by Mark Pelletier
Maugel Architects has been shaping exceptional spaces for innovation and growth for nearly 30 years. Over that time, we have worked with a broad range of science clients and real estate development firms within the medical device, biotech, biopharma, biomanufacturing, and diagnostic and clinical lab sectors. We understand the complex R&D, process manufacturing, and distribution needs that are major challenges in the design process. Here are some of the ways we have helped our clients create exceptional life sciences environments.
Repositioning Existing Buildings to be Lab-Ready
We are helping many of our developer clients reposition commercial and flex buildings to attract life science tenants. However, there are many challenges that building owners face when planning a lab suite in a space that had never been intended for such use, and the increased costs associated with creating a lab-ready environment are often a surprise to many building owners. There are four features a building must have to be considered by a savvy lab tenant:
Life sciences companies want to feel like they are part of a community and will look for locations with clusters of other life sciences companies. We have positioned over a dozen properties in the Hartwell Ave. area of Lexington and towns throughout the Middlesex 3 corridor and along Interstate 95, all fast-growing life science hubs. We are also experiencing a lot of activity in the Worcester area.
It’s important that the building has adequate space in the mechanical rooms and distribution routes to avoid unsightly utilities. It is often most cost-effective to plan labs on the top floor to take advantage of open space on the roof. If planned correctly, you can position equipment on dunnage with carefully placed screens and avoid unsightly mechanical systems.
Vibration, clear ceiling height, glass exposure, and the ability to support concentrated loads are all important factors, but one of the first things we look for in evaluating a building is the existing framing system’s ability to coordinate with a lab module. This area should fit within a structural bay and allow for utility penetrates at the floor or the ceiling.
Material handling is vital to the daily operations of most life sciences facilities. Unfortunately, it is often one of the most overlooked features when evaluating a building’s suitability. Life sciences companies depend heavily on chemical delivery and waste pickup services. Depending on the research material being used, proper handling often dictates more than one loading dock to prevent cross-contamination.
Optimizing Workflow and Efficiency
Lease space often has irregular shapes that present design challenges. For an R&D client in Hopkinton, a potential space had the right square footage and location, but a unique geometry. Before ruling it out, we created a test fit of the program and carved the labs into space aligned with structural bays. This approach allowed for an efficient layout and correct proportions for casework.
To optimize workflow, we carefully plan space to maximize efficiencies. We examine every component and determine its value to the overall process. It is critical to invest time in the casework layouts, which will result in high functioning, ergonomic labs.
When considering the opportunity of a life sciences tenant, consult with an experienced lab design specialist. By establishing that your building will be able to accommodate a lab environment before signing a lease, you will avoid construction cost nightmares and ensure your project’s success.
Mark Pelletier, AIA is a principal at Maugel Architects where he manages the firm’s life sciences practice.