Laboratory: Wet  

by WBDG Staff



Wet Laboratory space types are defined as laboratories where chemicals, drugs, or other material or biological matter are tested and analyzed requiring water, direct ventilation, and specialized piped utilities. Wet Laboratory space types do not include biohazards in Levels BL-2, BL-3, and BL-4 as defined by the 2007 NIH/CDC guideline "Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) 5th Edition,". The Wet Laboratory space types are typically located within a building specifically designed to house them (see WBDG Research Facilities.

Offices, general storage, and warehouse spaces associated with laboratories are covered in their own respective space types.

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 facilitates partnerships and development. As such, a separate WBDG Resource Page on Trends in Lab Design has been developed to elaborate on this emerging model of laboratory design.

Space Attributes

Wet Laboratory space types are unique in that they must accommodate simultaneous and separate ventilation and utility connections at individual lab modules to ensure both the reliability and accuracy of results as well as occupant safety throughout the space. Typical features of wet 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.


  • Surfaces: Resilient surfaces are an integral part of the Wet Laboratory space type design. Use epoxy paint for lab walls and monolithic, seamless, chemical-resistant vinyl flooring with integral coved based and mylar finish.

Functional / Operational

  • Separate Laboratory Modules: A Wet Lab space is typically divided into separate laboratory modules that contain individually controlled connections to HVAC, utilities and safety devices. Modules are defined spatially by floor-to-ceiling structural slab with under-floor plenum divider.
  • Constant and Reliable HVAC: As some equipment and experiments are temperature- and humidity-sensitive, constant conditions are required in Wet 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. For more information, see WBDG High-Performance HVAC.
  • 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.
  • Gas/Utility Services: Utility connections in Wet Laboratory space types can include vacuum, pneumatic supply, natural gas, O2 and CO2, and distilled water. The fittings and connections for each module are connected to the building distribution system for six nominal piping systems.
  • Fume Hoods: Design Wet Laboratory space types to accommodate one 6'-0" chemical fume hood for each laboratory module, and provide direct 100% exhaust. It is also typical of this space type to include an acid and corrosives vented storage cabinet located under the fume hood, as well storage for emergency equipment.
  • Laboratory Occupancy: Occupancy Group Classification for Wet Laboratory is B2, Sprinkler protected construction, as per IBC, with a GSA Acoustical Class C1 for enclosed spaces and Class C2 for open spaces.

Secure / Safe

  • Fire and Life Safety: All Laboratory spaces should 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). Also include toxic gas monitors in each lab module and a gas storage area with audio and visual (strobe) alarms both inside and outside the lab. Eyewash and deluge shower should be located at each module quad. For more information, see WBDG Security and Safety in Laboratories.


Example Program

The following program is representative of Wet Laboratory space types.

  • A lab planning module of 12' wide by 24' long, with utility and service closets extending 3' beyond at each end; the 12' width allows 24" deep counters along each side with 24" seating zones in front of each counter and a 36" walkway down the middle of the module and a 1'- 0" chase between modules
  • The lab modules are served by a 5' wide staff corridor on the outside, and a double loaded service corridor 6' wide on the inside
  • The 48' building centerline-to-glass planning module allows a 10' wide band of office, conference, or other support space along the building perimeter
  • The planning module fits within a 24' by 32' column bay, which allows two modules to be joined to form a 24' by 24' lab suite.

Example Plans

The following diagram is representative of typical tenant plans.

Laboratory (wet) space type

Example Construction Criteria

For GSA, the unit costs for Wet 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, additional exhaust fume hood systems, stable structure and vibration control, interstitial service plenum with walk-on or structured ceiling deck, shielded space, clean power, and additional piping systems including filtered chilled water typical of wet 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


Building Types

Health Care Facilities, Research Facilities, Animal Research Facility, Research Laboratory, Academic Laboratory, Government Laboratory, Private Sector Laboratory

Space Types

General Storage, Laboratory: Dry, Office, Warehouse

Design Objectives

Accessible—Beyond Accessibility to Universal Design, Functional / Operational, Historic Preservation—Accommodate Life Safety and Security Needs, Productive—Integrate Technological Tools, Productive—Assure Reliable Systems and Spaces, Productive—Design for the Changing Workplace, Secure / Safe—Fire Protection, Secure / Safe—Occupant Safety and Health, Sustainable

Guides & Specifications

Building Envelope Design Guide

Project Management

Project Planning, Delivery and Controls

Building Commissioning

Building Commissioning