by Jen Luoni
In qualifying expenditures, build-to-suit tenants present an ease in property development not prevalent in speculative construction. The juxtaposition of investment costs versus proper outfitting for an undefined tenant is both difficult and risky. Of exception are speculative distribution and flex industrial facilities whose needs are more identifiable and forecastable, yet the challenge here is meeting needs for the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) life science market.
As the push for cGMP facilities rises, consideration is being given to accommodate requirements in speculative distribution and flex industrial markets. Central to this is what infrastructure needs to be in place to allow for a cGMP tenant to occupy the space. Here design build excels in qualifying scope and costs to optimize the investment strategy.
Base Building Impact
In assessing feasibility, key elements impacting financial outcomes include:
Concentrated effort on building envelope design – The building envelope should have a contiguous vapor barrier throughout all exterior components. Thermal design is also brought into consideration for operational efficiency. Integral concrete curbs on the building’s interior should be considered along with slab design and finishes.
Enhanced MEP/FP systems – Electrical service can be four times greater to support advanced HVAC systems required for high level temperature and humidity control. Allowance for generators is required to cover for redundancy as backup power can be tenant specific.
Plumbing must be designed, installed and maintained to preclude backflow and cross-connection between discharge and supply piping. Increased water, sanitary and gas services must be assumed to support base building systems, manufacturing and cleaning processes.
While not always required, installing Early Suppression Fast Response (ESFR) sprinkler systems are a practical choice to prep the building for a wider tenant base.
Enhanced structural capacity – Roof systems should have capacity for additional HVAC equipment. Interior mezzanines may not be included in base buildings, however the flexibility to install these or hang equipment from the building structure needs to be factored into the design. Adding capacity after the fact can make the building less alluring.
While build-to-suit offers customization, building spec facilities leaves open decisions for developers challenging flexibility for an undetermined audience. Former standard manufacturing and warehouse facility design now needs deeper analysis and consideration. The key to selling speculative buildings is in investing in needed upfront elements that are attractive and accommodating to all tenant sectors, rather than posing substantial schedule and cost impact later. Here design build’s upfront feasibility analyzes options for open audiences. In today’s context, cGMP is particularly relevant to high growth medical and pharmaceutical markets, whose accelerated occupancy timelines are reliant upon the availability of appropriate space.
Jen Luoni is director of operations – design at Dacon Corporation.