The intention of this document is to provide a standardized set of laboratory planning and design guidelines to ensure uniform program development across all segments of the university, whether conducted by University professionals or outside consultants.

The current version of these guidelines support laboratories that utilize chemicals and or flammable or toxic gases, as defined by EHSS, generally referred to as “wet” laboratories. Other laboratory types; dry, computational, clean class, teaching and specialty environments, will be addressed in future versions.

Planning Terms


A controlled built environment with specialty equipment used for the purpose of experimentation, research, instruction, teaching, measurement, or manufacture.

Wet Lab

A laboratory that utilizes, processes, stores or distributes chemicals or flammable gases, as defined by EHSS. Wet labs can range in intensity of use and require more or less fixed equipment and building systems infrastructure dependent on use type. For the purpose of these guidelines, damp, wet and heavy wet labs are all categorized generally as wet labs.

Dry Lab

A laboratory that does not have the capability to utilize, process, store or distribute chemicals or flammable gases, as defined by EHSS. Specialty electrical or ventilation may be required depending on use and equipment requirements.

Computational Lab

A laboratory used primarily for the purpose of computer simulation, the use of electronic equipment, or robotics that does not have the capability to utilize, process, store or distribute chemicals or flammable gases, as defined by EHSS. Specialty electrical or ventilation may be required depending on use and equipment requirements.

Maximum Allowable Quantities (MAQs)

The maximum allowable quantity of hazardous materials within a prescribed control area as defined by applicable building and fire and life safety codes

Control Area

A defined area within a building that is separated from the rest of the building by fire rated construction.

Environmental Health and Safety Services (EHSS)

Planning Considerations

Code Compliance, Accessibility and Campus Standards

Compliance with applicable state, local, accessibility, and fire safety building codes is required, as well as adhering to American National Standards and (University standards including, but not limited to; planning, design, engineering, health and safety, controls, and technology.

Laboratory Programming

A Laboratory Planning Questionnaire has been created by CPDC to document the research environment’s requirements including the use, anticipated equipment, hazards, and required building systems infrastructure. The questionnaire is the beginning of the lab programming process for CPDC to advise on facility capability, building, location, space, scope, and budget of any proposed renovation, alteration, or change in use. This document is also used by EHSS as the primary means to understand proposed hazards and communicate requirements and recommendations for registration, compliance and laboratory operations. Laboratories are required to comply with MAQs within an identified control area.

Proposed laboratory equipment shall be reviewed with CPDC to confirm the proposed location has the building systems infrastructure necessary. CPDC may propose alternate locations where building systems infrastructure can support equipment requirements. Requests are to be accompanied by equipment manufacturer specifications and installation guide.

Research Laboratory Space Planning

Laboratory space planning should be modular and adaptable.

A typical preferred research lab planning module is 11’ wide to accommodate; 36” deep fume hoods, 60” aisle, and 30” deep bench. 10’-6” is the minimum width.

For existing conditions unable to accommodate the minimum dimension, equipment depth, bench depth and programmatic adjustments may be required.

Length of lab planning modules may vary, but is typically 30’-35’. Syracuse University considers two 11’ wide lab modules to be a lab bay, ideally 22’w x 30’+ d, yielding approximately 660 net assignable square feet.

Adaptability is the capability of a research environment to adjust to changing needs in research, equipment and quantity of research positions. For new construction or renovation, the ability of a lab to adapt to future needs will be defined in programming, setting the parameters of the capabilities of the lab. Existing building systems’ capacities and capabilities will be reviewed from a structural, space, control area, HVAC, electrical and plumbing perspective determining the limits achieved through typical lab layouts defined by research type. Existing facilities will have inherent capabilities challenges and limitations that may not be easily modified.

Adaptability is achieved through clear building systems design strategies and laboratory layout considerations.

Research Laboratory Layout Considerations

Laboratory floor plans should be organized using generally accepted laboratory design best practices.

Door openings providing access to wet labs should be a minimum of 42” wide, preferred 48”, achieved through a 36” active leaf and 12” inactive leaf. Inside the lab on the wall adjacent to the door, wall space should be maintained for necessary switches and devices. Define any necessary atypical access control requirements. Typical access control for new or fully renovated labs are preferred to be proximity reader. Door closers are required on all wet labs.

Walls separating lab bays are not mandatory and should be avoided when possible. Consideration should be given to “ghost corridors” that allow connection between lab modules for research team growth. Labs shall have a minimum circulation clearance of 44” and a minimum aisle clearance between benches and/or fixed equipment of 57” (4’-9”), 60” (5’) is strongly preferred.

A closed aisle where fixed benches meet a perpendicular wall allowing only single direction circulation is not acceptable.

Fixed equipment such as fume hoods, sinks, eye washes, emergency showers, tank farms, manifold systems, vented gas cabinets, etc. should be carefully located to maximize future adaptability and create the possibility for assigned lab modules to expand and contract. Fixed casework is ideally placed at the perimeter of labs adjacent to other fixed equipment. Emergency showers can be installed in circulation corridors with recessed or semi-recessed wall fixtures and ceiling mounted shower. Refer to CPDC Engineering standards for additional information.

Mobile casework with overhead services is encouraged to provide future adaptability and flexibility for evolving research and equipment needs. Overhead service carriers or ceiling panels are ideally located flush with a finished ceiling if suspended for access, or in a lab with no finished ceiling, maintain a minimum of 7’-0” AFF (Above Finish Floor) clearance. Overhead service carriers are to contain the following; 120V electrical receptacles, electrical cut out and cover plates for specialty electrical, twist lock connectors, data ports, service fixture holes, laboratory gas manifolds, all central building systems including but not limited to; compressed air, vacuum, process cooling water, RO/DI, and localized laboratory exhaust connection.

Space within the lab must be provided for loose equipment such as flammable and combustible cabinets, hazardous waste storage, refrigerators, specialty equipment and tank farms (quantity dependent upon research type). Tank restraint systems are required. Toxic and highly toxic compressed gases, as per EHSS, require a ventilated gas cabinet.

Fume hoods are to be located away from primary parallel circulation routes and all doors accessing the space. Fume hoods should not be located in corners or within the path of a single means of exit. Fume hoods should not face each other across an aisle. At least one fume hood in the lab is required to be ADA compliant. Ductless fume hoods are not permitted. University typical fume hood size is 36”deep x 60” wide. Deviations from this standard size are site, location and program dependent. Fume hood acid storage/flammable base cabinet shall be integrated with fume hood.

A preferred minimum fume hood to sink ratio is 1:1. At least one sink is required to be ADA compliant. A preferred minimum lab sink to research position is 1:6.

Windows in wet laboratories shall not be operable. If existing windows are operable, they should be secured to maintain pressurization and prevent turbulence.

Typical Fume Hood Quantity per Lab Bay

Lab Type

Typical Number of Fume Hoods per Lab Bay







Earth Sciences


Design Considerations

Refer to CPDC Architecture and Engineering Standards


Ceiling height is preferred to be within an 8’-6” - 10’ AFF range to provide efficient air changes. Laboratory design documents shall include acoustical design best practice measures.


Flooring is to be chemically resistive one piece and/or continuous non-pervious with integral cove base. Tiles will be considered in certain applications and must be approved by CPDC.


All laboratory casework shall reference, adhere and comply with recommended practices by the Scientific Equipment and Furniture Association (SEFA) when considering casework specifications, materials, detailing and finishes. Reference; SEFA 2.3, SEFA 8. Typical floor mounted closed base cabinets may be specified in metal or approved hardwood. If hardwood, follow AWI recommended quality standards.

Mobile casework shall be height adjustable and consider integral lighting, power and data. The University’s BOD (Basis of Design) for modular laboratory furniture is Mott Altus Table System or approved equal.

Flammable liquid storage cabinets for solvent or flammable liquid storage, provide units that are listed and labeled as complying with requirements in NFPA 30.

Clearly define performance criteria in specifications and submittals.


Laboratory work surfaces shall reference, adhere and comply with recommended practices by the Scientific Equipment and Furniture Association (SEFA) when considering work surface specifications, materials, detailing and finishes. Reference; SEFA 3. Countertops shall be chemical and abuse resistive. Plastic laminate or wood are not acceptable within wet labs.

Clearly define performance criteria in specifications and submittals.


Process Piping

Provide all available central building systems services to fume hoods, benchtop and overhead carriers as well as from tank farm manifold system to overhead service carrier. Extend branch piping to all fixed equipment and service chases with valve taps.


Wet labs shall be designed to be once-through systems exhausted by a laboratory exhaust system. The space air change rate is dependent on the chemical use, cooling requirements, and fume hood quantity, but generally the design minimum air change rate is 6 air changes per hour.  Point source exhaust, fume hoods and exhaust arms are the primary means of contaminant control in wet labs. Space mounted fan coils, heat pumps or split systems that do not recirculate with any other spaces may be used in high cooling load locations.

Dry labs ventilation strategies shall be based on the specific space uses. Air from spaces that generate contaminants, use natural gas, or generate any odors shall not be recirculated back to central systems.  Provide local exhaust extraction arms, point exhaust and similar local exhaust sources for contaminant, heat, or odor generating processes. Provide local recirculating terminal units in spaces with have high cooling loads to avoid excessive sizing of main ductwork and air handling systems.    


Generally, compressed air, vacuum, and pure water is provided by central systems. Other gases are provided with localized tank farms specific to laboratories. For additional information on emergency showers, eye washes and floor drains, refer to CPDC Engineering Standards and EHSS requirements.  


Provide dedicated panels to support each lab bay fed by normal power. Provide a panel serving multiple lab to provide standby power. Provide a room UPS and distribution panel for equipment rooms that serve sensitive laboratory equipment.


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