Facility Design and Expansion: Commissioning for Innovation - Many biotech facilities consume more than tenfold the amount of energy used by other institutions. Design a space that is right for your


Facility Design and Expansion: Commissioning for Innovation
Many biotech facilities consume more than tenfold the amount of energy used by other institutions. Design a space that is right for your business.

BioPharm International
Volume 19, Issue 5

Another method of accommodating for future additions may involve installation of a multi-header air supply system with a limited number of air handling units initially supplying the system. This would enable the firm to add more air handling units in the future when requirements increase or funds become available to provide additional capacity or redundancy.

Many modern facilities also employ the "plug and play" concept. This design style provides an array of outlets and sources that facilitate the use of equipment virtually anywhere in the building. For example, a laboratory exhaust system could be laid out to allow a fume hood to be added, if necessary, by simply removing an exhaust register and installing a new duct connection for the added hood. Air quantities could be adjusted to ensure that rebalancing air systems would not be required during installation of the new hood.


Even in the most flexible biotechnology facilities, sustainable design is needed to ensure that the facility operates at maximum efficiency at the lowest possible cost and provides the best optimum working environment for the staff.

One common misconception about sustainable design is that it is a defined entity. The diverse biotechnology industry requires that sustainable design be approached not as a hard and fast concept, but as a process of integrating ideas, objectives, and priorities through sensible decisions made early in the design process. This necessitates an integrated design process that teams building owners, designers, contractors, facility managers, and building occupants to execute the best possible strategy for the project. It also requires placing laboratory spaces as a top priority.

Once a strategy is defined, several design considerations must be observed to ensure maximum efficiency. Equipment selection for the building and research plays an integral role toward improving building energy efficiency. Many biotechnology facilities can consume more than tenfold the amount of energy used by other buildings, with much of the energy being absorbed by equipment.

Selecting energy-efficient and low-demand laboratory equipment represents an effective and immediate way to reduce energy consumption. More efficient equipment reduces power consumption, diminishes cooling requirements, and reduces the size and cost of building equipment required to support these functions.

Lighting is also important to consider when designing a sustainable biotech facility. A strategy that is often overlooked is the use of "daylighting," relying on natural light from windows to reduce the need for electrical lighting during daytime operations. Additional methods include dimming controls and reduced general lighting levels with task lighting.

Biotechnology companies also overlook the high importance of water efficiency. Because laboratories use more water than standard office facilities, reducing water usage and recycling water can play a key role in reducing unnecessary costs and preserving the environment. This can be accomplished through a variety of basic measures, including gray water collection and reuse, rainwater recapture and reuse in irrigation or flushing, drought-tolerant landscaping, and use of closed-loop equipment cooling systems.

Perhaps the highest priority in the design of a biotechnology laboratory involves the assurance of indoor environmental quality. This requires the design team to accurately assess the risks and provide proper air dilution rates. Precautionary measures such as hood alarms and room pressurization monitoring are of critical importance. Furthermore, biotechnology facilities must be designed with the proper placement of air intake and exhaust systems. Many facilities are also being designed with containment areas to protect occupants and minimize risks of cross-contamination.


Unfortunately, no biotechnology facility is completely immune to unforeseen circumstances. As a result, critical operations must be assured of uninterruptible running in the face of emergencies.

Perhaps the most critical element of ensuring continued operations is having a reliable power supply. The devastating effects of recent power outages have made backup power a high priority for all industries. The effect of a power outage on sensitive laboratory experiments requiring critical refrigeration, ventilation, and consistent power supply can be even more devastating. As a result, facilities are being constructed to accommodate larger standby power plants to operate critical functions and keep buildings running for long periods of time.

In many instances, it may not be practical to back up the entire facility, because it is simply too expensive. Instead, biotech companies must assess priorities for various operations. A priority list may include the following, in order of importance: 1) vivarium 2) pilot plant 3) laboratories 4) laboratory support systems 5) offices, and 6) amenities.

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