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The science of lab design

Innova Design Solutions explore the environmental factors to consider when building school science labs

Posted by Hannah Oakman | May 11, 2015 | Facilities & buildings

A well-designed science laboratory can help significantly improve students’ progress over an academic year. As well as installing the latest technology and features, there are a number of environmental factors which need to be considered to help students reach their full potential in the classroom.

In this article, we explore the environmental factors which should be taken into consideration when designing and building school science laboratories.

Colour and décor

Colour, texture, and imagery all have a part to play in making science laboratories excellent learning spaces. The colour of a classroom can have an impact on the mood of students and teachers; About Education explores how exposure to certain tones and colours can affect academic progress and test results in this article.

The Clever Classrooms study from the University of Salford found that simple, white environments tend to be under-stimulating for students – leading to restlessness and lack of concentration. The study suggested that light coloured walls could benefit from the inclusion of splashes of colour on floors, desks and chairs – helping to improve the levels of stimulation.

Incorporating immersive technologies into a science laboratory is a brilliant example of design facilitating student engagement. The wall and floor projections from Immersive.co.uk allow lessons to become truly interactive and can be sued for virtual field trips, interactive exercises and more.

Lines of communication

It is vital that students and teachers have clear lines of dialogue in the science laboratory – helping both parties share ideas and principles in the classroom. Supporting a combination of learning methods, these lines of communications often have to accommodate teacher-led lectures and group discussions. This makes it important that all learning methods and lines of communication are considered when designing a layout for a school science lab.

When developing effective lines of communication, the acoustics of the room need to be considered to ensure that all members of the class can clearly hear all discussions.

Natural light

There are a number of benefits to ensuring that a school science laboratory receives sufficient natural light. High levels of natural light in the science laboratory can help improve student and teacher health and mental wellbeing, according to Northwestern University. Access to natural light can help the body clock manage itself more efficiently – helping students stay alert.

Additionally, natural light can help with students’ practical lessons. Students looking for subtle changes in colouring and appearance during an experiment may not be able to detect distinction in unnatural coloured lighting. Natural light can add clarity to the experiment, and help students reach accurate conclusions.

Efficient storage

Perhaps more than any other subject taught in secondary school, science lessons require a variety of different apparatus and equipment to complete theoretical and practical lessons. This necessitates significant storage within the science laboratory. However, this high level of necessary storage should never compromise learning and come at the expense of the space reserved for students.

It is vital to consider how often different pieces of science apparatus and equipment will be needed throughout the academic year and store them accordingly. Developing a system which makes its simpler to find equipment can reduce set-up times and help direct more time towards the actual lesson. As Melanie Laing of Innova Design Solutions explains: "Things like clear lines of sight, clutter-free work surfaces, and good circulation areas all have a positive effect on behaviour."

Air quality

The different chemicals and potentially-hazardous materials used during practical lessons make it vitally important that school science laboratories receive a sufficient supply of fresh air to ventilate the room. It is important the ventilation systems pump fresh air into the science laboratories, rather than recycle air from the lab or other classrooms. Good Relaxation offers this guide to the health benefits of fresh air, including an increase in energy – vital for students who need to retain a high level of concentration and performance.

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