Environmental rooms are defined by their capacity to maintain specific temperature and humidity levels. This feature allows for application testing, experimentation, and even storage within controlled conditions. Not only are these designated settings reliably sustained in the space, but they can also be documented as part of SOPs. An environmental room can, therefore, be leveraged as an essential component of successful lab design
But there is no one-size-fits-all way to design environmental rooms. Not only does their orientation rely on the usage needs of the space (e.g. the placement of a workbench or sterile hood) but also on the building infrastructure to generate and maintain the desired environmental conditions. HVAC systems and all other elements required for temperature and humidity control generally cannot be rebuilt to fit the environmental room; the materials used inside must be fitted to accommodate the space.
As a starting point, we've identified five key considerations to keep in mind when designing storage for an environmental room.
#1 - Airflow
To effectively maintain climate and prevent particulate matter as well as fumes from lingering, the room's airflow must be preserved. This means that all room components must be oriented around the circulation path of the air, and must also leave enough room for climate sensors to perform their function. Rooms should be kept as free from obstructions as possible. Even when pathways through the room are kept clear, many options exist that allow individual units within the room to allow air to pass through. For example, shelving may be formed of a grid pattern with holes to allow air through.
#2 - Humidity
Whether the room has high humidity levels and therefore materials must be resistant to mold growth and rust, or the room has low humidity, and therefore materials must not become brittle, air moisture content must be factored into the selection of materials used. Surface treatments such as Microban help reduce the likelihood of contamination.
#3 - Temperature
Exposure to hot or cold temperatures may affect the integrity of materials over time. If ignored, this could lead to compromised or damaged supplies or samples in the environmental room. It could also lead to quicker wear-and-tear, particularly when combined with decontamination processes.
#4 - Heavily trafficked surfaces easy to clean
Even the most customized room will need to be cleaned regularly to maintain constant environmental conditions. The level and timing of particular cleanings will vary based on the use of the room, but often features like UV lighting will be implemented to reduce contamination risks; materials must, therefore, be able to withstand UV exposure.
#5 - Varying room usage over time
Needs change over time. Even if the environmental conditions required stay the same, the items being stored or handled might change in quantity, volume, or form; the space must be capable of adapting accordingly. Designing a space that meets current needs but can accommodate changes over time is essential. Most commonly, this includes creating storage or workspaces 'with room to grow' if need be.
As we've noted, there is no single way to use an environmental room. Its design must accommodate the positioning of climate control elements, machinery, storage, and workspaces, and its components must withstand constant exposure to the required environmental conditions. While one individual part may not make or break the success of the entire room, careful selection of each item during room design can result in a cumulatively positive effect.
Browse our catalog to start to get familiar with some of the options we offer, and then call us so we can help you design the ideal environmental room for your institution.
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