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Author: Subject: Anyone interested in shared lab space somewhere near NYC?
Melgar
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[*] posted on 11-1-2018 at 21:07
Anyone interested in shared lab space somewhere near NYC?


Big cities kind of suck for setting up a lab. But I was thinking that if we could find someone willing to rent out part of a warehouse or some unused part of a factory, that would make things a lot easier. Pooling resources would also help a lot. We could set up a semi-public webcam to keep everyone honest, and make sure nobody is doing anything too crazy, or swiping reagents. It might be necessary to organize as a non-profit, just so that one person doesn't end up with all that responsibility. Sites like legalzoom make that pretty easy though.

A factory that already deals with hazardous waste would be ideal, especially since those types of factories have been on the decline in the US, and probably would have a good bit of unused space. We could maybe even get the space free, if it meant that there are always a few knowledgeable chemists around to ask questions of. Maybe good publicity too, supporting education.

Would that be something anyone would be interested in?




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ninhydric1
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[*] posted on 11-1-2018 at 21:48


I would participate if I didn't live on the other side of the US. It is a good idea though, just have to make sure the police don't get too suspicious.



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[*] posted on 11-1-2018 at 22:24


Quote: Originally posted by ninhydric1  
I would participate if I didn't live on the other side of the US. It is a good idea though, just have to make sure the police don't get too suspicious.

I think the police would be a lot less suspicious if it was formed as some sort of non-profit or club. Also, if we were able to set up in unused space in some sort of industrial building that already dealt with hazardous waste, that would solve our biggest problem right there.

It would be best if the place were accessible from one of the common NYC commuter lines, like Metro North, LIRR, or NJT trains.




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[*] posted on 11-1-2018 at 22:51


I'm somewhat ignorant on the topic, but is there a history of lab spaces shared by amateur chemists? I know little of the logistics of something like that, but the paranoia in me fears it could be a recipe for a disaster. I'd be afraid to work alongside anyone with chemistry if I didn't completely trust them, let alone know what experiments they are performing. Like, how would such a shared lab space work? Would there be fumehoods setup and the whole shebang, or would it be a bit more ghettorigged?


NYC spaces is something I've researched before actually, so in the spirit of being helpful, I do know that some small (private) warehouse/workshop type spaces can be found in West Brooklyn for a reasonable cost (in the $1000-2000) range, which really isn't that much more expensive than many other big cities. I think the biggest issue here isn't so much finding a space, but finding an open minded landlord. Color me skeptical but I have a hard time believing most landlords want to rent their places out to people just to do chemistry. For most people, the first thing that comes to mind is drug-labs and fires, though I suppose it depends on how you present yourself.


I'm interested in following this thread because it is an interesting idea to me.
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Melgar
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[*] posted on 11-1-2018 at 23:55


The plan would be to scour run-down industrial areas, looking for the sorts of companies that regularly deal in hazardous wastes. Find one that isn't doing so well, and has a lot of unused space in their building. Figure out some way for an amateur chemistry club to have a symbiotic relationship with said company, whether by producing education YouTube videos with them as a sponsor, or by having a group of passionate chemists on hand to run ideas by. At least in the rust belt, there are plenty of these types of companies limping along. Getting space donated would probably be the way to go, since I believe that in order to increase corporate donations, there have been laws passed that limit the liability that a company might incur by donating to a non-profit. Prior to those laws, a lot of companies would never donate anything because they were worried about being sued. Like if someone got sick from eating spoiled food from a food bank or something.

I think that in the US, companies can get tax breaks by donating to 501(c)4 non-profits, and those ones are scrutinized very heavily, and have to fill out lots of paperwork. Other types of non-profits are much easier to start though.

edit: "Hackerspaces" are much more common, presumably because they aren't as dangerous. There is already "Genspace" in NYC, which even has fume hoods, but they're biochemistry only.

[Edited on 1/12/18 by Melgar]




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[*] posted on 12-1-2018 at 05:34


Quote:
"Hackerspaces" are much more common, presumably because they aren't as dangerous.


Indeed. Unless you can find a place that was already set up as a lab, you'd have to be prepared to spend a substantial amount of money on infrastructure. You'd need real fume hoods, with proper ventilation to the outside, an emergency shower, eye wash station, etc. Automatic fire suppression is common in industrial buildings, but if it's not present, you'd want to add it.

You would need clear rules (for instance, you might say 'no more than a gram of potentially explosive compounds'), hazard communication rules for other users who might be coming and going while somebody is working with a potentially nasty material/reaction, etc. Would you allow mercury compounds? Chromates? Perchlorates? How will waste be sorted and disposed of?

Who gets access? Do you require a certain level of formal training? What about minors? You could create your own training program, but then you might take on some legal responsibility for the completeness and quality of that training.

You would also want to talk to a lawyer and have some release forms drawn up holding you harmless if something bad does happen. Hobbyists also avoid a lot of regulation since most things are targeted at workplaces, but you might find yourself subject to a much high regulatory burden if you operate a quasi-public space.

Frankly the whole idea of creating a public chem makerspace would scare the hell out of me. It could be done, but a high level of care and caution is definitely called for.
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[*] posted on 12-1-2018 at 07:19


From my experiences in America the moment there is a name on the rent agreement for the space potentially you have to comply with the landlords requirements, Federal, State and City regulations. They will range from public liability and building insurance, complying with fire regulations, use regulations, Federal, State and City taxes and utilities. You may even need a license for your web site.

Profit or none profit you could spend many months and tens of thousand of dollars just get to the point where you can legally open the door. You could be getting the space ready when an inspector walks in and says you cannot open until he is happy with the $6k upgrades he demands you make to the sewer system. Someone else could insist that the building is already at it max traffic capacity or parking so you have to put in a new access road and extend the parking area. You may even need to permission to put a sign on an external door.

I am guessing but unless every person is trained you may need a responsible supervising person on site when ever its in use.

How would it all be paid for? If you charge uses that’s more complication.

Of cause not everyone bothers with all the rules and regulations and you may get by for years until there is fire or an accident or the landlord sells to a large corporation that does not let things slide and triples the rent.




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[*] posted on 12-1-2018 at 07:25


Quote: Originally posted by Reboot  
Frankly the whole idea of creating a public chem makerspace would scare the hell out of me. It could be done, but a high level of care and caution is definitely called for.

Well, the idea is to find a company that has unused lab space for whatever reason. I'm sure there have to be at least a few. Especially in New Jersey.




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[*] posted on 12-1-2018 at 07:45


Quote: Originally posted by Melgar  
Quote: Originally posted by Reboot  
Frankly the whole idea of creating a public chem makerspace would scare the hell out of me. It could be done, but a high level of care and caution is definitely called for.

Well, the idea is to find a company that has unused lab space for whatever reason. I'm sure there have to be at least a few. Especially in New Jersey.


Would that comply with their insurance and health/safety rules? Who would be responsible for regulating its use and access? I doubt they would agree unless it’s a very very relaxed laboratory or crazy.
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[*] posted on 12-1-2018 at 12:12


In the US, there are laws that limit the amount of liability on companies that donate goods and services to non-profits. I'm not sure if those laws could be made to apply, but I don't see why not. Also, I've had to sign waivers when taking martial arts classes, saying basically "this shit can be dangerous, you could be killed doing it, now sign this form indicating you understand that". I would assume that the same could be done for other scenarios. OSHA and the like probably would not apply to non-employees. In New Jersey, there seem to be a lot of companies that have moved lab work to China in recent years, and have more lab space on-premises than they're using. If there was some way for them to allow a chemistry club to use that space, as a means of recruiting or PR, that might be something they'd consider.



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