Animal LabLast week, I was asked how I would handle the hardware for an animal research lab, where animals (particularly primates) may need to be prevented from eloping.  I have written several specifications for projects of this type, and I don’t know of any codes or standards that would specify what type of hardware should be used.

On one of my projects – the brain and cognitive science center for a university, the doors to the rooms housing a certain type of study could not be equipped with latching hardware because the sound of the latch would wake up the mice and affect the research.  On another project there were concerns that a primate could operate the hardware on the doors if it somehow got out of its cage.  In some labs, high humidity and corrosive chemicals could impact the hardware, and for many labs security is an issue because of sensitive research and the threat of intruders who don’t believe that animals should be used for testing.

For labs that require doors that restrict egress, it would be up to the code official to determine whether a compromise is acceptable, since the model codes don’t include prescriptive exceptions for egress in these facilities.  Because the human occupants of research labs are staff members rather than the general public, they are considered “trained traffic,” (does anyone use that term these days?) and it may be safe to use controlled egress hardware or a security interlock, for example.  But each project would require approval from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

There are many ways to secure lab doors to prevent access, but when designing an access control system it’s important to take into account what will occur when there is a power failure or a fire alarm, and how the door will be unlocked from within the facility.  This will affect the type of hardware that is selected – for example, an architect for one of my projects wanted to use electromagnetic locks that would be released by a motion sensor on the egress side, but these doors would be unlocked during a fire alarm, a power failure, and whenever someone stepped into the detection zone of the motion sensor.  This was unacceptable considering the level of security required for the facility.

Concerns about corrosion and requirements for quiet operation can also be addressed by selecting the correct hardware.  The most difficult part for me has been getting enough information to determine what hardware should be used.  Communication from the researchers to the architect to the hardware consultant may not occur until the hardware has been installed and there is a problem – often a very expensive problem.

If you have worked on animal research projects, I’d love to hear about your experience with regard to egress, security, base metals, hardware types, etc.  WWYD?

Photo: Kabanova

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