The Importance of Airflow Control in Labs

As the setting for experimentation, testing, or analysis, a laboratory is a specialized environment. Whether the laboratory is at a university, pharmaceutical or chemical facility, or a medical or private research setting, its operation must be reliable. In every case, the airflow control system is vital to researchers’ safety and the integrity of research results.

Read below to learn about the importance of airflow control in research environments. 

Primary Objectives of Laboratory Airflow Systems


Operator Safety
Capturing and containing fumes

Room Pressurization
Maitaining correct airflow direction

Providing proper air changes

Providing proper room temperature and humidity control

Operator Safety

Fume hood containment is critical to the safety of researchers. Depending on the facility and types of testing occurring the fume hood, there may be toxic and harmful fumes, vapors, and particulate matter generated by the procedures conducted within the hood.

Several factors are involved with the proper containment of these fumes with the main one being face velocity at the hood. Common industry guidelines range from 60-120 fpm (0.3 -0.6 m/s), with many modern facilities accepting 100 fpm (0.5 m/s) as the standard for safe operation (source). When face velocity is too low or too high, fumes may not be exhausted fast enough to avoid contamination, or turbulence results in contaminants escaping. This is why accurate, precise airflow control is essential.

Room Pressurization

Another level of containment involves the room itself. When researchers are working with hazardous materials, contaminants can escape the room into other areas of the facility, potentially harming other building occupants in adjacent spaces. To prevent this, net negative room pressurization is required. This means exhausting more air than is supplied. The hood exhaust air maintains a constant face velocity, while the make-up air tracks the total exhaust and adjusts accordingly – maintaining proper room pressurization and ventilation.


The total airflow rate for a laboratory is dictated by the highest of the following:

  • Total amount of exhaust from the hoods
  • Minimum ventilation rates
  • Cooling required for heat loads

The minimum ventilation rate of air changes per hour (ACH) is established to provide dilution and evacuation of any vapors, fumes, or particulates that may escape from the fume hoods. ASHRAE Lab Guidelines and OSHA indicate that air change rates should be between 4-12 per hour (source).


Temperature and humidity are also key factors in laboratory environments, not only for maintaining stable environments to conduct research, but also for the comfort of occupants. Maintaining temperature and humidity levels without compromising space pressurization and airflow is essential for safeguarding the integrity of research, while protecting researchers.  Beyond comfort, stable and consistent temperature and humidity levels can directly impact the processes and research taking place in the research space.

How can Phoenix Controls Help?

Phoenix Controls has specialized in airflow control solutions for critical environments since 1985. Our mechanically pressure independent venturi valve provides stable, accurate airflow when there is no room for compromise, while our usage-based control options help you better manage energy in your laboratory facility.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can optimize your research environment today. 

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