Laboratory: Dry  



The Dry Laboratory space type is a laboratory space that is specific to work with dry stored materials, electronics, and/or large instruments with few piped services. The laboratories defined by this space type are analytical laboratories that may require accurate temperature and humidity control, dust control, and clean power. See also WBDG Research Facilities. Offices, General Storage, and Warehouse space types associated with laboratories are covered in their own respective pages.

Clients are pushing project design teams to create laboratories that are responsive to current and future needs; that encourage interaction among scientists from various disciplines; that help recruit and retain qualified scientists; and that facilitate partnerships and development. As such, a separate WBDG Resource Page on Trends in Lab Design elaborates on this model of laboratory design.

U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory

At the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, this humidity-controlled dry room is where researchers safely assemble and test new lithium-ion batteries in the Interdisciplinary Science Building.
Photo Credit: U.S. DOE

Space Attributes

Dry laboratory space types are designed to accommodate project-specific work patterns and scientific equipment. As such, they tend to include design features that provide reliable working conditions in a somewhat mobile environment. Typical features of dry laboratory space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.


Woman in a wheelchair working in an ADA-compliant fume hood

ADA-compliant fume hood

Any new lab project must consider ABA/Section 504/ADA compliance, the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design published by the Department of Justice, and any state or local accessibility guidelines that may apply. The following are primary considerations for accessible design in laboratories:

  • Provide some adaptable furniture systems and adjustable-height work surfaces to accommodate people in wheelchairs.
  • Provide one ADA fume hood in each lab. An ADA hood is designed with a sash that opens vertically and horizontally.
  • Provide one ADA height (34 in.) sink for each lab.
  • Provide one ADA workstation/write-up area in each lab.
  • Choose emergency shower handles that can be pushed up to stop the flow. Install pullout shelves in base cabinets.
  • Install a lightweight fire extinguisher within reach of a handicapped workstation.

Functional / Operational

  • Constant and Reliable Temperature and Humidity: As some equipment and experiments are temperature- and humidity-sensitive, constant conditions are required in Dry Laboratory spaces to ensure that equipment can perform properly and that experiments produce accurate results. Laboratories are usually supplied with variable volume terminal reheat system with pre-filters and after-filters for 90% efficiency. In general, laboratory spaces have positive pressure relative to other spaces with no return air from the laboratory to the other spaces.

  • Dust Control: Just as experiments and equipment may be sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, so might they be to dust and other foreign particulates. For more information, see WBDG Air Barrier Systems in Buildings and Air Decontamination.

  • Laboratory Occupancy: Occupancy Group Classification for Dry Laboratory is B2, Sprinkler protected construction, as per IBC, with a GSA Acoustical Class C1 for enclosed spaces and Class C2 for open spaces.


  • Durable/Flexible/Mobile Casework: As working conditions will often change due to new projects and equipment, dry laboratories are usually fitted with mobile casework to allow for flexibility in the floor plan. This casework is generally a pre-manufactured laboratory metal casework system with cantilever support off of central service chase system. Counters are typically a plastic laminate with integral splash. The chase system has metal channel support with a horizontal distribution of wiring. See also WBDG Research Laboratory and Trends in Lab Design.

  • Reliable, Easy to Access, Wiring System: Due to the flexible nature of the Dry Laboratory, the distribution of critical wiring (power, voice data, and HVAC) should be clearly laid out, and easy to access and redirect. Thus, a raised floor system is the recommended system of distribution of critical services for this space type.

Secure / Safe

  • Design the lab to meet requirements to withstand man-made and natural hazards to optimize occupant safety and prevent loss of resources.

  • Provide a security system with one or more of the following attributes:
    • Some means of access control, often arranged in layers within the building
    • A computerized security management system (SMS)
    • Special door hardware locksets or devices that function in unison with the SMS
    • A means of visually monitoring sensitive or secure areas.
  • Install a biological safety cabinet (BSC) to allow work with harmful disease agents or infected tissues without risk of infection.

  • Fire and Life Safety: All Laboratory spaces typically will contain a hand-held chemical emergency fire extinguisher in an emergency equipment cabinet. There is generally one fire alarm pull station by each egress point and an audible and visible (strobe) alarm in each occupiable space (not including closets, storage rooms, or coat racks). For more information, see WBDG Security and Safety in Laboratories.


Example Program

The following parameters are representative of the Dry Laboratory space type.

A lab-planning module of 12' wide by 24' long, with utility and service closets extending 3' beyond at each end. There are 24" deep counters along each side with 27" seating zones in front of each counter and a 36" walkway down the middle of the module.

Example Plans

The following diagram is representative of typical tenant plans.

Laboratory (dry) space type

Example Construction Criteria

For GSA, the unit costs for Dry Laboratory space types are based on the construction quality and design features in the following table . This information is based on GSA's benchmark interpretation and could be different for other owners. Revolving darkroom doors, clean room ratings, exhaust fume hood systems, stable structure and vibration control, shielded space, and any piping systems including filtered chilled water typical of dry laboratories are not included in the table.

Relevant Codes and Standards

The following agencies and organizations have developed codes and standards affecting the design of research laboratories, including those containing dry labs. Note that the codes and standards are minimum requirements. Architects, engineers, and consultants should consider exceeding the applicable requirements whenever possible.

ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers)

Department of Veterans Affairs

General Services Administration

National Institutes of Health

Additional Resources



  • GSA Sustainable Facilities Tool (SFTool)—SFTool's immersive virtual environment addresses all your sustainability planning, designing and procurement needs.
  • Laboratories for the 21st Century (Labs21)—Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, Labs21 is a voluntary program dedicated to improving the environmental performance of U.S. laboratories.
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