flexiblefullpage
billboard
interstitial1
catfish1
Currently Reading

Pandemic puts science and technology facilities at center stage

Laboratories

Pandemic puts science and technology facilities at center stage

Expanding demand for labs and life science space is spurring new construction and improvements in existing buildings.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | August 31, 2021
Pandemic puts science and technology facilities at center stage Bulletin Building at Philadelphia’s Schuykill Yards Photo: Jeffrey Totaro, 2019, courtesy Jacobs
Earlier this year, a building team that included the EA firm Jacobs completed the renovation of the historic four-story Bulletin Building within Philadelphia’s Schuykill Yards with offices and labs for Spark Therapeutics, a developer of gene therapy treatments. The design brings natural light into the research space (each floor plate averages 50,000 sf) and creates transparency throughout. Photo: Jeffrey Totaro, 2019, courtesy Jacobs

Most AEC executives would probably agree with Greg Peele, Skanska’s Executive Vice President for operations in North Carolina and Virginia, who states that 2020 was a year “of remarkable growth and transformation” for the science and technology (S+T) sector.

The coronavirus pandemic triggered a private- and public-sector recommitment to bringing drug production back to the U.S. Firms like SmithGroup and Payette helped clients convert vacant or underutilized offices into life science spaces. The pandemic heightened the urgency for speed to market, especially among midstream pharma and personalized medicine/gene therapy focused clients, says Ed Cordes, Perkins and Will’s Global S+T Practice Leader. Cordes also points to a “doubling down” on research labs in clinical facilities.

The pandemic made virtual project design, coordination, and approvals more expedient and acceptable, say Vanderweil Engineers’ Managing Principals John Saad, LEED AP, and Chad Wisler, PE, LEED AP BD+C. But the health emergency also created delays in the overseas shipments of equipment and materials that can still impact the commissioning and validation processes. “It’s important to identify these critical items early in project procurement, evaluate alternative manufacturers where possible, and create flexibility with the schedule,” warns Brian Garbecki, Vice President with Gilbane Building Company.

RENOVATION, ADAPTIVE REUSE ASCENDING IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BUILDING SECTOR

New construction still accounts for the bulk of S+T projects for AEC firms like Vanderweil, McCownGordon Construction, Jacobs, SmithGroup, and Payette. 

However, Ellen Sisle, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Jacobs’ Principal and Global Director of Science and Research, acknowledges that her firm’s ratio of new builds to renovations or adaptive reuse projects varies by location, with adaptive reuse being more prevalent in urban areas with a concentration of biotech, like Cambridge, Mass. 

Joe Grosshart, President of Good & Roberts, a design-build affiliate of C.W. Driver Companies, notes that in Southern California, one of the country’s S+T hotbeds, 52% of life-science clients are choosing to repurpose existing buildings rather than build from the ground up. Good & Roberts recently completed a $4 million renovation project in San Diego for the medical device supplier NuVasive that converted a three-story building into a showroom and surgery suite; and a $2 million renovation of an existing 15,000-sf building for Cell Applications, which distributes cell cultures for medical research.

Developer and property manager The RMR Group (https://www.rmrgroup.com/Home/) redeveloped what had been the north campus of Scripps Research Institute for two decades into Muse, a 186,000-sf life sciences space whose three-building campus is owned by Diversified Healthcare Trust. The RMR Group manages this property and expected tenants to start occupying the building by mid-summer of this year. 

S+t Childrens Marcy research institute
McGownGordon Construction has completed multiple projects for Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., most recently a 400,000-sf, nine-story institute for researchers exploring new ways to treat, diagnose and prevent complex childhood diseases. The facility features wet and dry labs, a conference center, an auditorium, a discovery center, classrooms, a café and business offices. The tower also features a green roof and garden space. The building team included BSA LifeStructures (architect, interior design, lab planning, LA), Brack & Associates (MEP), Bob D. Campbell and Company (SE), and Walter P Moore (CE). Photo: Caleb Tkach

“Functionality is most in demand for life science buildings that need to serve both R&D and business purposes, so providing a mix of modern lab facilities and flexible office space is crucial,” says Chris Bilotto, RMR’s Senior Vice President. Other in-demand features include connection to the outdoors, and food amenities.

Skanska anticipates an uptick in adaptive reuse for S+T projects, too, but this will vary by region and mostly depend on the relative availability of land. When it comes to design changes, Skanska has seen the greatest shifts among its higher ed clients. It recently completed labs for North Carolina State University, Duke University, and a private company in Durham, N.C. “Three different clients with three different designers, and in all three, we saw an increase in the size of the lab benches and the addition of cubicle dividers on the bench offices to support social distancing,” says Peele.

During renovations, it’s not uncommon for tenants’ employees to continue working in the building. AEC firms say they regularly confer with those workers about logistics. The firms also proactively seek occupant input about their projects’ parameters.

Communicating with people who will be using the building “is the heart and soul of our programming and planning,” says Jeffery Talka, AIA, LEED AP, Science + Technology Practice Leader for SLAM. He explains that end users establish area requirements, quality of space, engineering controls, equipment needs, cultural relationships, and safety measures.

“Good science is not just about coordinating utilities and meeting technical demands,” says P&W’s Cordes. “The right environments can attract and retain top talent, support collaboration and innovation, and help improve speed to market.”

The input from end users might be what’s spurred the interest among developers and AEC teams in computational fluid dynamics that optimizes a building’s airflow and personnel comfort. It also goes without saying the conversations with occupants have led to the emphasis on visibility for the interior design of S+T projects. 

“Space is a social system,” says Tom Simister, AIA, LEED AP, Payette’s Director of Space Strategies. “The whole point of investing in a science or technology building is to bring people together with specific resources to solve problems. Visibility makes that interaction intuitive and effortless, and enables buildings to showcase innovation and inspire a new generation of scientists.”

Visibility has included minimizing storage above workbenches. Daniel Lacy, Vice President of McCownGordon’s Healthcare and S+T Business Unit, says visibility is also manifested in clients’ requests for “critical” natural light, and for providing the public with opportunities to view a facility’s inner workings. Vanderweil Engineers has been incorporating visual mechanical rooms and interactive control/sustainability data boards into its S+T projects.

Several sources contacted for this article have seen S+T owners move toward digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). Skanska’s Peele says AI is improving the operation of clinical trials and enabling remote participation. “Our pharmaceutical clients are also using AI to find sequences and patterns that took much longer to run before.” 

P&W’s Cordes observes that as production related to cell and gene therapies becomes more modular and accelerated, AI and automated processes are prevalent. “Some clients have set goals of 100% automation by the end of 2025.”

Related Stories

Healthcare Facilities | Jun 18, 2024

A healthcare simulation technology consultant can save time, money, and headaches

As the demand for skilled healthcare professionals continues to rise, healthcare simulation is playing an increasingly vital role in the skill development, compliance, and continuing education of the clinical workforce.

Laboratories | May 24, 2024

The Department of Energy breaks ground on the Princeton Plasma Innovation Center

In Princeton, N.J., the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has broken ground on the Princeton Plasma Innovation Center (PPIC), a state-of-the-art office and laboratory building. Designed and constructed by SmithGroup, the $109.7 million facility will provide space for research supporting PPPL’s expanded mission into microelectronics, quantum sensors and devices, and sustainability sciences. 

Laboratories | Apr 22, 2024

Why lab designers should aim to ‘speak the language’ of scientists

Learning more about the scientific work being done in the lab gives designers of those spaces an edge, according to Adrian Walters, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal and Director of SMMA's Science & Technology team.

Laboratories | Apr 15, 2024

HGA unveils plans to transform an abandoned rock quarry into a new research and innovation campus

In the coastal town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., an abandoned rock quarry will be transformed into a new research and innovation campus designed by HGA. The campus will reuse and upcycle the granite left onsite. The project for Cell Signaling Technology (CST), a life sciences technology company, will turn an environmentally depleted site into a net-zero laboratory campus, with building electrification and onsite renewables.

Laboratories | Apr 12, 2024

Life science construction completions will peak this year, then drop off substantially

There will be a record amount of construction completions in the U.S. life science market in 2024, followed by a dramatic drop in 2025, according to CBRE. In 2024, 21.3 million sf of life science space will be completed in the 13 largest U.S. markets. That’s up from 13.9 million sf last year and 5.6 million sf in 2022.

Sustainability | Mar 21, 2024

World’s first TRUE-certified building project completed in California

GENESIS Marina, an expansive laboratory and office campus in Brisbane, Calif., is the world’s first Total Resource Use and Efficiency (TRUE)-certified construction endeavor. The certification recognizes projects that achieve outstanding levels of resource efficiency through waste reduction, reuse, and recycling practices.

Adaptive Reuse | Mar 7, 2024

3 key considerations when converting a warehouse to a laboratory

Does your warehouse facility fit the profile for a successful laboratory conversion that can demand higher rents and lower vacancy rates? Here are three important considerations to factor before proceeding. 

University Buildings | Feb 21, 2024

University design to help meet the demand for health professionals

Virginia Commonwealth University is a Page client, and the Dean of the College of Health Professions took time to talk about a pressing healthcare industry need that schools—and architects—can help address.

Urban Planning | Feb 5, 2024

Lessons learned from 70 years of building cities

As Sasaki looks back on 70 years of practice, we’re also looking to the future of cities. While we can’t predict what will be, we do know the needs of cities are as diverse as their scale, climate, economy, governance, and culture.

Laboratories | Feb 5, 2024

DOE selects design-build team for laboratory focused on clean energy innovation

JE Dunn Construction and SmithGroup will construct the 127,000-sf Energy Materials and Processing at Scale (EMAPS) clean energy laboratory in Colorado to create a direct path from lab-scale innovations to pilot-scale production.

boombox1
boombox2
native1

More In Category


Laboratories

The Department of Energy breaks ground on the Princeton Plasma Innovation Center

In Princeton, N.J., the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has broken ground on the Princeton Plasma Innovation Center (PPIC), a state-of-the-art office and laboratory building. Designed and constructed by SmithGroup, the $109.7 million facility will provide space for research supporting PPPL’s expanded mission into microelectronics, quantum sensors and devices, and sustainability sciences. 



Laboratories

HGA unveils plans to transform an abandoned rock quarry into a new research and innovation campus

In the coastal town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., an abandoned rock quarry will be transformed into a new research and innovation campus designed by HGA. The campus will reuse and upcycle the granite left onsite. The project for Cell Signaling Technology (CST), a life sciences technology company, will turn an environmentally depleted site into a net-zero laboratory campus, with building electrification and onsite renewables.

halfpage1

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021