By Caitlin Greenwood, AIA, Project Manager, Partner
Boston’s Fenway neighborhood has become an “eds and meds” neighborhood and a hub for life science companies. This is due largely to the presence of nine colleges and universities and proximity to the adjacent Longwood Medical and Academic Area, home to 21 medical and academic institutions.
Margulies Perruzzi was retained to retrofit 20 Overland Street in Boston, transforming it from Class B office space into a highly desirable location for a variety of life science tenants. Repositioning the 202,167 SF building for a new and more demanding use required upgrades to its infrastructure to enable demolition of the adjacent building, core and shell upgrades to the first and second floors, and most significantly, a combination of upgrades to and replacement of existing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems (MEP) to handle the additional loads imposed by laboratory facilities.
The building had been a vehicle manufacturing plant during World War II, and consequently has substantial floor-to-floor heights, ample fenestration for natural light, and plenty of structural capacity. While beneficial, the latter added a level of difficulty when it came to accommodating penetrations for plumbing. The former factory was also equipped with two large freight elevators, which became irrelevant when the building use changed. The design team repurposed one of the shafts as thoroughfares for routing new chilled water, HVAC exhaust ductwork, and generator conduit runs from the first floor and second floors to the roof instead of running these utilities down the side of the building, which is a more common solution.
Based on the structural capacity of 20 Overland, the roof did not need reinforcement for the additional new HVAC equipment, which included supplemental condensing units for cooling and lab exhaust fans. Dunnage—a structural platform for mechanical equipment—was added to support a new lab emergency power generator. Due to seismic design constraints, diesel fuel to power the generator could not be stored on the roof and instead is stored in a specially-design tank room located in the basement.
Upgrades were also made to the lobbies and entrances at both the Overland and Burlington Street entrances to entice more foot traffic in front of the building and to connect with future public circulation. The improvements have already attracted new tenants: Margulies Perruzzi recently completed a 60,000-square-foot interior fit-out for Strand Therapeutics.
Not every building is suitable for conversion to labs. In this case, strategic discussions with the landlord took place before and during the design process regarding future flexibility, building and fire separations between 20 Overland and 109 Brookline, limitations on lab control areas, maximizing available space for lab use, and implementing renovations while minimizing disruption to existing tenants.
Owners thinking about making a similar investment must consider the prospective building’s adaptability to the new use. Zoning, local codes and ordinances, building location, and site amenities such as ease of circulation, access to public transportation, and available parking are all important factors. From a physical standpoint, buildings that have generous floor-to-floor heights, structural integrity, presence of essential utilities, capacity for enhanced utilities, flexibility to appeal to different types of tenants, and availability of first floor space for chemical storage, are prime candidates for repositioning.
This article was featured in High Profile Monthly.
BOSTON – January 25, 2023 – Margulies Perruzzi (MP), one of New England’s most innovative architectural and interior design firms, announced that it has completed the architectural interior design and lab fit-out for Strand Therapeutics, an emerging biopharmaceutical company applying synthetic biology to RNA therapeutics. The renovation project transformed 64,000 RSF across two floors at 20 Overland Street in Boston into a BSL-2 laboratory and open plan office.
Strand Therapeutics is developing the first platform for the creation of programmable, long-acting mRNA drugs capable of delivering precise, multi-functional, potentially curative treatments with a single dose. Co-founded by world-leading mRNA researchers from the MIT Synthetic Biology Center, Strand’s technology potentially has broad applicability across a spectrum of diseases. The company will initially focus on the development of mRNA therapies that act through multiple immune mediated mechanisms to deliver potentially curative treatments in oncology. In solid tumors, Strand’s mRNA approach has the potential to significantly improve response rates to checkpoint inhibitor therapy. In hematological tumors, Strand’s early work may have the potential to revolutionize CAR-T therapy.
“Coming out of a smaller lab space in Cambridge, we are proud to have a new space which represents our brand and vision as a company that we can call our own,” said Tasuku Kitada, Ph.D., president, head of R&D, and co-founder at Strand Therapeutics. “Our space feels expansive yet visually connected, and the design of the shared spaces creates more space for each employee. The labs are visible from the reception and office area, allowing us to show off the revolutionary work of our scientists to visitors and employees alike.”
Before Strand selected 20 Overland, Margulies Perruzzi had been providing design services for converting 20 Overland Street into a highly desirable location for a variety of life science tenants. Repositioning the 202,167 SF building for a more demanding use required upgrades to its infrastructure, and most significantly, a combination of upgrades to existing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems (MEP) to handle the additional loads imposed by laboratory facilities. The building had been a vehicle manufacturing plant during World War II, and consequently has substantial floor-to-floor heights, ample fenestration for natural light, and plenty of structural capacity. This conversion, along with other factors, led to Strand’s interest in the building.
Strand’s open work environment is supported by a variety of meeting room types, phone booths, scientist write-up space, and work café spaces, allowing employees the option to choose between the workspace that best supports their needs. An existing interconnecting stair between the two floors was retained and a custom-designed helix sculpture was installed in the center of the stair structure to represent the synthetic biology in which Strand specializes.
A connection between the lab and office spaces is supported by glass walls, permitting a clear visual into the lab from the office, and vice versa. The reception area is right off the building lobby and provides a direct sight line of the lab space and connecting stair, enabling guests to see the scientists at work. Branding based on the blue from the Strand logo is carried throughout the space, including the lab. Wall graphics were added in the lab to reinforce the company’s culture. The building is a triangle-shape, and the floor plate shape was unusual, presenting some challenges in determining where to place the labs to maximize usable square footage.
The project team for this project includes:
- Architect, Interior Design, and Lab Planner: Margulies Perruzzi
- Construction Manager: Suffolk Construction
- Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP) Engineer: BR+A
- OPM: Anchor Advisors
- Code Consulting: Jensen Hughes
Click here to see more of Strand’s new space!
Founder and Principal, Marc Margulies, FAIA, LEED AP, has been awarded the Awards of Excellence in the Americas Service Provider Leadership category by CoreNet New England.
Margulies is an award-winning architect, community leader, real estate industry mentor, and philanthropist who has made a difference in the communities where he lives and works. After serving as Fidelity Investments’ manager of real estate design, Margulies founded Margulies & Associates in 1988. Now known as Margulies Perruzzi (MP), Margulies has grown the firm to one of New England’s top architectural and interior design firms, focusing on workplace, health, science & technology, and real estate development projects. Margulies strongly believes that people are deeply affected both by their workplace and by where they live, and that architects can contribute enormously to making businesses more successful and their employees happier. His clients recognize the value of this expertise, resulting in commissions to design and strategize on many exciting and provocative headquarters projects. Margulies is also involved in a number of volunteer efforts, most notably working on behalf of Boston’s Wharf District Council to develop waterfront resilience to rising sea levels, and on designing and building cost-effective modular micro-units for the homeless.
The well-deserving 2023 winners will be honored at the in-person Awards of Excellence Gala on April 27, 2023 at the Westin Boston Seaport District.
Read more in the New England Real Estate Journal.
By Jess Hamilton
A critical part of any lab planning and design project is getting the equipment list correct. Traditionally, the end users provide an initial list to our lab planning and design team that includes each piece of equipment they need for their work. The list should include the size and weight of each piece of equipment, as well as all electrical, plumbing, and gas requirements. We review the list for accuracy with the client and then against a database we have developed. The content is adjusted so that it’s formatted correctly and ready to integrate into our Revit Model. For existing equipment, if the equipment list is insufficient, our design team can survey the equipment to create an accurate list that includes any computer requirements, UPS or backup power, special exhaust requirements, or waste streams. This is also beneficial to the design process because it provides a look into the existing lab and confirms which pieces of equipment are adjacent to one another or directly connected.
For startup client’s advancing from the incubator environment and leasing their first new space, the equipment list is still a critical piece of laboratory planning and design. The design team can work with the end users or procurement team to help develop and maintain their equipment list, even working through projected growth and workflows for equipment that may be purchased later. There are also specialized lab procurement companies that can help procure the equipment to get client’s operations up and running.
Overall, the equipment list becomes a central design tool for the project. It’s used to layout the different sections of a laboratory. Once it’s loaded into Revit, it helps determine the size of each room or clearance requirements, as well as how many adjacent laboratory spaces are needed. We have developed a plugin integrated with our Revit software that loads the equipment list into Revit and creates detailed individual items called “families” for each piece of equipment. These “families” automatically show the utilities needed on the equipment drawing itself. The Revit plugin also creates a 3D visual for clients to view the lab, including the lab equipment. This helps end users visualize how their space will look and how the lab is laid out.
The Revit file is then sent to our MEP engineering partners to reference the information in a single document. This makes it less likely that there will be inconsistencies between the architectural and engineering drawings. BIM360 is also used to integrate consultants’ drawings with the architectural drawings. Prior to developing this approach, engineers had to reference both the equipment plan and the equipment matrix or schedule to see all the details of the equipment, often resulting in conflicts. Since the MEP drawings are the primary resource that the subcontractors on-site use to install the utilities, accuracy is critical. The contractor also can use a 3D view of the lab to coordinate where lab benches, equipment, and other components will be located. It can be shared with the subcontractors that otherwise may not look at the architectural drawings but often will reference a 3D view of the lab if it includes equipment to inform their work on-site.
The value of this process becomes evident at the end of the project when the space is built out and the owner moves in their equipment. These laboratories are critical to the success of our clients. Avoiding delays in operations is paramount. Because the utilities are installed in the correct locations to service the owner’s equipment, the company can begin operations on time, avoiding costly delays.
Congratulations to our own Julia Donahue, IIDA, NCIDQ who has earned her WELL Accredited Professional (AP) accreditation. Developed by Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI) in collaboration with the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), WELL AP signifies advanced knowledge in human health and wellness in the built environment, and specialization in the WELL Building Standard.
WELL APs have successfully passed the WELL AP exam, an assessment based on the expertise of leading practitioners in the field of design, health, and wellness in the built environment. Developed using GBCI’s rigorous test development best practices, the WELL AP exam is designed to test a candidate’s knowledge and proficiency in building wellness and the principles, practices and applications of the WELL Building Standard.
By Janet Morra, AIA, LEED AP & Jenna Meyers, IIDA, NCIDQ, LEED AP
One of the business world’s most sacred traditions at year-end is for industry leaders to predict what’s in store for the coming year. After nearly three years of coping with a pandemic that has changed mindsets as well as the physical work environment, we and our clients have learned two important lessons: change is the only constant, and flexibility is key to adaptability.
As architects and interior designers, one of the questions we are frequently asked is, “What are you seeing as the office environment of the near future?” During the pre-vaccine pandemic, the answer was easy: modify the work environment to protect workers at all costs. We collectively bought into the notion that once vaccines were available, things would return to a “new normal,” and a mass return to the office would follow.
Now, in a volatile health and economic landscape, our response varies depending on the decisions we see our clients struggling with and how they address them. We know of one company that had an epiphany when they realized that the 100,000 SF building they own sits mostly empty, because in their new hybrid work environment, they have never had more than 50 people show up to work in the office on any given day. Possible solutions included selling the building, relocating to less space, and designing it for how their staff works now—or subletting half the square footage and proceeding with redesigning the space they occupy. This is but one example of our certainty that there will be no return to the 2020 B.C. (before COVID) work model soon—or maybe ever.
Management is coming to terms with the new reality of employee expectations. Whereas pre-pandemic, they were assigned a specific workspace and that was often enough, today’s office environment is more employee focused, with incentives to bring back those workers who work remotely with some regularity and consistency. That said, there are many types of businesses that cannot function with remote workers, such as hospitals and research labs. Many of these businesses have a mix of remote and essential on-site workers, which can create experiential disparity among employees.
Incentivizing remote staff to return to the office is management’s holy grail, and we have created a roadmap to achieve it through the introduction of collaboration space. At Margulies Perruzzi, we often compare the plan for a successful physical work environment that empowers employee choice to that of a three-legged stool because it relies on three essential components for stability: physical space that can be curated to be an asset for employees; supportive technology for that physical space; and an HR policy that balances flexibility with fostering culture and knowledge sharing.
Though none of us truly know what the future may hold, emerging trends are often reliable predictors. To foster collaboration and bring workers into the office with some regularity, we are seeing the introduction and enhancement of “neighborhoods” aligned by either functional teams or acoustic preferences, and a rich variety of formal and informal meeting and social gathering spaces. We recognize that there will always be a need for some personal, heads-down space. But no matter what the use or type, standardizing and strategically sizing spaces to allow for future flexibility is paramount, as is integrating supportive technology that will enable employees to choose where and how to work.
This article was featured in High Profile Monthly.
Kerrie Julian, RA, LEED AP, CDT – Director of Science Strategy
What was your most important professional accomplishment or most notable project, deal, or transaction in 2022?
Joining Margulies Perruzzi, a firm I’ve admired for many years, as Director of Science Strategy. In this role, I am responsible for lending my expertise to projects, managing and recruiting staff, and developing new client relationships. With an extensive science portfolio, Margulies Perruzzi specializes in life sciences, medical devices, research and development (R&D), and manufacturing projects. Margulies Perruzzi has worked with a wide range of industry leaders, including IQHQ, Strand Therapeutics, Azenta, Avencell, Boston Scientific, and many others. The culture is collaborative, engaging, and fun. I feel very supported by leadership and look forward to 2023.
What emerging trends will drive investment and development in 2023?
The Greater Boston life science and science/technology real estate markets plateaued this year from previous years; however, it’s still an exciting time. Several new lab buildings will be coming online in the next few years, and we are seeing an increased demand for manufacturing and cGMP facilities. Mergers and acquisitions will be prevalent in 2023 as some smaller companies may see the need to join forces with larger established companies.
Ashley McGrath, IIDA, NCIDQ, LEED GA – Senior Interior Designer
How has your career path changed in 2022?
My focus was on corporate interiors and workplace design before getting involved with our Science & Technology studio. I get to keep the workplace strategy while adding in technical aspects associated with labs. I recently worked on a 50,000 SF space with a 60/40 lab/office split. I had the opportunity to play with lighting and coloring to facilitate wayfinding through the open labs.
It was fun to push the design by creating a connection between lab and office supported by glass walls, allowing a clear visual into the lab from the office, and vice versa.
See Kerrie and Ashley featured in NEREJ’s 2022 Year in Review.