P2S Magazine Issue 1 - Page 5

Specialized laboratory facilities can be found in universities and hospitals throughout the world, and while each lab is unique, they all require proper ventilation and functioning safety devices to keep researchers safe from hazardous materials. Since each lab will have its own specific safety and air ventilation requirements, lab designers can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to laboratory ventilation. They must design bespoke solutions for every lab they work on. Nathan Ho is the laboratory market leader for P2S and an expert in bespoke lab solutions. He’s served on ASHRAE technical committees on ventilation and indoor air quality and helped to write some of the very same standards that engineers consult when designing lab ventilation systems. We spoke to him about laboratory design’s unique challenges, the importance of proper lab ventilation, and the reasons why P2S is a world leader in laboratory design. Why is it so important that laboratories are properly ventilated? Laboratories use ventilation as a risk mitigation strategy, they use things like fume hoods, snorkels and other specialty devices, as well as overall room air-change rates to address what happens when chemicals escape from their containers or processes get out of control and get into what’s called the breathing zone. We provide ventilation to reduce the risk of an unplanned emission or exposure event within a lab. In the event of a spill, the air in the room will dilute and sweep the contaminants and minimize occupant exposure. If there was insufficient ventilation in a lab area, then the air could quickly become hazardous in the event of an accident. In the early days of laboratories, before modern lab ventilation, there were often wooden tables in a researcher’s home workshop where they would mix chemicals with an open window for ventilation. People quickly realized that was insufficient, which led to the development of ventilation systems to contain, dilute, and sweep contaminants. How do lab designers keep emissions out of the air? There are two complementary strategies we use. There are containment devices like fume hoods and snorkels in which occupants at a work station can engage in open chemistry activities inside that device because they protect the users from exposure to emissions. Then there is the room ventilation rate that is meant for unplanned events like if somebody accidentally spills something and it begins evaporating into your space. The equipment that allows for safe, controlled chemistry within, we call primary capture devices. The room ventilation rate is used to dilute and sweep away emissions from accidents and is often referred to as secondary containment. Room air change rates in labs function like seat belts, it’s there in case something goes wrong. Designers can’t ensure or guarantee anything as we do not tightly control activities and materials after facilities are turned over to users, but we can mitigate how bad it could be by providing adequate room ventilation rates to dilute emissions from accidents. What are some of the essential components of laboratory ventilation? We have containment devices that we collaborate on with architects and lab planners. The lab planners select the appropriate equipment and we provide the utilities that enable them to function. For the room air change rates, we use air terminal units to control 5