Forensic Lab Design

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Forensic Lab Design

Recently, a university employed me to create and lead a project as an information security professional. I will do my best to design and build a digital forensic laboratory for the employing organization. Building a lab requires the knowledge and usage of basic principles and concepts of laboratory design. By knowing purpose and objectives, I will understand what requirements and features are necessary for this project. To overcome barriers to efficient lab designs, I will use various physical hardware and software tools and technologies. An organized team of professionals is going to work on this project and build a safe, secure, multi-functional, and cost-efficient laboratory, which will be discussed in this paper.

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Budget Planning and Barriers

To create a lab that will enable specialists to work in a secure facility that will protect them and environment, and most importantly, comply with appropriate regulations, we have to look at the purpose of building of this lab. Our design must provide a safe and secure workplace; it should be cost effective and efficient while facilitating various workplace stations and activities. We can achieve this by constructing a chemically protected facility and overcoming all the barriers and obstacles to building a good laboratory.

The first barrier is cost since it can be difficult to build a lab without full financial support. Luckily, we have a budget that we are going to try to fit in. It is a very complex and sophisticated project, which will require us to establish effective communication, so that the lab would work more efficiently. Another barrier is our deficiency of technological, technical, digital, and scientific knowledge, skills, and qualification. It can take plenty of time and resources to find qualified and skilled personnel with relevant education, understanding, and knowledge. We will also have to think about and consider all trade-offs and maintenance costs, conflicting personalities and factors, as they can hinder a successful development and further work of the laboratory. To build a good lab, we will design it in such a way, where contamination is going to be minimal and containment – maximal. Therefore, these concepts and redundancy will allow us to build a cost effective and safe lab. Security of the lab will require us to implement physical and digital controls with a variety of functions and possibilities such as full or partial lockdown, other security features, and automatic controls of the facility.

A business plan and a budget are going to provide us with the complete understanding of our objectives, barriers, and all the necessary steps for designing and building a top-notch laboratory. Thus, several budget-planning steps will help us to understand and calculate the precise project estimates of our lab. First, we have to compute direct and indirect costs of our operation separately, in which direct costs include materials with labor while indirect ones include equipment, office, and administrative expenses, and additional overhead. Next, we will have to estimate how much of the indirect costs will add up over time and clarify what the employer wants to have and cover in the lab. It will help us to determine what to exclude out of the design. The last step is arriving at an estimated cost and trying to create and build a lab using a given budget by avoiding unneeded and unnecessary costs.

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Physical Requirements and Controls

Designing forensic laboratories requires a unique approach as opposed to building other types of facilities (Denmark & Mount, 2010). Unlike many standard laboratories, where everything comes together in the same space, forensic labs are composed of separate and safely secured sections and areas. Accreditation rules and regulations force us to comply with requirements. Labs can be composed of various types of sections, such as biology, chemistry, and toxicology that have a complex organizational structure. Others include fingerprint, firearms, trace evidence, cryptanalysis, counterterrorism, and forensic science research (FBI, n.d.). Biology and chemistry sections are responsible for examining biological materials and evidence, development of DNA profiles, and examinations of drugs, narcotics, and other forensic evidence through a variety of instrumentation units respectively (Denmark & Mount, 2010). Toxicology section works with examining blood, urine, and tissue samples by using various types of instrumentation and technologies. Similarly, fingerprint section evaluates fingerprint evidence with the use of chemical and non-chemical procedures (Denmark & Mount, 2010). The examination of weapons, bullets, casings, and everything related takes place in the firearms section through the analysis of physical and chemical properties of the evidence. Any other substances, which are unidentifiable by using chemical methods, belong in the trace evidence, where professionals examine it with the help of microscopes and instrumentations.

In addition to the hardware and an ergonomic design, our lab will implement and use advanced and unique software to assist with the operations and analysis. Especially effective these programs and algorithms are going to be for the DNA, trace evidence, and cryptanalysis teams. These are the main sections and equipment that we will include in our design, depending on which workspaces our organization requires. Some additional areas, which we will consider to add as well, are a forensic garage to explore and examine vehicles, and a document section to work with papers, ink, and forged documents.

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Policies, Processes, and Procedures

For our engineering and architectural design, we will implement a five-in-one laboratory structure, including wet chemistry, physical properties, instrumentation, biological sciences, and microscopy. We will also consider adding any other area or facility that our employer requests or requires (Denmark & Mount, 2010). We will work all the time to organize, renew, review, and revise all the evidence while preserving and containing it properly in special containment units and containers. It will allow us to work at maximum efficiency rate and provide quality evidence for the legal system anytime. In the chemistry section, we will position a lab designed specifically for examining and utilizing toxic and hazardous materials and chemicals with the help of fume hoods and other containment devices. Here, we plan to have our biological sciences laboratory that will serve to examine pieces of evidence, including blood and DNA, which might be contaminated or infected. Another useful tool will be in the instrumentation laboratory that is going to have analytical equipment to assist our staff and scientists with their daily operations and analysis of evidence. One of the best tools we will have is top microscopy equipment, including sensitive, stereo, polarizing, comparison, high resolution, and FTIR microscopes (Denmark & Mount, 2010). Moreover, our physical properties analysis laboratories will provide us with the ability to disassemble and analyze parts and detailed of any material evidence. Finally, we will implement safe architectural features such as buildings and laboratories layouts and interactive designs, space requirements and arrangement of all the equipment and necessary furniture, storage and waste areas, intellectual access control, security features, and emergency escape.

High-Level Criteria

We will utilize and consider different forensic stations based on a few main criteria. First criterion is the wish and requirements of the employing organization. Next step is examining which crimes take place the most where our lab is going to operate, as well as which other cities and areas it will cover and assist in operations and analysis. This information will help us to determine which workplaces will be more useful and productive. Through these means, we will lower the cost of operations and increase the efficiency, performance, and speed of analyzing evidence. We are going to create a multi-disciplinary professional organization and laboratory that will and teach leadership, provide portfolios with detailed evidence, promote professionalism, integrity, continuous improvement and education, competency, collaboration, and team effort in the field of forensic sciences (American Academy of Forensic Sciences, n.d.). We are going to design, build, and operate our laboratories and facility in compliance with the major US and world standards and guidelines, such as ANSI Z9.5, NFPA, BOCA, ASHRAE 110, and others as well (American Academy of Forensic Sciences, n.d.)

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In conclusion, by creating a team of skilled and sophisticated professionals, we are going to design and construct a modern digital forensic lab for the university. Using the basic principles and concepts of design combined with implementation of purpose and objectives of the laboratory, we will build a facility with all the necessary requirements, stations, and features for any forensic operations. The laboratory design will use a five-in-one structure and include seven main sections. Modern architectural and engineering layout will maximize efficiency of our lab and help us overcome any cost-associated issues, safety, and security concerns. The facility will comply with all the major guidelines and regulations as well as will facilitate all the needs and wishes of the employer. We will use new technologies, ergonomic architectural plans, and skilled labor to overcome any design barriers and build an efficient lab with the help of hardware, software, and other tools.

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