The Differences with Adaptable Furniture Systems

There are more types of laboratory furniture systems, products, and accessories available today than ever before.  We now hear the terms "flexible" and "adaptable" daily when discussing laboratory furniture and casework.  While many new state-of-the-art laboratories are being built utilizing these types of systems, there are still many that prefer a more basic cabinet design. Their reasons may be due to the lab's needs, their budget, or perhaps they are not aware of the newer systems available and the advantages they offer.  So what are the differences of these products, and what is best for your lab?

SEFA (Scientific Equipment & Furniture Association) is the business trade organization representing manufacturers of laboratory-grade furniture, products, and accessories, of which A.T. Villa is a member. Over many years various members of SEFA have created a very detailed guide called the Desk Reference to help define the different types of furniture systems and how they are used in laboratories. 

The images below provide a great visual from SEFA's guide distinguishing the difference between laboratory casework in 8 Classes and their adaptability level.

How to Classify Adaptable Furniture Systems

There are eight classifications when it comes to laboratory furniture systems. As described in SEFA, these classifications go as follows:

  1. Fixed Floor Mounted and Wall Supported

Fixed floor mounted casework uses a traditional base construction that is attached to the floor and wall. Worksurfaces are mounted to the top of the base cabinets in continuous lengths.

  1. Wall Rail Supported

Wall rail laboratory casework use a wall mount horizontally or vertically from which the cabinet is hung. The worksurface is usually connected to the under-counter base units.

  1. Self-Supporting Frame

This type of casework system is typically a C-Frame structure, but some use a front leg for added strength and stability. The self-supporting structure can be worksurface height or above. These frame systems can also be used with mobile or floor mounted casework.

  1. Core Based

Core-based laboratory casework systems use a floor mounted support module (core). Table frames, cabinets, shelving, service utility distribution, and additional items are suspended. The core module support systems are usually anchored to the floor or adjacent to walls. Core-based casework systems can be worksurface height or above the counter structure.

  1. Panel Based

Panel-based casework systems are very similar to case-based. However, panel-based uses a narrow support module at 6” or less. The narrow panel limits service utility distribution space. Panel-based systems include features such as glass inserts, doors, and other internal wall partitions.

  1. Table Based

Table based laboratory systems are self-supporting tables. They are used in combination with separate wall mounts or upper storage systems. You can adjust the height of the tables, and they are designed to support suspended base cabinets. However, table-based systems do not have above worksurface structures. This feature allows the system to be easily relocated.

  1. Free Standing Workstation

Freestanding workstations are table-based systems that use floor-mounted tables, allowing for simple relocation. These workstations can be worksurface height or above. You can adjust the height of the workstation. Base cabinets can be mobile, floor-mounted, or suspended. Upper cabinets, worksurfaces, shelving, service utility distribution, and ancillary items can be suspended from the frame structure. These stations incorporate adjustment slots for the vertical height of worksurfaces, shelving, and ancillary items.

  1. Mobile Workstation

Mobile workstations are mounted on casters allowing for simple relocation. The workstation can be worksurface height or above. Base cabinets can be mobile, floor-mounted, or suspended. Upper cabinets, worksurfaces, shelving, service utility distribution, and ancillary items can be suspended from a frame structure. Overall, mobile workstations are very similar to freestanding workstations.


For this publication, we will focus on the most popular types of systems, which include Class 1 (fixed) and more adaptable systems, Classes 6 & 7 (moveable), and Class 8 (mobile)

What is Fixed Casework?

Fixed casework has been the traditional lab furniture systems for its durability, work surfaces, and storage. Fixed or floor mounted casework utilizes a traditional base cabinet construction. The base cabinet construction is supported and attached to the floors and walls of the building. The worksurfaces are mounted directly to the tops of the base cabinets. Cabinet locations and worksurfaces heights are not adjustable.  Reconfiguration of the casework is limited and requires considerable re-work by various trades and is costly.  These are commonly referred to as floor-based.

                                                                     Class 1 Floor Mounted Fixed Casework

What are Adaptable Casework Systems?

These types of Adaptable Casework Systems are modular furniture assemblies that consist of individual components to create support structures for the worksurfaces, cabinetry, and shelving. These individual components include:

    • Vertical uprights and legs
    • Horizontal support members
    • Levelers and/or casters
    • Complete rear support assemblies
    • Cabinet supports
    • Worksurfaces supports
    • Shelving
    • Accessories

Adaptable casework systems allow for reconfiguration and adjustability. These systems work best for laboratories looking for assemblies that accommodate reconfiguration and relocation of equipment.

The two most popular types of adaptable laboratory furniture systems we see specified are moveable and mobile systems.  Moveable would fall into Class 6 (Table Based) and Class 7 (Free-Standing). Class 8 is referred to as Mobile Benches and are clearly the most flexible furniture system for laboratories todayExamples of these types of offerings from A.T. Villa are with our Forte™ system and can be seen here.

Class Six Adaptable Casework Table Based

 Class Seven Free Standing Workstation Adaptable Casework 

Class Eight Mobile Workstation Fixed Casework

A.T. Villa takes the mobile concept to the ultimate level with our Ergolab™ system which can be seen here.  Ergolab™ is designed for equipment and instrumentation flexibility, with the highest weigh load capabilities in the industry.

Does Your Lab Need an Adaptable Casework Systems?

The simple answer, yes if your budget allows.  On average, equipment and instrumentation evolve to new technology every five years.  Adaptable systems are designed to change accordingly, allowing you the flexibility to quickly adjust and reconfigure the system to your new instrumentation and technology.

This forward-thinking approach and the ability to adapt will, therefore, save you money and reduce downtime when changes and updates are needed.

Adaptable Laboratory Furniture Systems

Adaptable laboratory furniture systems are labeled in eight different classifications. One being more fixed, meaning that the laboratory furniture is less adaptable. While eight is classified as most adaptive. Adaptable laboratory furniture systems are designed from modular components to create laboratory furniture assemblies that can accommodate relocation/reconfiguration.


No two labs are the same. Therefore you want to find the best option that fits your laboratory, the equipment, processes, and budget. To learn more about what adaptable lab furniture A.T. Villa offers, look at our laboratory casework products in more detail. If you have questions about what laboratory casework is best for you, contact us. We will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.


All images and text from the SEFA Desk Reference are used by permission, and we thank them! For more information about SEFA, please visit their website at


We would also like to thank our independent sales representatives. We work closely with the two largest laboratory equipment rep groups in the United States. Both LabRepCo and BioMedical Solutions, Inc have vast experience in laboratories.