The roles of lab planning

Laboratory architects juggle many responsibilities

Architects and lab planners often bear the burden of decisions and details that aren’t their responsibility to begin with. There are many parties involved in the planning process, so as the gatekeeper, this extra demand often leaves them feeling overextended. This can interfere with the main goal of finding the best possible solution for the customers’ needs. A stronger understanding of specific roles in the lab planning process will put architects and lab planners in a better position to minimize this excess weight. Below is a summary of a few roles and what to expect from each. 

The customer 

In accordance with both national and local safety laws, it’s the customer's responsibility to hire or appoint a current qualified employee as safety officer in their own capacity, in order to perform two mandatory tasks. First, conduct a risk assessment to establish the product needs based on the customer’s application. This is to ensure a safe environment within the applicable standards. Second, develop a comprehensive chemical hygiene plan based on their risk assessment. This presents an opportunity for the lab planner to highlight their knowledge of the process itself, rather than just advising customers on the safest solution. When the customer is able to find a certified safety professional to determine design requirements and essential products, lab planners can focus on designing safe and specific solutions for their needs. 

The mechanical engineer

The mechanical engineer is responsible for delivering a safe airflow solution based on the criteria lab planners provide – meaning that the better your translation of the risk assessment, the better the outcome. The goal for the lab planner is to convert the criteria’s language so the engineer can easily understand the content. A clear assessment will help engineers deliver details such as the proper duct size and necessary air changes per hour (ACH). In the end, you should have a safe and comprehensive mechanical system for the customer. 

The manufacturer  

Choosing the right manufacturer for the job is another task that falls on the lab planner’s shoulders, so it’s in their best interest to be thorough when selecting a candidate. Manufacturers directly impact how demanding the process becomes for lab planners, depending on their level of experience working on lab projects. The more knowledge the manufacturer can provide about their products, the better. This knowledge can then be used to prepare and justify the proposal and to answer any specific questions the customer may have.  

Some things to expect from the manufacturer include: knowledge of product options, static pressure loss, CFM values associated with specific face velocities for their products and the necessary context to help the mechanical engineer to inform a safe mechanical design solution. What the manufacturer will not provide are the specifications on which products are safe for this lab. Why? As stated above, national and local safety laws specify that the customer is to hire a safety officer, and that person is responsible for telling the lab planner which products to ask their manufacturer about. Again streamlining the lab planning process all comes down to a better understanding of the whos, whats, wheres and whys of the lab planning process.  

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