Laboratory design is an art of its own, and very few professionals specialize in the same. When designing a laboratory, even the most minute details need to be accounted for, such as laboratory space, equipment used, and the personnel it can accommodate. But from an architectural perspective, many other things need to be accounted for, such as ceiling height.
Ceilings in a laboratory seem like a given, but there are many ways around it. Ceilings can either be true or false ceilings, and the design varies to accommodate specific purposes. Even though a laboratory’s initial design might be for a particular goal in mind, ceiling height design can offer the flexibility a laboratory needs to accommodate projects that grow. Many laboratory design plans factor in future changes instead of just preparing for the present. Therefore, it is important to consider planning for implementing the right ceiling height.
To understand the science of implementing the right ceiling height, let’s look at what we must consider.
TRUE VERSUS FALSE CEILING
While ceilings provide the essential function of protecting the laboratory, their design is a much more complicated process. Ceilings in a laboratory can be of two types – true and false. It refers to the materials used to make the ceiling, depending on the laboratory and the design inclusions.
The ideal recommendation is true ceilings made of more permanent materials such as cement. In true ceilings, any fixtures or extra inclusions, such as piping & fitting, are visible in full view and easy to repair when required. Another advantage is true ceiling cuts on the overall cost of building, helps in the laboratory maintenance, and prevents dust and micro-organisms in the false space. The ideal height is 2.7 meters, including any additional fixtures.
Plaster is a common material used for false ceilings. False ceilings are recommended if there is a high risk of cross-contamination, such as with a biosafety cabinet. Metallic false ceilings are easy to open and cleaned regularly but must have closed joints to secure them in place. If false ceilings are plaster made, they must have a steel suspension fixed to the wall. Here, the height is adjustable depending on the equipment and fittings added. We recommend a smooth ceiling, commonly seen in acoustic lay-in tiles. Open ceilings are also quite common, but the exception is that minimal ducting and piping must be present, so everything is easy to access when needed.
The right ceiling height depends on the amenities of the room and the equipment it will accommodate. While we are clear on how equipment affects the ceiling height design, the amenity also plays a huge role. Amenity refers to the visual aesthetics of the room. Ceilings position too high or too low could dis-balance the entire look and feel. For example, personnel may find it quite hard to work in the room if the ceiling is too low.
In most cases, the recommended ceiling height of 9′ 6″ is the best-case scenario for any laboratory type. In this height range, most of the equipment fits well, and it also allows for the even distribution of air and optimal airflow within the laboratory. Again, the height is subject to the design of the specific laboratory.
The ceiling of heights greater than 10′ is preferred by some because of the ease of design and extra ceiling height you get. When allocating biosafety cabinets within the room, the recommended guideline is to allow for at least 12 inches of space above the cabinet. If the room has sprinkler systems, at least 18 inches of space must be left above it. One more likely scenario is when there is large-sized equipment such as in physics laboratories like NMR, it is essential to note the ceiling must be devoid of obstructions, and the recommended height is 10′ 6″.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CEILING HEIGHT
Making the right decision can be tricky, considering the projects within the laboratory change often. Therefore, it’s essential to consider the future changes and design a ceiling that caters to current projects and can also accommodate future projects. There are a few considerations in distinct changes of the designing projects.
For example, in the project’s planning stage, we must consider the equipment used and the laboratory position. For instance, according to recommended guidelines, if an air conditioner is placed, the ceiling to floor height must be at least 2.4 meters, but where there is no air-conditioner, 3 meters is required.
Another aspect is the inclusion of different fixtures within the ceiling, such as pipes, electrical lines, which could affect the positioning and height of the ceiling. If a special ceiling-mounted fixture is being placed in, the minimum will have to be 2.75 meters, and again, this could change depending upon the type of equipment and fixtures being placed.
We hope you have understood the importance of implementing the right ceiling height within the laboratory from this article. It improves the working conditions of the laboratory and ensures we can position the equipment in the right way. Ceilings in a laboratory might not seem like the most crucial aspect, especially during the planning and designing stage, but it most definitely is an integral part of it.
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