Lois DiBerardinis, Janet Baum, Melvyn First, Geri Gatwood and Anand Seth
2013 | 552pp | £100
Reviewed by Mike Dockery
This volume has the ambitious objective of providing design guidance for a wide range of types and sizes of laboratory. Unfortunately, and in the particular context of the UK, it has failings at both strategic and tactical levels, although there is still much that is of interest and use in its pages.
The book references almost uniquely US practice (organisations, legislation, standards, codes, guidance) and describes lab formats that are scarcely ‘cutting edge’. And recent trends in fit-out schemes and systems are not fully covered.
Some examples of deficiencies are the continuation of the small module building block approach so favoured by architects in assembling lab layouts and by structural engineers in defining an ‘optimum’ (traditional, small) grid that populates floorplates with a forest of columns at the cost of functionality, flexibility and adaptability. Also, mechanical and electrical engineering distribution schemes are only shown in relation to overall ‘layered’ building concepts (the so-called lasagne lab) and no mention is made of the ‘sidestitial’ alternative that has recently been so successful for automation of research facilities.
Sustainability in lab design should be an integrated and front-end goal yet it receives, together with the pioneering Labs21 group, little attention until chapters 35 and 38. No reference is made to the non-US equivalents.
Despite these criticisms, there is much that represents sound advice and pragmatic guidance. The importance of a design team with representation from all interested stakeholder groups is stressed and the often controversial subjects of when to use, or more frequently not to use, recirculation filtration fume cupboards and auto sash closing are given appropriate consideration. Another old chestnut that is effectively challenged is the common misinterpretation that higher fume cupboard face velocities provide enhanced containment. There are also helpful and reasonably universal chapters dealing with waste management and stores strategies.
This does not constitute a completely satisfactory manual for the design of a chemistry laboratory in the UK. It may, however, be regarded as useful background reading that illustrates the breadth and complexity of the issues involved. Thus, it has some worth for those undertaking lab design without having the appropriate experience, an unfortunate but all too common situation in the UK.