Critical design elements that help reach scientific breakthroughs
The amount of investment into life sciences from venture capital to IPOs and M&A hit record levels in 2021. The Hines Proprietary Research Group conducted a proprietary analysis that determined funding is, in most cases, a key driver of demand for real estate.¹
The investment momentum is expected to continue and companies that received an infusion of investment capital are likely placing funds into R&D that could lead to a greater need for highly sophisticated lab space or cutting-edge pharmaceutical facilities.¹
Life science companies can focus on scientific breakthroughs if the real estate their scientists occupy is fit for purpose. The key to designing and maintaining life sciences labs and offices that fit keep two fundamental criteria in mind: structural specification and the balance of lab and office space.
Designing purpose-built life sciences spaces
Life science companies can easily repurpose an existing office or retail asset to serve as lab space given that structural specifications match. Most alternative commercial properties were not constructed as lab spaces that feature product-specific requirements, including redundant emergency power systems, higher floor-to-floor heights, higher floor load capacity, sufficient vibration capacity, superior HVAC systems and planned vertical MEP expansion.
Purpose-built lab space typically has higher floor to floor heights than traditional office, a factor not easily altered when converting existing assets. Typically, a minimum ceiling height of 16 feet is required. While it often increases utility costs, building system requirements and infrastructure require ample room. Examples of these are safe delivery, extraction of specialty gases, compressed air and intricate plumbing.
Life science companies also frequently require the use of heavy high-tech equipment. Their lab space should have the ability to accommodate a live load of at least 100 lbs./sq. ft. Additionally, vibration often impacts critical experiments, which can be grounds to negate results. Given the importance of accuracy, this can make a building nonfunctional for some tenants’ needs. It is necessary to invest in enhanced structural vibration attenuation throughout the building to offset operational risk.
Due to the potentially hazardous chemicals that life science tenants use, superior HVAC systems are required. An occupied laboratory typically operates at rates of greater than eight room air changes per hour. Therefore, assets with HVAC systems utilizing recirculated air should avoid fitting labs as the asset's HVAC system usually requires a complete retrofit to meet minimum standards.
ESG is at the forefront for developers, investors, and occupiers alike. ESG is a critical consideration for life science assets especially given the heightened energy demand of these assets. Building highly efficient assets that source from sustainable energy sources as well as considering embodied and operational carbon emissions we believe will be key in competing for the most sought-after tenants.
Balance lab and office space with flexibility