Expert tips to benefit from the life sciences boom

Providing flexibility, maximizing building codes, and understanding the best retrofit applications are among the tips to capitalizing on the life sciences gold rush.

Demand continues to outstrip supply in the life science industry, which includes working for customers in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors. Part of the reason for the growth is vaccine development activities as well as larger real estate trends driving investments in the life sciences sector, Nick Iselin, general manager of Boston Development at Lendlease, said during an online forum focusing on Life science real estate strategies.

Although vacancy rates have risen in the major office markets over the past 18 months, there is virtually no vacancy in the life science sector, especially in major centers like Boston and San Diego. But a life science project is not as simple as classic office building.

“I think the biggest problem is setting up the building to maximize the number of chemicals allowed in it,” said Scott Strom, one of the DPR ‘S. Life sciences core market leader. “And the’Somehow the secret sauce is for it. “

Life science projects have special considerations compared to most other types of projects. You should consider the following points for a successful life science project:

Building regulations. Building codes only allow a certain amount of chemicals in a building. In a typical office building, contractors generally do not plan how many chemicals will get into the buildings.

But in one lab building, Strom said contractors should “want to increase that”. [chemical] Amount because [life science tenants] they’ll need to do the research. “Existing regulations favor chemicals on the lower floors than on the upper floors and increase chemicals upstairs through other design strategies,” said Strom.

Planning ahead. The intended use of a building is crucial before a project begins, but in the life science market the user requirements are often unknown a priori. The key to addressing this challenge is to stay agile, be ready to toggle quickly and consider gray areas, said Joseph Whalen, vice president of operations in the Suffolk New York office.

“This is where we shine,” said Bill Kane, President of East Coast and UK Markets at BioMed Realty, a Blackstone portfolio company. “It’s about intelligent programming that uses best practices from our 16 million square foot portfolio to create very diverse and flexible building systems that allow decisions to be postponed or changed over time.”

Details. Flexibility has traditionally been difficult due to the specific equipment needs in life sciences areas. Kane added that it is also important to have “a thorough understanding of user nuances and a high level of expertise” when it comes to creating and managing these life sciences assets.

“Typically, buildings that provide column-free span of 20 to 25 feet from the perimeter work well to provide bench top areas with laboratory support and offices toward the inner core,” said Whalen. “There are different layouts that can be implemented in both steel and concrete-reinforced buildings, but in general steel offers the greatest flexibility when retrofitted.”

Retrofits. According to Whalen, customers want to get individuals into laboratories and research centers as soon as possible, and space is tight. Because of this, contractors need to quickly understand how traditional office buildings can be retrofitted to best meet the needs of this fast-growing industry.

“Buildings with existing infrastructure systems that can provide additional capacity to the program areas are the cheapest. HVAC and electrical systems are the primary disciplines that need solutions from a cost perspective, ”said Whalen. “Buildings that require limited reinforcement of these existing disciplines will be the most attractive.”

Kate Keller, director at Keller Augusta, said her team saw a 60 percent increase in searches conducted for companies looking to increase their workforce as they expand their portfolio. The positions in demand by these customers are in the areas of acquisition, development, asset management and leasing. She said this confirms an increase in investment, development and recruitment as companies view life science as the path to economic development.

The surge in demand for life sciences has been unprecedented, with projections projected to exceed $ 90 billion invested in the industry 2021, said Keller. Since demand exceeds supply, office owners and landlords are converting vacant space.

Infrastructure needs. A life science building requires much more robust infrastructure and floor-to-ceiling height while also providing redundant power, specialized HVAC equipment and greater resilience, “said Kane buildings have good ‘bones’ to be considered laboratory grade.”

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