General Design Features for Laboratories:
- As a rule of thumb a working lab will need an area with roughly the same floor area (generally on the floor above) to hold its service plant (vacuum/steam/cryo supply, heating/cooling/aircon, water purification etc.) - some of the cleaner species of lab may be able to get away with half as much1.
- This does not include the space that is required for equipment storage, chemical stores, technician's prep areas and the like - this should be roughly the same floorspace again as the labs and, if used for storing hazardous chemicals, in a different building wherever possible.
- Sane people do not store large volumes of hazardous material in their labs - and these days everything in a lab should be clearly labelled. This has not always been the case, but is likely to remain so, even in dystopiae.
- Modern labs tend to have two entrances - "clean" one going to the offices and what have you and a "dirty" one that goes to the chemical stores. The clean entrance, at least, will have some form of decontamination facility - even if it's just a handwash sink and a glove bin. It might be an air lock or even a series of showers and changing rooms.
- Most scientists will do the majority of their writing up outside the lab in an office or reading room (although there are exceptions), although raw notes are often made in the lab. Typically a reading room will be as close to the lab as possible.
- Labs and reading rooms will often be in a different part of the building to non-lab areas, frequently with a layer of access control between them and the outside - partly for IP protection, partly for general security. In the same vein, corridors and other forms of general access will almost never run through lab areas.
- Really secure labs will only have one or two entrances to the building, often above ground floor level and only accessible once you have passed through lower security areas of the facility.
Useful Trappings for Laboratories:
- Fume cupboard
- Automatic pippettes (typically on a spinner rack of different sizes)
- Glove box (or other high containment system)
- Boxes of disposable gloves
- Wash bottles (may contain organic solvents, biocide, detergents, sterilising solutions or purer water) - used for cleaning, not for process work2.
- Bench top centrifuge.
- Analytical instruments (Gas or liquid chromatographs, mass spectrometers etc. - larger instruments or things like NMR machines tend to get their own rooms3). Sometimes you can get whole labs full of these.
- Glassware drying oven
- Incubator or chemistry oven.
- Tube or flask shaker.
- Rotary evaporator (some of which take flasks up to 50L)
- Minature chemical reactors/fermenters (probably a subset of glassware - if they're bigger than about 20L they tend to have their own facilities rather than living in a lab).
- Robots4 - especially in laboratories that perform nearly identical actions in a repetitive manner.
Game and Story Use
- Note that a materials science or hard physics lab is more likely to resemble a engineering workshop whilst theoretical physics is mostly done by computer simulation. Neither will normally need the sort of containment and decontamination measures noted above unless they're working with very interesting materials indeed.