News & Insights

Secrets Between the Walls | Wellness and Environmental Considerations in Anatomy Labs

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Duquesne University School of Health Sciences, Rangos Anatomy Lab. Halkin Mason Photography

Wellness may not be the first idea that comes to mind when someone mentions an anatomy lab. The extensive use of formaldehyde for cadaver preservation makes the topic of air quality management a top priority.

The Duquesne University's Anatomy Lab at Rangos School of Health Sciences presented the unique challenge of renovating the existing lab within an existing footprint and upgrading the systems and overall learning environment.

The guiding principles for the lab transformation included:
  • Increase the number of lab stations and student groups that use the lab each semester
  • Improve air exchange management to further minimize exposure to formalin vapors
  • Integrate technology at each lab station
  • Add scrub sinks to facilitate instrument cleaning at the end of each class
  • Incorporate an autopsy/ embalming station

The updated space now offers 14 stations equipped dual rotating cadaver tables. This type of table allows additional student groups to use the lab during each semester as each table can hold two cadavers. A cadaver freezer and holding racks are located in a separate room but connected to the lab using an overhead door that facilitates transportation using a cadaver lift.
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Axonometric View

The lab stations are distributed along two of the perimeter walls and customized casework was provided for each station with capacity to store and clean instruments.
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Typical student station plan and perspective.

The most unique aspect of this renovation is the newly added ventilation system at each station. These stations were designed to pull vapors away from those who are working at the tables, allowing for a more comfortable learning and working environment for everyone who utilizes the lab.

Barton Associates, the MEP engineers for the project, designed a mechanical system that circulates air through the space at a rate of 15 air changes per hour to continuously flush out contaminants and replace the room air with filtered outside air.

In addition to the elements in the room, a roof-mounted energy recovery air handling unit conditions and supplies 100% outdoor air to maintain space temperature through all weather conditions and space operating schedules. This type of system results in significant energy savings by transferring the temperature of the exhaust to the supply, pre-heating or pre-cooling the incoming fresh air without ever re-introducing the exhausted air itself or the contaminants therein.
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Exhaust grilles at each station draw vapors horizontally and away from users.

The stations along the south wall were specially challenging as existing windows interfered with the exhaust ductwork. For these stations horizontal ducts were installed behind the casework tying into the vertical mains.

Volpatt Construction meticulously coordinated the mechanical, plumbing and electrical requirements and clearances between the trades and casework manufacturer as well as addressing existing conditions.
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Duquesne University School of Health Sciences, Rangos Anatomy Lab. Halkin Mason Photography

The integration of mechanical, electrical, data and A/V into the casework design allowed the team to preserve the existing windows increasing daylight levels and improving overall comfort in the use and experience of this space.