5 Things to Consider When Conducting Laboratory Site Selection

Selecting the right site for building a new laboratory is a crucial decision that requires careful consideration. As a construction project manager for a life sciences company, it is your responsibility to ensure that the site selected is suitable for the laboratory’s requirements and complies with local regulations. Here are the main considerations for selecting a site to build a new laboratory for life sciences construction.

1. Location

The first consideration for selecting a site for a new laboratory is its location.  Because of the sensitive nature of scientific research, along with a host of infrastructure, utility, and regulation needs, there are a number of criteria and factors that need to be met before picking a site location for a new laboratory. For instance, zoning regulations play a crucial role in determining the types of activities that can be conducted in a particular area. These regulations are put in place to ensure that the use of land is consistent with the community’s goals and objectives. Therefore, before selecting a site for a new laboratory, it is essential to review the zoning regulations of the area.

If possible, the site should be near other scientific institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and research centers, to facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing. For example, a location that is close to a thriving biotech hub, such as Raleigh NC, can be an excellent choice for a laboratory. These areas typically have a high concentration of life sciences companies and research institutions, providing an environment for collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and access to talent.

Additionally, the laboratory can benefit from shared resources, such as core facilities and equipment, which can reduce the laboratory’s operating costs. Alternatively, having a research lab somewhere with a lower presence of biotech hubs can have a significant impact on reducing operating costs if the area has an overall lower cost-of-living. Finally, a facility may also need to consider its proximity to important sample materials and may need to choose a location closer to a national transportation hub to accommodate transporting these materials.


2. Power Usage and Utilities

For laboratory site development and construction, it is essential to ensure that the site selected has access to reliable and stable power, water, and sewage systems. Laboratories often have specialized equipment that requires specialized plumbing systems. For example, laboratory sinks may require a dedicated water supply and drainage system to prevent contamination, and fume hoods may require ventilation systems to remove hazardous gases and vapors.

Another example is a microbiology laboratory may require systems for sterilization, filtration, and reverse osmosis, while a chemistry laboratory may require systems for distillation and gas chromatography. Additionally, laboratories often require high-purity water for experiments and testing. This may require a dedicated water purification system that is separate from the building’s main water supply.

Additionally, Laboratories have specialized electrical requirements compared to traditional commercial buildings due to the unique nature of the experiments and equipment used in the lab. Many lab experiments require high power demands, which can exceed the electrical capacity of traditional commercial buildings. For instance, some experiments may require powerful electrical currents to generate high magnetic fields, which can only be achieved with specialized electrical equipment.

Precision control is often required in laboratories as well to ensure that the environment and equipment are maintained at specific conditions. For example, certain experiments require strict temperature, humidity, or atmospheric pressure control, which necessitates specialized electrical systems. For complex electrical systems like these, it may make sense to look into more green power solutions to avoid damaging sensitive lab equipment.


3. Size and Layout for Current Needs and Possible Future Expansion

The size and layout of the site are critical considerations for building a new laboratory. The laboratory requires adequate space to accommodate its research activities, administrative offices, and specialized equipment. A laboratory needs to consider its future needs when determining its size because flexibility is crucial as the lab may need to accommodate new experiments or equipment.

Floor space to move around is also important from both a working perspective and safety perspective. This means that developers will need to consider if a lab will want to accommodate equipment directly in the lab or if they need to house said equipment in a separate area. Certain mechanical equipment for instance can be housed either on the roof or on the ceiling of the laboratory to save space and reduce room size requirements for building. This will however increase the need for a sturdier structural system of the overall building, so both advantages and disadvantages should be considered.

The laboratory should also be designed to minimize the risk of contamination and cross-contamination between different areas of the laboratory, which would need to take floor space into consideration as well. To do this, the layout needs to factor in the movement of personnel, equipment, and materials within the laboratory when performing the laboratory planning and design.


4. Structural Integrity

The structural requirements for laboratory research facilities are significantly different from those of standard commercial buildings due to the unique nature of laboratory research activities. This is because laboratories and research facilities typically house specialized and heavy equipment that requires more structural support than that of standard commercial buildings.

For instance, research equipment such as electron microscopes (which can weigh up to 1000lbs and be up to 10ft tall), mass spectrometers, and MRI machines may require additional support to distribute the weight evenly and prevent damage to the floors or other structural components.

Additionally, laboratory research facilities may require specialized utilities that must be integrated into the building’s structural design. These utilities may require additional structural support to ensure they’re properly functioning and prevent leaks or damage to the building.


5. Security Concerns and Following Federal and State Regulations

Laboratories are unique environments that require advanced security solutions to protect the people, materials, and confidential research activities within. Laboratories can handle hazardous, dangerous, or valuable materials, such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, or expensive research equipment. The security of these materials is crucial to prevent theft, tampering, or misuse. Advanced security solutions such as access control systems, video surveillance, and intrusion detection systems are necessary to control access to these materials and monitor their movement within the facility.

Many laboratories are also subject to strict regulatory standards that govern the storage, handling, and disposal of hazardous materials. Understanding compliance with federal hazardous material regulations is extremely important for maintaining safety and avoiding hefty fines. To comply with these regulations, advanced security solutions such as secure storage areas, controlled access to hazardous materials, and strict protocols for disposal may be required depending on the material. Security systems that monitor and record access to hazardous materials can also help laboratories demonstrate compliance with regulatory standards.

In addition to hazardous and health related reasons for security, laboratories are often involved in research activities that generate valuable intellectual property. Advanced security solutions such as video surveillance and access control systems as well as best security practice measures are necessary to protect this intellectual property from physical theft, intellectual theft, or unauthorized access.



Selecting the right site for a new laboratory requires careful consideration of several factors. The site selected should be in a location that is easily accessible and in close proximity to transportation infrastructure and other scientific institutions. It should comply with all local zoning regulations and environmental considerations. By carefully considering these factors, you can select the right site for a new laboratory that can support the company’s research and development goals.

As a construction project manager for a life sciences company, it is essential to collaborate with architects, engineers, and other stakeholders to ensure that the site selected meets all the laboratory’s requirements and complies with all local and federal regulations. As an experienced Life Sciences Engineering, Architecture, and Construction firm with over 50 years of experience, GBA is a trusted partner to life science organizations of all sizes. To contact GBA for your next project, you can reach us on our Contact Page.

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