How to Incorporate Cold Storage into Compact Lab Designs

How to Incorporate Cold Storage into Compact Lab Designs

Today, laboratory professionals are realizing they can have the best of both worlds – a beautiful space- conscious design that is also high functioning. With so much improvement in both cold-storage equipment and instrument technology, many traditional laboratory designs are being reimagined. The trend is moving towards compact and sustainable workspaces. The neat thing is this concept applies to many types of laboratory environments – from analytical to medical and everything in between.

Laboratory Essentials: How to Create Workable Zones

The most efficient laboratories are zoned by purpose or intent. Creating organized spaces s a huge focus for any size lab, but more so for small footprint lab designs. By categorizing the housing necessities, it becomes easier to define the room schematics.

There are several lab design software programs where you can plug and play the room dimensions and see the layout before you purchase the larger equipment. Planning is essential to avoid costly installation mishaps.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Most laboratories have private spaces for personal effects. It is also a good idea to have dedicated spaces for PPE. This could be in the form of a cabinet kept close to the cleanroom, or break room areas. This allows for easy access upon entry or departure from the active working spaces.

Refrigerators and Freezers Considerations

Foot traffic

Probably the most important focus of any laboratory is cold storage. In some cases, multiple units are needed because of various temperature requirements. Factoring the amount of space needed is half the battle. Laboratory management should think in terms of volume and foot-traffic. For example, biologics stored in pathology labs are frequently used since specimens are used for testing multiple times during a 24-hour period.

This translates to maintaining a walkable space in or around the cold-storage housing and kept clear of active work areas or volatile materials. The best type of refrigerator/freezer units for large amounts of foot traffic are those which maximize vertical space or high-ceiling designs. This creates a friendly door swing area to avoid congestion and accidents.

Refrigerator/Freezer Contents

Factoring in what you are going to be housing is a good idea. You want to make sure you have ample room to store the dead bodies. (Just making sure you didn’t fall asleep.) All kidding aside, biological specimens and vaccines have completely different housing requirements for both temperatures and racking needs. Cold storage housing may be a bit deceiving in perception. We have seen smaller units end up working well because the inside compartmentalization is set up properly to aid for better functionality.

Small Equipment Housing Needs

The key to making a compact design work is to keep the essentials in a place easily accessible, but also maximizing ALL available space. Design experts speak a lot about vertical alignment. (Think high shelving for things not often used. Factor in the need for fingertip like access.

In R&D labs, there tends to be a lot of movement, making it necessary for multiple housing stations for like items. This translates to featuring dedicated housing compartments for things used frequently such as pipettes, assays, and microscopes.


The centrifuge is the workhouse of the lab, second only to cold storage. This is another area which needs to be extra focused upon foot-traffic. The lab flow tends to be unique to the type of lab and the number of people working within it making it hard to pinpoint optimal positioning.

Work Areas/Benches

Plan to keep work areas in a common-sense type of alignment with safety at the helm of each decision. Modular units are great choices and tend to work well in tight spaces. Also, don’t' forget to factor in adjustable workbenches. (Your taller personnel will be grateful!)

For the ultimate in space-conscious designs, consider a dual functioning unit where a workbench is housed atop the refrigeration unit. 

Lighting, Fume Hoods, Water Sources

Fume hoods are large pieces of equipment. For optimal space-saving, opt for ceiling-mounted models if available. The same idea applies to lighting. Task lighting can be easily mounted on a wall or ceiling. Water sources should be in a central location of the lab for safety concerns. 

Is it Possible to Find Energy Efficient Cold Storage in a Small Footprint Design?

Yes. It is no secret that cold storage is the largest contributor to a lab’s carbon footprint. Moving forward with climate-conscious efforts, many refrigerator/freezer models now come with an energy-star rating. Also, look for units that feature R290 refrigerant, an environmentally friendly green option compliant with the EPA SNAP non-ozone-depleting mandates. As a rule, it is a best practice to house cold storage units in places that offer adequate insulation and temperature control. This will assist in energy conservation. You can see how K2 products stack up on the Energy Star website.

Where Can I Source Small Footprint Cold Storage Solutions?

Freezers that are designed to fit underneath workbenches aren’t the type of thing you can normally find at the local appliance store. They aren’t design to the performance standards required to be “medical-grade.” (We wish it were that easy too.) Seriously, we are here to help.

K2 Scientific offers a variety of cold-storage options in addition to outstanding service and advice. Our clients include biorepositories, clinics, hospitals, and many university laboratories. We understand how to provide a unit to meet your exact specifications while also offering the energy-saving options outlined above. You will also find that we have competitive low prices on many popular models.

Contact us for more information.

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