Careful attention needs to be paid to the design of your science lab to ensure that you end up with a safe, practical and comfortable space that offers the right amount of support for students & teachers.
Important considerations for science labs
Whether you choose to have work benches and services in rows / horseshoe-shape, or you use the perimiter of the room for fixed benches with loose tables in center of the room, or you create islands with tables and fixed service pedestals, it's important that you have an efficient layout with adequate space for students to carry out practical work safely.
- There must be sufficient and thoughtful positioning of sinks, gas, taps, and power supplies
- Teachers need to have a clear view of all the students to help ensure they are working safely
- Demonstration areas should also have easy access to gas, water and electricity
- A separate prep room off the science lab or near to the science lab is essential for preparing safely for experiments
Craft tables offer more flexibility than fixed benching as they allow different layouts to be created. The worksurface area should allow at least 600mm of space per student to ensure that students can work safely. If you have wheelchair users in the school, you should also provide suitable height-adjustable work space.
Be careful to choose stools that are a suitable height for students to work comfortably. Skid-based stools are often more practical than 4-legged stools as they avoid damage to flooring and prevent students from swinging on the legs.
It is important to consider incorporating IT resource, such as a few computer workstations. If your students work from laptops then you will need to ensure that there is adequate power supply in the room.
Science labs should be equipped with decent presentation and display facilities For optimum efficiency, why not combine a whiteboard, screen and storage into one Teaching Wall?
The acoustics in science labs are generally very poor due to lots of hard reflecting surfaces and additional noise from equipment such as extraction. The maximum acceptable background noise level in a science lab is the same as in any other teaching room, i.e. about 40 DB.
To help absorb excessive background noise you can install acoustic felt panels to the walls and ceilings. Rather than reflecting or diffusing sound, acoustic felt panels absorb the sound like a sponge absorbs water.
Acoustic felt panels can also add exciting visual appeal to a room. They are durable, resistant to staining and easily cleaned which also makes them a practical solution for science labs.
There must be plenty of storage space in laboratories for science equipment and resources. Storage cupboards, drawers or trays underneath workbenches are an efficient use of space and give students on-hand access to what they need.
A separate bag storage area near to the door will prevent risk of damage to posessions and potential trip hazards from bags and coats left lying around.
It is also advisable to include peg or rail storage for lab coats, and storage for other PPE equipment for students to collect on entry to the lab.
Health & Safety
Safety within a laboratory area is of upmost importance. Your science lab should be well equipped and prepared for a suitable response to an emergency.
- There should be with at least one eyewash unit
- Well positioned fire extinguishers and fire blankets
- Fume cupboards are essential for clearing fumes from experiments
- There must be easily accessible shut-offs for gas, electricity and water
- Consider fitting a heat sensitive, not smoke sensitive fire alarm
Vinyl flooring is commonly used in labs as it is extremely hard-wearing, resistant to most chemicals and easy to clean. Safety vinyl has special non-slip properties, designed for areas that may become wet. It is also more resistant to damage such as indentation and scratching from stools.
Suitable work surfaces for labs are those made of solid, quality materials such as SGL (solid grade laminate), stone or wood, they need to be resistant to water, chemicals, heat and abrasion (scratch resistant).
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