Lab development and connectivity: the essential considerations


6 / 21 / 2022


In an ideal world, research facilities would predict and accommodate every emerging trend in the research and development sector. Of course, the world isn’t perfect, and the ways in which we work change constantly and unpredictably, particularly in the research realm.

The use of computer modelling, to analyse that which cannot be examined in the physical environment, has significantly increased. What were once chemical and water-based “wet labs”, are now operating on a predominantly machine and computer-based model.

Traditionally, labs have been designed to be completely autonomous, featuring emergency power systems and N+1 Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems. Now, the labs of today require new infrastructural elements so that the rapid influx of digital tools can perform at optimal levels.

Over the past decade, high-speed internet access and cloud computing have become increasingly critical to the maintenance, security and operational consistency of any lab facility.

To maximise productivity, and reduce the risk of research loss, facility design must be nimble. In today’s terms, that means having optimal levels of reliable, resilient, and redundant connectivity. To achieve this, new design best practices and aspects of infrastructure must be considered:

Access to multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs):

  • A lab’s connectivity and, consequently, its business, is only as good as its ISPs. Ever-reliant on telecommunications to transmit and store research data, labs must have resilient data infrastructure components if they’re to consistently conduct research, even in the event of a system breakdown.

  • It’s therefore essential that a facility can access multiple service providers. The extra investment into a secondary connection pays dividends the moment a primary source fails.

Proper telecom room planning:

  • Any building, especially one that houses a laboratory, should have a well-planned telecommunications room. These rooms should be located above floodplain levels, incorporate climate control, and include proper fire detection/suppression methods to mitigate risk of damage to equipment.

    Each space must be solely dedicated to telecommunications, rather than co-located with other utilities, and must have its own backup power generation.

Incorporating diverse risers:

  • In the Research and Development (R&D) world, lease terms are longer than in other industries, and often span upwards of ten years. Throughout that time, it’s likely that a laboratory’s layout will need to change a multitude of times.

  • To eliminate the possibility of costly IT retrofits, incorporating multiple, diverse, and protected risers will provide the necessary configuration flexibility throughout the duration of the lease. Patch cabling can then be routed between these closets to facilitate simple equipment moves from one side of the building to the other.

Providing electrical resiliency:

  • For a facility to possess best-in-class connectivity, multiple forms of electrical resiliency must exist to support its telecommunication services.

  • To reduce the risk of power failures, a building’s telecommunications room must be connected to an emergency generator to eliminate the possibility of an internet outage.

  • Additionally, the incoming electrical utility feeds should be fed from diverse electrical substations. This ensures that there is a failover in the case of a grid-wide power outage.

The above precautions protect against the loss of both time and data, whilst providing a substantial infrastructure for new, internet-dependent smart building technologies.

Final thoughts:
Operating a lab facility on a daily basis is a costly venture, with operational expenses often amounting to upwards of six figures per day. For this to be feasible, business continuity needs to remain at 100 percent. With proper planning and upfront resiliency investments, developers can create optimal environments in which laboratories can thrive, safe in the knowledge that they’re protected against irreparable financial losses.

This article was first published in Savills Life Sciences: Trends & Outlook report in May 2022

Press enter or esc to cancel