The life sciences landscape is shifting at an unprecedented pace. Missions are changing, teams are collaborating across disciplines, and ideas are flowing in a non-linear way. As a result, the way we plan for life sciences clusters is shifting, too.
Many science clusters today cater towards multiple tenants, so placemaking and community building on-campus can be approached across three different levels. On a building level, collision spaces allow for casual interactions between different groups. On a campus level, outdoor spaces and a wide variety of amenities can help foster a shared experience and provide a welcome respite in a highly expansive market where work happens around the clock. On an urban level, it’s important to weave a neighborhood experience that pulls different tenants together, creating a collaborative brain trust of ideas bouncing off one another.
Crafting that sense of neighborhood starts with the right location. Competition for talent is fierce, and life sciences companies want to be near other like-minded companies thriving in lively urban environments. They want to be close to hospitals and higher education institutions where they can draw talent from. Clusters grow from the synergies of one another.
The same synergies can occur within one cluster. Historically, bio-manufacturing buildings were located far away from the research headquarters. Now, we are seeing a growing interest in bringing the two closer together. The newfound proximity allows for better quality control and faster prototyping.
For companies planning a life sciences cluster, choosing the right kind of building type can be challenging: real estate is expensive, and many companies want to build taller., The higher portion of a building brings its own share of constraints because of chemical use restrictions, but there is so much more to a life sciences building than a wet lab. For example, companies could plan for chemical management on lower floors, and take advantage of higher floors to house dry labs, amenities, and offices.
Back on the street level, another challenge awaits. For campuses that want to be embedded in the urban fabric, loading and receiving bays are one of the most critical aspects of a life sciences building. In dense urban environments, there may not be room for a back door. It’s important to integrate services both into the building and the public realm. One solution is to use a vehicle turntable that can reduce the overall amount of space needed for vehicle deliveries. And once materials get through the door, the chain of custody needs to be considered very carefully.
Throughout, companies should keep in mind that some neighborhoods may not be familiar with life sciences environments; lab buildings can make people nervous. As a result, companies will need to educate them on the positive effects of introducing life sciences into their community. That’s why it’s important to plan for an open, porous campus that welcomes the public with a variety of programs like community spaces and learning opportunities for younger students.
Every project has its own set of variables, but starting a dialogue early on can help mitigate concerns. Life sciences clusters can change the dynamic of a neighborhood and give it more economical stability. They can also attract local talent, which can help them become part of the urban fabric, all the while improving the work-life balance of their staff, who can now work close to home and spend more time with family.
A cluster can become an integral part of the neighborhood. It can improve the urban experience for everyone who works there, and everyone who lives nearby. All it needs is the right ingredients.