New Guidance to Classify Ventilation Systems for Chemical Safety

James Coogan, Siemens

Last year, ASHRAE published a guide to help facility professionals design and operate laboratories and manage exposure to airborne chemicals. Motivated by the utility of the Bio-Safety Levels in facility design, the community sought a similar tool applicable to chemical laboratories. Working groups from AIHA and ACS participated in the project. The result is a document that classifies the protective capability of a ventilation system so it can be appropriately applied to the corresponding chemical hazards. It defines Laboratory Ventilation Design Levels from 0 to 4. 32 characteristics or 'Design Criteria' are tabulated, with recommendations for each across the range of Design Levels. The guide leaves, for the chemical safety officer the question of what hazards and what work practices are to take place at the various design levels. The introduction to the guide explains how information in the table ought to be used. It clarifies that responsibility for risk assessment and exposure control remains with the lab workers, the organization that employs them, and the facility professionals who design and operate the system. The guide serves to stimulate and organize your thoughts, not replace them.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn what scope and content ASHRAE delivered in the Lab Classification document;
  • Use Lab Ventilation Design Levels as intended to manage exposure;
  • Continue to correctly assign responsibility for design decisions and exposure control; and
  • Be aware of continuing efforts to develop rational approaches to lab ventilation design and operation.


Jim Coogan, P.E., is a Principal in product development at Siemens Building Technologies. In 35 years designing controls for mechanical systems, he has contributed to products ranging from room controllers to Internet-based interfaces. Jim has chaired several ASHRAE committees and is member of the committee currently revising the Z9.5 Laboratory Ventilation standard. Jim participates in programs with the International Institute for Sustainable Labs.


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