What to consider when converting commercial or office space to life-science use
August 04, 2021
August 04, 2021
The space needs for life science uses are specific and differ from others. Conversion of existing space to life science requires a careful review.
Exciting advancements in the tools available to explore new therapies such as cancer treatments and vaccines have allowed researchers to increase both the speed and accuracy of life science research. Perhaps the best example is the recent rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines. The available means and speed to explore new ideas has created an array of possibilities for many science- and technology-based products. Life sciences are one area where exciting new possibilities and products are rapidly being explored.
With the increase of empty office space, developers are exploring new purposes for these commercial buildings. Life science use is a clear choice for conversion of these spaces. These structures can be and are being successfully converted into life science laboratories. However, it is important to consider how the requirements for a life science space differs from office space.
It is essential to consider the location of your building to match it with potential use. Life science clusters typically develop around generators of ideas, such as major research universities or institutions. These organizations provide the source of ideas and potential employees and resources that may not be available to a start-up. Major centers are established in the Boston and San Francisco regions, as well as along both coasts. However other regions across the US and Canada are also expanding their life science presence. Some emerging clusters are Eastern Texas, especially Austin and Houston, with expansion across the country in a variety of locations, including Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Denver, Colorado.
Other thoughts for a picking a location are like any other business. These include affordability, access to housing, security, and transportation/ease of access. Life-science employees tend to be well educated and have an interest in healthy and engaged lifestyles. That means access to social and other activities are important. The employees will want the desirable amenities in other types of commercial spaces.
Converting an office space into a lab will not necessarily take more time than any other construction project, provided you have done some careful preplanning. The infrastructure of your building is the first thing to consider once you’ve decided the location will have appeal for a life-sciences tenant.
It is essential to consider the location of your building to match it with potential use.
It may seem tempting to save time in planning and design and jump into your conversion, preplanning is a critical step to match the building with the proposed use. It will ultimately help you avoid expensive delays and change orders in construction. Developing a checklist, matrix, or other evaluation tool to compare existing conditions against the goals for your proposed use will help balance requirements and costs while maximizing the potential appeal of your project. Some typical high-level factors include:
You’ve got a great building, and you’re ready to convert it. Before you jump into design, there are a couple other items to think about.
The availability of research tools, methods, and avenues of exploration continues to expand. That creates increasingly specific space needs in the life-sciences laboratory.
However, the fundamental principle of biological laboratory spaces is constant. The central consideration is the human researcher, with the standardized bench configuration and related metrics reflecting human dimensions in relation to the activities and equipment used.
While science may grow and change, a well-considered space can efficiently adapt to that change, especially if we design and plan focused on the principles of flexibility, openness, and modularity.