CBRN Defense Laboratories

When we think about CBRN defense either in a military or civilian environment,  we normally think about soldiers or first responders in protective clothing in a potentially contaminated zone of operation. They will conduct measurements using hand-held equipment, conduct decontamination or take samples. We rarely think about scientists in white lab coats working in a laboratory environment.

CBRN defense will always be about on-site response. But backing up these on-site activities with science-based laboratory capabilities is not a luxury - it is an essential part of a CBRN response structure. Reach-back capability, the ability to conduct chemical forensics and to process large numbers of samples, to conduct identification and confirmation of relevant threat agents with the highest degree of confidence and the possibility to analyse biomedical samples are just a few points that require a laboratory. We can help you to establish or expand suchlaboratory capabilities. 


When looking for and trying to identify CBRN materials it is helpful to visualize this as a process we term SICA: Screening, Identification, Confirmation and Attribution.

Screening is typically conducted during CBRN on-site reconnaissance using hand-held detectors and portable analytical instruments. Identification might be possible to a limited extent in a mobile lab but often already requires larger laboratory facilities. Confirmation analysis and attribution analysis clearly requires advanced laboratory resources.


If we think of a laboratory in terms of equipment and staff only, we leave out very important aspects: the physical building and infrastructure. It should allow the efficient, safe and secure conduct of analytical work, provide an ergonomic and attractive workspace and ideally be future proved and flexible for a changing needs.

And there is of course more than just walls and roofs and lab benches: Fume-hoods and ventilation, air conditioning and heating, electrical power, data networks and IT infrastructure, gases, vacuum, cryogenics, waste streams and much more... 

Special requirements

CBRN laboratories have special requirements - especially related to safety and security. Containment of CBRN threats within the laboratory is a top priority as well as the protection of the lab workforce. Safe and secure storage of samples (also long term) is a top priority as they need to be treated as pieces of evidence. Another key aspect as well as a sample receiving area which allows an initial screening and assessment of the present chemical, biological or radiological threats.

Access controls to the building, the different laboratories, storage rooms and offices needs to be in place as well as perimeter control through physical controls, CCTV monitoring and possible other sensor systems.


What do you want to do?

All laboratory planning starts with an assessment of your needs and the of the planned (and/or already conducted) activities. Similar to the design principle "Form follows function" laboratory design should follow the anticipated activities plus some degree of flexibility for future expansion or changes of these activities.

The needs assessment is probably one of the most crucial phases in the planning of laboratory work and laboratory design: What you miss here might be hard to add at a later stage. There we strongly recommend to conduct this phase with the necessary level of details involving laboratory staff and management, superior organizational bodies including funding bodies, bodies within the same organization required for cooperation and outside stakeholders.

  • We are offering our clients to conduct an in-depth needs assessment with them and all relevant stakeholders. The results of this assessment serve as the foundation for all subsequent planning and implementation actions.

  • Should the results of the needs assessment show that new infrastructure or modifications to existing infrastructure are necessary we will work with our clients and a network of specialized partners to implement infrastructure projects. This can happen as "stand-alone" project or as part of a larger laboratory development project.

  • We offer our clients a detailed assessment and advice how to implement specific safety and security aspects related to analytical work with CBRN materials.