By: Kristen O’Gorman, Jen Gregoire + Amanda Vicari
There’s no question that the Life Science sector is booming. With the segment becoming increasingly competitive, a building’s amenities have become key to attracting leading tenants and building community. According to the architects and interior designers at the Boston- and New York City-based firm SGA, a recognized leader in this field, Class A facilities are enhanced by programming amenities that promote location.
“Location informs amenities,” explains Kristen O’Gorman, LEED® GA, NCARB, SGA Associate, Senior Designer, and Architect. “You have to consider what a tenant needs as well as what’s available in the surrounding areas. Suburban buildings and urban frontier projects require more than buildings in more established urban neighborhoods. Campus-based projects can be planned more holistically, with the needed amenities distributed across the buildings.”
Consider food-based amenities, for example, which are every bit as necessary for a Life Science facility as for a typical office building: An established urban neighborhood is likely to have plentiful dine-in and take-out options nearby, while a suburban environment might have fewer local off-site choices. But even though scientists, like office workers, want to eat and socialize, O’Gorman cautions that their preferences must be taken into account. The tech industry desires cafeterias that offer both gourmet cuisine and ample communal space for their workers to gather away from their desks, but workers at a research and development lab prefer nutritious grab-and-go options, such as healthy food counters or kiosks.
Indeed, the emphasis on health extends well beyond diet: Amanda Vicari, NCIDQ, SGA Associate and Senior Designer, says that “Lab tenants are inherently health-driven, and biophilia [which is based on the belief that humans thrive when connected to nature] has long been an important factor in designing for them.” Living plant walls, noise control, and increased access to daylight and fresh air make these buildings healthier for everyone who works in them. So do features that encourage wellness, like open and accessible stairways, dedicated fitness spaces and showers, and even outdoor dining, walking paths and bike storage rooms.
Most of the above are elements of WELL buildings, as are sustainable heating and cooling systems, VOC reduction, and noise control. Regardless of whether or not a building plans to go through the WELL certification process, Vicari says, these features make a building healthier and therefore more attractive to biomedical, pharmaceutical, academic, and corporate lab users.
Of course, what it means for a building to be healthy has changed significantly in 2020. Jen Gregoire, IIDA, NCIDQ, SGA Associate and Senior Designer, highlights one newly-recognized advantage of Life Science facilities: “Many of their built-in attributes, such as increased air flow and decreased density, make them inherently well-suited to the needs of a post-pandemic world. But,” she adds, “there are still numerous decisions that can be made to further reduce the risk of infection from COVID-19 and other viruses.” Examples include: incorporating touch-free technology wherever possible, from entryways to bathrooms; designing lobbies and pathways throughout the space that encourage forward motion rather than congregation; and increasing visibility into cleaning protocols and building population.
In their decades as leaders in this market, the architects and designers at SGA have seen that a Class A Life Science facility needs the right mix of amenities to attract and support leading scientists. The result is a building that will serve as a creative ecosystem, to enhance the efficiency of the research being conducted therein.