Due to limited knowledge of science lab requirements, some new designs have included extensive technological installations (e.g., internet facilities, large plasma screens, projectors, etc.) but confined bench space, and limited gas and electricity for practical work. It is imperative that provision of services be the main consideration in any school science lab. Recommendations include the following:
- Pipes and cabling: These should be installed in or behind benching, walls, or floors. None should be hanging from a ceiling (except for ceiling-mounted data projectors). Pipes should be colour-coded according to contents and show the direction of pupil services (gas and electricity) outlets should be within 600mm of pupil’s work/seating places. Services should be arranged so that pupils do not all face outwards around the walls when undertaking practical work.
- Gas taps: Building Bulletin 80 recommends one gas tap per pupil, spaced around the lab (i.e., ≥ 30). Other taps should be fitted on demonstration benches, perimeter benching and serving the fume cupboard. Do not place gas taps under cupboards, curtains or blinds, or in front of windows. Ensure that all taps are of robust design, with definite on/off positions and anti-rotate fixing to the bench, with non-return valves and restrictors in nozzles.
- Gas pipes: All gas pipes should be concealed if copper (with spaces ventilated) and steel if exposed (compliant with UP11 Gas Installation Standard).
- Electrical Sockets: Building Bulletin 80 recommends one electrical socket per pupil (i.e., ≥ 30), spaced around the science As with gas taps, other sockets should be provided for demonstrations benches, perimeter benching, and the fume cupboard. Electrical sockets should be of robust design, facing away, with shield, if placed near to water. There should be no low voltage systems, instead the use of portable low-voltage supply units should be standard.
- Electrical circuits: School science labs usually require at least two ‘master’ 30 amp ring-main circuits to feed the standard mains Other, separate circuits not under the ‘master’ control may be needed for computers, data projectors, fish tanks, fume cupboards. RCDs (Residual Current Devices)/ELCBs (Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers) should be fitted on each ring circuit (standard 30mA, 30ms specification is acceptable).
- Water supply: This should be of high enough pressure to operate science equipment. The supply should be controllable (e.g. with pressure reducer) for emergency eyewashes. To prevent waste water contaminating the incoming water supply, an air gap at the point of entry to the lab, usually using a header tank should be provided, with an electric pump to maintain pressure if needed. Note: Most school science labs should comply with the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999, fluid category 4, concerning fluid which represents a significant health hazard due to the concentration of toxic substances.
- Sinks: Building Bulletin 80 recommends one sink per 6 pupils (i.e., ≥ 5) spaced around the lab, and each should be large enough for experimental equipment (recommended: ≥ 300mm x 200mm x depth150mm) with one cold tap per sink. One larger experimental sink on should be fitted on the demonstration bench with two cold taps. A further sink should be included in the fume cupboard. One large sink with drainer on a perimeter bench should be installed for wash up and hand wash, with both hot and cold taps being provided. If a steel sink is fitted, then it should meet grade 316 specifications, not domestic grade 304. A towel dispenser should be provided for hand drying.
- Water Taps: These should be of robust design, the top being ≥ 300mm above benches, and with the spout ≥ 225mm above the sink. Tap controls should be located on the front. Fixing or locating plates should be used to prevent anti-rotating of the taps. Domestic taps are unsuitable for school science labs.
- Eyewash station: An eye wash station must be readily accessible within the science laboratory. A constant supply of clean, cold water should be available, pressure controlled (often by pipe insert).
- Drains: Easily accessible anti-siphon bottle traps should be placed under each sink. Chemically-resistant high-density polythene or polypropylene should be specified for pipework.
- Controls: Gas, electricity and water should all have master controls (emergency shut-offs) in the Science lab, easily accessible by a teacher, but not by pupils. A gas isolating valve (AECV, Additional Emergency Control Valve), inside the room, is mandatory (UP11 Gas Installation Standards). Solenoid valves, operated by a central board can obviate the need for awkward pipe runs – they must have their own separate electrical supply. Gas and water should have zoned controls (each service bollard/run) for isolation and maintenance.
- Demonstration area (bench or service bollard): Should have all services, e., at least two gas taps and four mains electricity sockets, large experimental sink and all ICT services. Fire and health and safety equipment should be nearby.
- ICT: Internet/intranet access for pupils and staff should be provided, along with data projection and accompanying screen. A good quality sound system, linked to ICT, should be installed. For a standard school science lab, ≥ 16 cabled Internet access points plus wireless capability is required, with sufficient bandwidth for all in the vicinity to log on without significant loss in speed. Telephones should be available as part of the school telecommunications system.
- Fume cupboards: Should be installed, commissioned and maintained to the guidelines detailed in Building Bulletin 88. A-level chemistry labs should be supplied with at least two fume cupboards. For demonstrations, supply one for every two laboratories. Fume cupboards should be of the ducted type and not the filter type (see Guidance on Laboratory Fume Cupboards, The Royal Society of Chemistry). Fume cupboards should be sited away from doors and not in a corner; site duct outputs away from other intakes. The duct must rise 1m above roof level. Adequate air supply is required. Extraction should be quiet in operation (≤ 65dB at 300mm). If the fume cupboards are mobile type, enough docking stations are necessary, with appropriate services incorporated. Hoses should be ≤ 1.4m in length, with the fume cupboard restrained by a stainless steel cable shorter than that. Doors and lifts must be tall enough and wide enough for mobile type fume cupboards to pass through safely.