Understanding Laboratory Plumbing Systems

When designing plumbing systems for science laboratories certain requirements such as space planning, code compliance and user’s needs must be considered. Acid waste, natural gas, reverse osmosis/deionized water, compressed air and vacuum are the most common plumbing systems utilized in science laboratories.

The most important part of science laboratory system design is coordination between the engineer and owner/user to determine what their requirements and needs are. What systems are required, to what extent the systems are to be used, what are the hazards of chemicals used and available space for the associated equipment? Will point of use systems be adequate or will a central system better serve the owner? This conversation will help determine what type of systems need to be included in the project.

Compliance with international and local plumbing codes will also need to be considered and may also affect budget and space requirements. For instance, the use of hazardous chemicals in the laboratory may require an emergency eyewash or an emergency eyewash/shower. Depending on the size of the project an emergency eyewash/shower may require a larger hot water system than the building otherwise would have needed to meet the normal hot water loads. Codes also determine pipe material and design requirements.

Decisions will also need to be made concerning what pipe material should be used for the plumbing systems. Potential materials for acid waste piping include: polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), polypropylene (brownline), proxylene (blueline), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), glass and duriron to choose from. Reverse osmosis/deionized water pipe material include the following: chlorinated polyvinyl (CPVC), polypropylene, polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and LXT (low extractable PVC). Although pipe material is primarily decided based on the type of system for which it is being used, consideration must also be taken on where the pipe is to be located. For an example, if piping is located in a return air plenum, then the piping must meet the required smoke and fire ratings.

Space for science laboratory system equipment must also be considered. Space will be required for air compressors, vacuum pumps, distillers, central acid neutralization tanks, etc. Allotting space for the laboratory system equipment is very important and should be considered at the beginning of the project.

Understanding the owner’s needs and complying with local and international plumbing codes will result in a laboratory system that will serve clients for many years!

If you have any questions or have a project with which we can assist you, please do not hesitate to contact us at (717) 845-7654.