Sustainable laboratories

Modern systems are designed and operated to achieve a proper balance between air quality, thermal health and saving energy. In laboratories, ventilation is used extensively in all types of facilities to provide a safe and comfortable environment for researchers. In every case, ventilation is an important engineering control to reduce the risk of potential exposure to airborne contaminates including gases that are poisonous, reactive or flammable, or from air circulation that carry bacteria and viruses.

Types of laboratories

Biocontainment laboratory

Biocontainment laboratories deal with microorganisms that in many cases can cause disease in humans and in some cases cause disease in plants or animals. These laboratories are often called microbiological and biomedical laboratories. Since ventilation design and operation play a key role in containment facilities, a thorough understanding of the specialised requirements is necessary to safeguard researchers and other occupants of the building from potential exposure through inhalation.


Cleanrooms are designed to provide a working environment with minimal airborne particulate materials and constant temperature, humidity, air pressure, and airflow patterns.  Clean rooms need positive pressurisation to prevent infiltration that could compromise requirements for cleanliness.


Vivariums require more detailed and focused design engineering than most other types of laboratory environments. The stability and quality of the animals’ environment are vital to their well-being and to the integrity of research. The provision of clean air is critical for both the animals and caregivers.  The ventilation system must create a safe, comfortable working environment. In addition, it must ensure that contaminated and odorous air is exhausted and pressure gradients with directional airflow are maintained.

Wet chemistry laboratory

Chemistry laboratories are often subjected to rapid changes or disturbances from the opening and closing of fume cupboard sashes at once, or from turning on large pieces of heat generating equipment and hoods.  Such disturbances require a fast response from the airflow control system to maintain the precise conditions in the laboratory.

Objective and criteria

The objective of commissioning is to establish that the critical ventilation systems remain fit for purpose and are achieving performance that meet current facility requirements (CFR) by satisfying the following criteria:

  • Room temperatures and relative humidity;
  • Supply and exhaust air flow rates;
  • Room air-change rates;
  • Room differential pressures for directional airflow;
  • Air-quality measurement of TVOCs, particle matter, carbon monoxide
  • Energy use intensity (EUI)

Talk to a commissioning authority

If you are an owner, facilities manager, architect, or an engineer we would be delighted to help you understand what type of commissioning is needed for your project.

We recommend individuals join the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) to access a world of knowledge. Further details here