Over the last several years, emerging industries like the legal marijuana industry, e-cigarette manufacturing, and urban farming have started to go mainstream. Often, start-up companies in these industries are using borrowed space for production, like a small plot of land in the middle of a city block, or some rented square footage in an existing factory.That said, items that are consumed (like food and drugs) need to be protected from exposure to potential contaminants. This means controlled spaces, like clean rooms, are required to get started in these emerging industries.
So, how does a new business owner with a limited budget in one of these industries construct a clean room in an old factory, rented office space or other random unsuitable environment?
The answer: they use portable clean rooms. These modular rooms are not a new phenomenon. They have been used in manufacturing and scientific research facilities for years as a lower cost alternative to create environments that are safe for handling delicate chemicals or items that cannot be contaminated like food, drugs or even medical devices.
Before we discuss the benefits of portable clean rooms, we should look at the requirements around clean rooms in general.
Clean Rooms, 101:
A clean room is actually defined by the concentration of particles of various sizes ranging from 0.1 microns to 0.5 microns, according to ISO 14644-1. In other words, a clean room is a space where airborne particles, such as dust, microbes, aerosol particles, and chemical vapors are controlled so as not to contaminate products being constructed, sorted, tested or even packaged within them.
Most of this particle control is achieved through the use of a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. They trap particles that are 0.3 micron and larger in size. All of the air delivered to a clean room must pass through HEPA filters. The cleaner the room (ISO 5 vs ISO 8), the higher the required number of HEPA filters. In some cases, Ultra Low Particulate Air (ULPA) filters are used instead – usually when extra filtering is required.
Why Choose a Portable Clean Room over a Traditional Clean Room?
For companies with larger, more established operations, it’s realistic to build new clean rooms or retrofit existing rooms within a facility to meet clean room specifications. For smaller companies that are just starting out or companies that want flexibility, portable clean rooms present a more realistic solution for these three reasons:
1. They Cost Less
Lab Design News estimates a cost per square foot of up to $1500 for the construction of a clean room. That is $150,000 for a 10’ X 10’ size room. In contrast, the average cost for a 10’ x 10’ portable clean room ranges between $10,000 and $15,000. For new and even established business owners, this is a much more reasonable cost.
2. They Are Easy To Reconfigure
Portable clean rooms can become larger, smaller or even moved entirely to different locations within your facility, as your business grows and changes. This flexibility allows new companies to grow as their output grows, without having to tear down walls or even relocate operations altogether. And for established companies, it allows their clean room to remain easily adaptable as their business needs change.
3. They Go Up Faster
Construction projects can take months to complete, especially if they have complex requirements like those of a clean room. Portable clean rooms can be manufactured, delivered and installed before a conventional clean room can even be designed. Faster delivery and installation of a clean room allows you to get your product out the door faster and avoid costly downtime.
Designing a lab or manufacturing environment is tricky enough without having to consider the additional costs and complex requirements of controlled spaces like clean rooms. With modular options at your disposal, the build-out of your space truly doesn't need to feel as daunting. You can keep your space flexible, your product protected and your budget in check by going modular.