Inspiring Innovation: Keys to Successful Life Sciences Projects

August 18, 2023


Today’s competitive and disruptive market requires speed, agility and creative solutions. Whether in an urban location or regional market, a speculative life sciences facility can help drive innovation to spark new opportunities. 

Life sciences facilities are unique in their combination of both laboratory and workplace spaces. The planning and design of these specialized facilities needs to accomplish many goals - attract and retain top talent, enable innovation, and incorporate flexibility for long-term viability.

We’re using our past experience, with many successful life science projects, to explore key considerations and the best project approach for our clients.

A multidisciplinary planning, analysis and design approach needs to incorporate strategic, physical and operational considerations. As companies move through growth phases, they have different space requirements based on the type/stage of research, source of funding, and need for office and/or manufacturing space.

Speculative Life Sciences Facility Considerations

A rewarding project starts with careful planning and analysis and by exploring questions like these:

  • Is the potential site the best location for the project?

  • How close is it to universities, government and corporate research organizations and other life science resources?

  • What amenities are near the site?

  • What is the access to a strong, skilled labor pool?

  • What is the current life sciences inventory? Where is there a gap?

  • How can we create a building that supports a thriving science ecosystem?

  • What level of investment is needed to attract a range of tenants? What is the long-term plan versus initial build?

Adaptive Reuse Considerations

Additional considerations for existing buildings include:

  • Do existing zoning restrictions limit the building’s use, including what type(s) of research can be conducted?

  • Is the existing structural grid adaptable to a lab layout in terms of column spacing and vibration criteria?

  • Can the building’s floor-to-floor height accommodate the infrastructure required for a laboratory?

  • Does the building have the capacity for supplemental HVAC equipment to serve the extensive air flow and exhaust requirements of a research facility?

  • How can the building meet the flow of materials and hazardous waste? Is there a loading dock, service yard and/or elevator?

A Successful Project is Built on a Strong Foundation

Upfront planning is the key to long-term success. Here are some things to keep in mind when starting a new project:

  • Early analysis of initial site and building costs.

  • Developing the design to attract initial users with options for quick customized fit-out solutions to meet short and long term needs. 

  • Discussion of what level of core and shell infrastructure the landlord will provide versus what will be part of tenant fit-out. M/E/P and structural considerations are especially important.

  • Collaboration with project stakeholders to make the best decisions about elements that are difficult and costly to change, including floor-to-floor heights, loading and vibration factors, M/E/P infrastructure, and shared vs. tenant-spaces.

  • Exploration of flexibility in layout and utilization for wet lab, dry lab and office space.

  • Developing a construction scheduling and phasing plan. Speed to delivery will get tenants in faster.

Working with the Right Team

It is important to have a team of planning, architecture, engineering and building professionals that will collaborate with user groups to analyze and discuss key considerations, including target occupancy, construction cost, schedule, utility requirements and building efficiency to make building projects a better value.

With experience developing and implementing laboratory facility standards and providing design, and consulting services for projects across the country, AE Works understands the importance of aesthetics and systems working together to provide highly functional, aesthetically pleasing spaces to support research and innovation. 

Get inspired to start planning by visiting AE Works’ Life Sciences portfolio. Questions, or have a project need, reach out to us.

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