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Cleanrooms for Architects

cleanroom drawing, plan view
Figure 1. Cleanroom drawing

Architects when designing cleanrooms, considerations should include but not be limited to cleanroom classification, inclusion of airlock/gown room, recirculating vs. one pass design, and cleanroom flooring selection.

Architecture is art that we live, entertain, and work in. Cleanrooms are places where we safely and cleanly work. Cleanrooms are not a standard architectural type of construction; cleanrooms are more like a large piece of equipment. For example, an architect will specify the size of a walk-in cooler and maximum temperature (per client’s request) but would leave the design to the cooler manufacturer. Similarly, an architect would specify what size and classification (per client’s request) the cleanroom needs to be but would leave the design to the cleanroom manufacturer. Architects should consider the additional heat load cleanrooms can produce, while designing the cooling system for the surrounding non-cleanroom space.

US FED STD 209E Cleanroom Standards | Cleanroom Classifications
Class Maximum  Particles/ft³ ISO equivalent
>0.1 um >0.2 um >0.3 um >0.5 um >5 um
 1 35 7 3 1 ISO3
 10 350 75 30 10 ISO4
100 100 ISO5
1000 1000 7 ISO6
10,000 10,000 70 ISO7
100,000 100,000 700 ISO8
Table 1. Cleanroom Classification

Cleanrooms have an atypical wall thickness (for example: 2” or 3”), varies on R-value drastically, and varies on fire rating – depending on the wall materials.

Most cleanroom designs will have a gown room / airlock to allow a buffer between outside air and the main cleanroom. There should not be any doors (other than emergency exits) from the main cleanroom to the surrounding space. If there were doors to the surrounding space, this would allow an uncontrollable amount of contamination into the cleanroom. The goal of a cleanroom is to control the number of particles that enter the clean space.

cleanroom gown room, stainless steel bench
Figure 2. Cleanroom gown room / airlock

There are typically two airflow designs for a cleanroom: recirculating and one-pass. Recirculating and one-pass design rely on the design of a plenum space above the cleanroom. In a recirculating design, cool air will mix with the recirculating cleanroom air and this air mixture will be forced from the plenum thru a HEPA FFU into the cleanroom space. The HEPA FFU removes all particulates from the air.

recirculating cleanroom, air flow simulation, solid works model
Figure 3. Recirculating Cleanroom

In a one-pass cleanroom design, air is drawn from the surrounding space into the plenum and forced thru a HEPA FFU into the cleanroom space and back out into the surrounding space thru a low wall air vent. Architects would need to take this into consideration when designing for a cleanroom space. Cleanrooms would typically need additional space above the internal ceiling height to allow for a plenum.

one pass cleanroom, air flow simulation, solid works model
Figure 4. One pass cleanroom air flow simulation

The flooring for a cleanroom space could also differ from the surrounding spaces. Depending on the required class of cleanroom, flooring will vary from welded sheet vinyl, epoxy to sealed concrete. Architects would need to keep this in mind while completing their code review for the building space and specifying different flooring thresholds.

heat welded vinyl flooring, cleanroom interior, ISO7 cleanroom
Figure 5. Cleanroom interior with heat welded vinyl floor

Lastly, some cleanrooms will have a raised floor to allow air to be returned to plenum thru the floor . With this the Architect will need to consider the length and space for an accessible ramp into the cleanroom space. In conclusion, coordination between the Architect and the cleanroom manufacturer is essential for a properly planned cleanroom, that meets the intent of the final user.

cleanroom interior, class 100 cleanroom, raised cleanroom floor, amber light
Figure 6. Class 100 cleanroom with raised floor

Summary: When designing a building with a cleanroom, an architect needs to be knowledgeable about cleanroom design criteria. These include but are not limited to cleanroom classification, inclusion of airlock/gown room, recirculating vs. one pass design, and cleanroom flooring selection.

Property American Cleanroom Systems 2024

American Cleanroom Systems is a design build modular cleanroom manufacturer based in Rancho Santa Margarita CA. It is expert in ISO-5 thru ISO-8 (class 100 to class 100k) modular cleanrooms for pharmaceutical cleanrooms, medical device cleanrooms, and industrial cleanrooms. Founded in 1976 it as a long blue chip list of customers including National Laboratories, Intel, Medtronic, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Boeing, and US Navy.

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