Challenges and Solutions for Retrofitting an Existing Facility to a Cleanroom

April 10, 2023

Cleanrooms are critical to various industries, including pharmaceutical, biotech, and semiconductor manufacturing, where the highest levels of contamination control are necessary. Retrofitting an existing facility to a cleanroom presents unique challenges that require careful planning and execution. This article explores the challenges and solutions associated with retrofitting an existing facility to a cleanroom.

Understanding Cleanrooms

A cleanroom is a controlled environment designed to minimize the introduction, generation, and retention of airborne particles and contaminants. Cleanrooms require a positive pressure environment, specialized HVAC systems, and airlocks to maintain the cleanliness of the environment.

Challenges of Retrofitting an Existing Facility to a Cleanroom

Retrofitting an existing facility to a cleanroom presents unique challenges such as existing building systems, structural limitations, and space constraints. Read all about them below in detail.

Existing Building Systems: Existing building systems such as HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection may not meet cleanroom standards. Retrofitting these systems to meet cleanroom standards can be expensive and time-consuming.

Structural Limitations: Structural limitations such as ceiling height, floor loading, and wall thickness can impact the design and layout of a cleanroom. These limitations may require modifications to the existing building structure, which can be expensive and disruptive.

Space Constraints: Space constraints can limit the size of the cleanroom and impact the layout of the facility. In some cases, it may be necessary to relocate or eliminate existing equipment to create the necessary space for the cleanroom.

Solutions for Retrofitting an Existing Facility to a Cleanroom

Retrofitting an existing facility to a cleanroom requires careful planning and execution. The following paragraphs describe the solutions to the challenges mentioned above.

Existing Building Systems: The solution to retrofitting existing building systems to meet cleanroom standards is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the existing systems. The assessment will identify areas that need modification or replacement to meet cleanroom standards. Upgrading the HVAC system and installing airlocks can help maintain a clean environment.

Structural Limitations: To overcome structural limitations, it is essential to work with a team with cleanroom experience. They will assess the existing structure and develop solutions that will not compromise the integrity of the building. One solution is to install a cleanroom within the existing space by utilizing vertical space or using modular panels.

Space Constraints: The solution to space constraints is to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the facility's layout and identify areas that can be repurposed or relocated. This will create the necessary space to install a cleanroom. Another solution is to design a modular cleanroom that can be assembled within the existing space without the need for extensive modifications to the existing structure.

Regulatory Requirements: Retrofitting an existing facility to a cleanroom requires compliance with regulatory requirements such as ISO standards and guidelines. Compliance with these regulations is necessary to ensure the safety and efficacy of the products produced in the cleanroom.

Cleanroom Design Considerations: Cleanroom design considerations are essential to ensure the functionality and efficiency of the cleanroom. The following paragraphs describe these design considerations in more detail so you can get a better understanding for your project.

Positive Pressure Environment: A cleanroom requires a positive pressure environment to prevent the entry of outside contaminants. The HVAC system and airlocks must be designed to maintain a positive pressure environment within the cleanroom.

Material Selection: Material selection is critical in cleanroom design. All materials used in the cleanroom must be compatible with the cleanroom environment and must not generate or retain contaminants. This is a necessity.

Surface Finishes: Surface finishes play a vital role in cleanroom design. All surfaces must be smooth and easy to clean, and finishes must not generate contaminants. The flooring must be able to withstand high traffic and frequent cleaning.

Lighting: Lighting is crucial in a cleanroom environment. Adequate lighting is necessary for worker safety and visual inspection of the products. Lighting fixtures must be easy to clean and not generate contaminants.

Cleanroom Classification

Cleanrooms are classified based on the level of cleanliness required for the application. The cleanroom classification determines the number of particles allowed per cubic meter of air. The classification of the cleanroom will impact the design and layout of the facility.

Project Management Considerations

Project management considerations are essential to ensure a successful retrofit of an existing facility to a cleanroom.

Such important factors include:

Team Selection: It is essential to select a team of professionals with cleanroom experience, including architects, engineers, and contractors. The team must have experience in designing and building cleanrooms and must understand the regulatory requirements associated with cleanroom construction.

Budgeting: Retrofitting an existing facility to a cleanroom can be expensive. It is essential to develop a realistic budget that includes all costs associated with the project, including construction, equipment, and regulatory compliance.

Timeline: Retrofitting an existing facility to a cleanroom can be time-consuming. It is essential to develop a realistic timeline that takes into account all aspects of the project, including design, construction, and regulatory compliance.

Communication: Effective communication between the project team and the client is critical to ensure a successful project outcome. Regular updates on the project's progress and any issues that arise must be communicated to the client promptly.

For those looking for an alternative to custom-built cleanrooms, shipping container cleanrooms are a viable option. These modular units can be quickly and easily installed and can be equipped with air filtration systems and other features to meet the required cleanliness standards.

In conclusion, retrofitting an existing facility to a cleanroom can be challenging, but with the proper planning, design, and execution, these challenges can be overcome. Material selection, surface finishes, air filtration, and proper infrastructure are critical components of cleanroom design. Effective project management, regular maintenance, and validation of the cleanroom are also essential for long-term success.

If you are considering retrofitting an existing facility to a cleanroom, KCH Cleanrooms in the Bay Area can help. They specialize in modular, portable, and shipping container cleanrooms, providing customized solutions to meet your unique retrofit needs. Contact them today to learn more about their services and how they can help you achieve a cleanroom that meets the required level of cleanliness and operates as intended.


I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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