Life Science

Vertical Cluster Unveiled

Submitted by SGA Architecture

The Vertical Cluster

New York – SGA, a Boston and New York-based architecture, interior design, branded environments, planning, and virtual design and construction firm, unveiled a first-of-its-kind life sciences facilities design fitted for today’s tight urban spaces. Known as the Vertical Cluster, this innovative design is ideal for densely populated cities like New York.

Designed by SGA, the Vertical Cluster is a proposed 24-story, 750,000sf tower containing wet and dry labs integrated into a Class-A vertical research tower that will serve as a next-generation building type for life-sciences developments in dense urban settings, such as New York and other cities where land values are prohibitive to low rise development.

The result is a contemporary facility that quite literally elevates the work of industry professionals and engenders a sense of community through deeply integrated vertical collaboration spaces.

Brooks Slocum, AIA, New York studio manager of SGA, says the New York life sciences industry’s slow start is the result of several factors. First, while many high-profile office and tech tenants have the means to meet New York’s exorbitant rents, early-stage life sciences New York-based tenants have not enjoyed the same level of funding or support as their counterparts in San Francisco, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Boston and the Research Triangle. Secondly, real estate firms aggressively seek to maximize rents immediately and in New York City, the rents for office space are currently very high, which has made many life sciences real estate investments financially challenging.

SGA is dramatically changing this paradigm. With its proven expertise in designing state-of-the-art life sciences facilities and eco-systems that foster entrepreneurship among researchers, venture capitalists, biopharmaceuticals, academia, and technology, SGA has joined forces with a committed group of designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, real estate developers and investors who are advancing this evolutionary change in design.

The Vertical Cluster features two key architectural elements.  First is a highly efficient tower with 32,000gsf floor plates that are configured to maximize the nimble adaptability of laboratory operators and tenants.  The tower’s steel superstructure is designed with 33-foot structural bays and 15-foot floor-to-floor heights, which provide ample ceiling height to accommodate the intensive mechanical needs of the laboratories.  A lab-responsive core provides generous mechanical shaft space and a high-speed service elevator that links laboratories to an enclosed ground floor loading bay with lab-specific mechanical and storage areas. A mechanical floor mid-level in the building allows the air supply to run up and down the tower and avoids the need for oversized shaft ways at the valuable upper levels.

The modular configuration of mechanical equipment allows for future expansion as the needs of laboratory tenants change with the science.  An efficient double skin façade improves thermal and acoustic comfort within the laboratory spaces and maximizes the energy efficiency to reduce operating costs. The base of the tower houses incubator/accelerator space, graduation space, and a dedicated vivarium for enhanced research and development efforts. Having the manufacturing visible to the investors and to the researchers helps build a sense of pride and personal satisfaction for the work they are doing in the tower above.

Other unique challenges that SGA has addressed include chemical processing and storage, along with strict ventilation requirements.

The second key architectural element of the Vertical Cluster is a dynamic mix of interior and exterior collaboration spaces.

This dramatic outward projection can be seen from the efficient floor plates of the central tower.  The Vertical Cluster is a collection of spaces housed within articulated tectonic forms that facilitate vertical integration of floors by the use of monumental communicating stairs and visual connectivity between levels.  The hairpin street profile is formed by interconnecting stairs that allow occupants to ascend the building within the Vertical Cluster and creates opportunities for discovery and interaction on each level.  Landscaped exterior terraces tucked between the folding projections provide a sense of wellbeing to building occupants and allows them to enjoy sweeping views of the city and beyond. Transparency between programs and the interconnectivity of spaces encourages occupants to participate in the exchange of ideas, advancing the work of the life-sciences industry.  Activities within “the vertical cluster” range from passive focus to active scripted or unscripted events that promote knowledge spillover and networking.

Finally, the Vertical Cluster will make sustainability easier than ever. The tower integrates responsible solutions like water purification systems, air filtration, reusable waste systems, emergency generators, heat recovery units, renewable energy and green building materials. Not only does this initiative make the building more sustainable, but it makes the building environment much healthier. The building will also feature a double glass wall façade between the exterior and interior glass wall, that will allow for cooling when open and a warm-air buffer when closed. Advanced delivery methods (including virtual design and construction) were used to assure delivery and reduce costs for this initiative.

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