Lessons Learned With Open (No Down-Draft Tables) Large Scale Gross Anatomy Labs

Sean Convery, Cator, Ruma & Associates
Adam Acree, Cator, Ruma & Associates

In the Learning Labs session of 2018, there were focused discussions on CFD modeling of large-scale Gross Anatomy Labs. For this year, we would like to present on the results of two of the Gross Anatomy Labs that we completed in 2018 with on-going testing of Formaldehyde concentrations within those labs. One project was at the University of Wyoming that contained an open lab layout with up to 9 gross anatomy tables and an open floor plan (no down-draft tables). The initial testing of the lab resulted in concentrations exceeding that of ACGIH and sometimes exceeding OSHA. The team performed smoke tests to video how the air was moving through the space to validate the results of the CFD model. The design team then went back to the CFD model to understand reality versus the previous model. The result was to replace the supply air diffusers with more effective and forceful throw to push the formaldehyde down away from the breathing zone as well as increase the amount of air being delivered to the lab. Subsequent testing showed that most of the stations now meet ACGIH concentration requirements. One final station is being rotated 90 degrees to determine if that will help the dispersion of air across the table towards the low wall exhaust. Results will be finalized in March of 2019.

The other project was at Colorado State University where the open Gross Anatomy Lab required 36 tables and up to 150 students in class at one time. This project was discussed in the 2018 Conference regarding the CFD modeling process which focused on half-height walls with low exhaust grilles on either side of each Anatomy table to keep the room open for view and instruction. Now the building is occupied and being used for Gross Anatomy. Currently the main lesson is noise level at the low wall exhaust grilles.

We will discuss the formaldehyde exposure limit thresholds required by different agencies and how that informed the CFD modeling and the ultimate design. Part of this discussion will dive deeper into the fine print of these guidelines which can also inform the researchers and instructors how to properly measure the concentrations at the breathing zone. CFD model results along with real results and concentrations measured in the rooms will be included, as well as proper diffuser options, selection, and orientation. We will show a simple low-cost method for sound measurement along with the ability to manually adjust airflow for different classroom activities. The differences in the design of the Gross Anatomy Lab and the Neuro Anatomy Lab at CSU will be explained to show impacts on acoustics.

Learning Objectives

  • Formaldehyde Exposure Limits and the wide range of published standards;
  • Understanding on how to test for concentrations when attempting to reach the higher standard published by ACGIH;
  • Diffuser selection and simple methods for testing airflow patterns in a space; and
  • Simple method for testing Acoustics, converting them to NC curves and using this tool to solve noise issues.


Sean Convery, PE is a Mechanical Principal at Cator, Ruma & Associates in Denver, CO and a founding Board Member of the Colorado I2SL Chapter. His 24 years of mechanical design experience include energy-efficient mechanical systems for wet and dry research labs, veterinary medicine facilities, and higher education campuses. To date, he has been involved in the design of over 70 lab projects, many of them Bio-Safety Level 3 (BSL-3). He has been a speaker at many past I2SL National Conferences.

Adam Acree, PE is a Mechanical Associate at Cator, Ruma & Associates in Denver, CO and has 13 years of experience in mechanical design. His design experience ranges from higher education campuses and laboratories to office buildings and healthcare facilities, with an emphasis on energy efficiency. Adam has managed the design of numerous laboratory facilities, most recently the new Biology building and the Anatomy/Zoology Addition at Colorado State University.


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