiple entries and exits to get staff to safety if needs be.

4. Maintaining Organisation and Documentation

Like any logistical prospect, setting up a lab becomes more manageable when designers do the paperwork as they go along. Tough regulations keep British laboratories safe and ethical, so beginners should familiarise themselves with HIRA (Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment) paperwork. Regular and organised records of plans and findings streamline paperwork to no end. Like residents in rented accommodation, those involved in setting up a lab should document and photograph their equipment and facilities to verify their safety and efficacy.

Installing storage and cleaning regimes for equipment and chemicals also proves a vital component of effective laboratory planning. As new labs invest in expensive equipment, the best organisers maintain robust security measures with locks and surveillance. Detailed checklists on incoming and outgoing resources also protect laboratory resources. When carefully organised and backed up digitally, laboratory paperwork forms a reliable ticket to a smooth-running setup.