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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Linda Lee ~ Medical Director of Endoscopy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Director of the National Pancreas Foundation Center for Treatment and Care of Pancreatic Cancer at BWH/DFCI, and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School
Christopher C. Thompson, MD ~ Director of Endoscopy, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Co-Director, Center for Weight Management and Wellness; Director, Advanced Endoscopy Fellowship Program; and Professor, Harvard Medical School
Modernizing Today’s Endoscopy Suite to Meet Future Demands
The planning of an endoscopy unit focuses on three key areas:
Pre- and Post-Patient Care
The project process begins by establishing quantity and type of procedure rooms based on the specific needs of the patient population. A patient volume analysis overlaid with procedure type allows the team to define the required number of procedure rooms, and to develop a space program that lists all the required support spaces (nurse stations, toilets, storage rooms, clean and soiled rooms, etc.) and their size to determine the area required to accommodate the future endoscopy suite. This area can then be used to identify lease space, construct a new building, or identify an area for renovation within the existing hospital or clinic. Once the location of the project is determined, the clinicians work with the architects to establish patient flow through the department and lay out the spaces. A series of meetings follows to review the details of the layout of each clinical space. For our purposes, our project focused on a phased renovation and expansion of an existing endoscopy suite.
The idea of WELL started in 2013 with a question posed by Delos, a global wellness leader with a mission to enhance health and well-being in live, work, learn, and play spaces: “How do we merge real estate with health and well-being?”
One thing led to another, and a year later the first version of the WELL Building Standard® was launched; administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a subsidiary of Delos.
The WELL program (WELL) applies the science of how physical and social environments affect human health, well-being, and performance. Developed over 10 years and backed by the latest scientific research, the current WELL Building Standard contains 112 features organized into 10 categories called concepts. IWBI’s sophisticated digital tools allow organizations to implement the WELL Building Standard in a flexible and customizable way to meet specific health and well-being goals and drive desirable business outcomes.
In 2015, the Well Living Lab™—a collaboration between Delos and the Mayo Clinic—was founded on the premise that, “The only way to know how indoor environments can contribute to health and well-being is to scientifically study them.” By 2018, IWBI applied what it had learned from scientific research data, users, and practitioners to an update of the WELL Building Standard, referred to as the WELL v2™ pilot.
The Path to Certification
WELL is supported by three separate rating systems which allow participants to take a targeted approach to certification by focusing on a subset of strategies that address specific themes. These are: the WELL Performance Rating™, the WELL Health-Safety Rating™, and the WELL Equity Rating™. There is also a WELL Community Standard, which applies WELL principles on a neighborhood scale.
The WELL Performance Rating is a roadmap for leveraging building performance and occupant experience data to shift business decisions and organizational culture. Informed by the WELL Building Standard, it focuses on measurable building performance strategies that are verified through onsite testing and sensor technology. The seven performance themes are indoor air quality, water quality management, lighting measurements, thermal conditions, acoustic performance, environmental monitoring, and occupant experience. Strategies enacted through the WELL Performance Rating are automatically applied to a WELL Certification scorecard or WELL Score.
Launched in July 2020, the WELL Health-Safety Rating was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. IWBI defines it as “an evidence-based, third-party verified rating focused on operational policies, maintenance protocols and emergency plans to address a post-COVID-19 environment now and broader health and safety-related issues into the future.” This rating system promotes indoor safety by providing a means to guide, validate, recognize, and scale management of health and safety issues in shared spaces. Directed towards facility operations and management, the rating is applicable to all new and existing building and facility types across an array of markets and large and small organizations alike.
Developed in 2021, the WELL Equity Rating’s purpose is to address the needs and priorities of the most marginalized populations in workplaces and the communities in which they operate. The rating system contains more than 40 features in six action areas: user experience and feedback; responsible hiring and labor practices; inclusive design; health benefits and services; supportive programs and spaces; and community engagement. The rating recognizes projects that have achieved innovative approaches to promoting the creation of equitable spaces.
WELL Certification is the highest pinnacle of achievement of strategies across all 10 WELL Building Standard concepts. Projects must achieve all preconditions as well as accrue a certain number of points towards the four available levels (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) of certification.
Since WELL’s initial launch in 2014, IWBI’s mission has been to “advance healthy buildings for all.” The organization listened, observed, and then channeled user feedback and scientific and medical research about how building environments affect human health and behavior into the creation of a more accessible, adaptable, and equitable product.
The program’s evolution is most evident in changes made within its four key structural components defined below:
A Concept is a category of wellness. Each concept consists of features with distinct health intents.
Features are either preconditions or optimizations.
Preconditions define the fundamental components of a WELL Certified space and serve as the foundation of a healthy building. All preconditions, including all parts within them, are mandatory for certification.
Optimizations are optional pathways for projects to meet certification requirements in WELL. Project teams may select which optimizations to pursue and which parts to focus on within each optimization.
So, what are the changes, and why were they made? For starters, the latest version–WELL v2, unanimously approved by the IWBI Governance Council in June 2020—expands its predecessor’s original seven concepts of air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind, to 10 concepts, adding sound, materials, and community, with modifications to fitness and comfort. As with the original version, each concept comprises features, preconditions, and optimizations. Whereas WELL v1 could be restrictive, WELL v2 strives to reward companies for what they accomplish rather than censure them for what they do not.
The evolved, current WELL v2 reduced preconditions and expanded optimizations allow for a customized project journey through the certification process. Its consolidated features reduce complexity and strengthen feature sets is a response to meet industry needs.
For the architect and/or interior design practitioner, WELL v2 has consolidated previous iterations and pilots into a single rating system that is designed to accommodate all project types and sectors. The system is intended to grow in specificity and specialty over time, adapting to accommodate diverse project types and geographies and in response to new evidence and ever-evolving public health imperatives.
WELL v2 projects fall into one of two main groups, determined primarily by ownership type:
An owner-occupied project is owned or leased by the project owner, even if they are not the building owner, and regular occupants are affiliated with the project owner.
A WELL Core project is more closely aligned with core and shell buildings where an owner is seeking to implement features that will benefit tenants. Any building type can register for WELL Core, provided that at least 75% of the project area is occupied by one or more tenants and/or serves as common space in the building accessible to all tenants.
Both owner-occupied and WELL Core projects are eligible for WELL Certification at all four levels.
All parts of WELL v2 are designated for specific space types, which refer to spaces within a project and not the project as a whole. In addition to the classification of space types within a project, WELL v2 also distinguishes spaces based on their level of occupancy as either regularly occupied space or occupiable space. The former is defined as areas inside the project where an individual spends at least one continuous hour or, cumulatively, at least two hours per day, such as offices, conference rooms, and classrooms. The latter is defined as spaces that can be occupied for any task or activity, including transition areas or balconies, but excluding spaces that are rarely accessed, such as storage or equipment rooms.
Because WELL is a performance-based system, every project is verified through on-site testing. During the performance verification process, on-site measurements are taken for various air and water quality parameters, as well as sound and light levels. Different from the traditional building commissioning process, it must be completed by an authorized WELL Performance Testing Agent, whose goal is to assure that the building performs as intended according to WELL requirements.
Global Influence and Buy-In
Scientific and medical research has proven both the beneficial and harmful effects indoor environments can have on body, mind, and spirit, so it is not surprising that WELL has been embraced globally. Today, IWBI cites 21,268 projects certified and rated; 18,480 projects enrolled; projects totaling 4.33 billion square feet in 125 countries; and 11,295 WELL Accredited Professionals, with another 11,211 registered, in 123 countries. Participating companies are immediately recognizable across an array of market sectors: CBRE, Citi, JLL, Uber, Bloomberg, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, T-Mobile, Hilton, Four Seasons, and Hines, among others.
As with USGBC’s LEED rating system, there is a cost attached to WELL Certification. Consequently, some companies opt to have their facilities designed to various LEED certification levels without pursuing registration, and the same approach can be taken with WELL. Although we advocate participation in both programs, only an owner can weigh the value of either investment against their project goals and budget. One of our clients decided not to pursue WELL Certification because of the cost but had already achieved much of WELL’s criteria during design.
Benefits Make the Case
WELL is holistic. It influences design, operations, and policy, and presents a comprehensive approach to well-being. Put into practice, it is an equitable, global, evidence-based, technically robust, customer focused, and resilient program. Its flexibility is an asset for owners and design practitioners alike; after meeting required preconditions, you can select from optional optimization features to advance healthy building elements that are most important to you and your project.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on how companies link employee health and wellness with recruitment and retention. WELL Certification is an investment in a company’s most important asset and highest cost factor aside from real estate: its people. By prioritizing the health and well-being of employees through WELL Certification, an organization also benefits by integrating its mission and operations under a shared vision; enhances its brand equity through thought leadership; and creates a baseline for ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors that will draw and keep top talent and provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
BOSTON – November 17, 2022 – Margulies Perruzzi (MP), one of New England’s most innovative architectural and interior design firms, announced today that its Founder and Principal, Marc Margulies, FAIA, LEED AP, has been named one of the Power 50: Movement Makers by the Boston Business Journal (BBJ). An annual list of Boston-area businesspeople who are making the biggest impact on the region, this year’s honorees were celebrated at an event on November 16 at Tuscan Kitchen in the Seaport. A special section of the BBJ’s print edition will feature the honorees on November 18.
Marc founded Margulies & Associates in 1988. Now known as Margulies Perruzzi (MP), Marc has grown the firm to one of New England’s top architectural and interior design firms, focusing on workplace, healthcare, science & technology, and real estate projects. MP was ranked #16 on the 2022 list of architectural firms published by the BBJ.
When it comes to shaping the city’s future, Marc’s influence goes beyond building design. He serves as president of the Wharf District Council, a nonprofit made up of businesses and residents on the downtown Boston waterfront. Those property owners represent the front line to address the flooding that’s occurring as climate change worsens. That subjects them to not only great risk, but also greater responsibilities. The actions they take to protect themselves from flooding will help the rest of downtown. Marc is spearheading an initiative among the council’s members on how to join forces to protect the coastline. To this end, they have created a Climate Resilience Task Force and commissioned a study to recommend options ranging from a network of barriers to elevating waterfront properties to hold back rising Boston Harbor waters.
Marc believes passionately in the importance of using his resources, both as an architect and concerned citizen, to create a better community. For many years, Marc’s personal philanthropic focus has been the issue of homelessness in Greater Boston. Marc has been involved for more than 30 years with Heading Home, Inc., one of the Boston area’s largest agencies devoted to helping the homeless. He has served as both volunteer and Board Chair, applying his architectural skills and experience to advance the goal of ending homelessness. Recently, Marc has been working with the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance to develop modular micro-housing units in the program called “A Place to Live.” Working with a variety of agencies (most notably the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) in Worcester), MHSA has advocated for the construction of buildings of 18 to 24 units that are purpose-built for adults who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
Marc is a regular speaker at CoreNet, IFMA, CBA, and other industry organizations whose missions include educating those involved in corporate and institutional real estate about important advancements in workplace design. His involvement with these organizations, through speaking and leadership, has focused on elevating the importance of the architect’s voice in conversations that increasingly involve many competing specialists.
Leasing lab space in the metro Boston commercial real estate market – one of the top three in the country for life sciences – can present a journey into the unknown for companies emerging from the incubator stage or any growing company not familiar with the construction process. On any trip into unfamiliar territory, a road map is a requisite tool for helping a traveler steer clear of wrong turns, unexpected hazards, and costly detours. For companies seeking the most ideal space and lease terms for their lab facilities, market knowledge and early programming are the roadmaps to a successful project.
Cresa Boston’s Q2 2022 market report on life sciences juxtaposed low vacancy rates in Cambridge with higher rates between Route 128, the inner suburbs, and Boston. Class A building rents in Boston and Cambridge averaged $100 to $125 per square foot, but lab space is more than twice as expensive to fit out in an existing building than office space. Cresa also advised: “With occupancy delays becoming increasingly common, upfront due diligence on buildings, infrastructure, and the team are critical in staying on schedule and budget.” That’s precisely where lab programming and planning come into play.
Basic Program Information
A commercial real estate broker obtains basic information from prospective tenants to narrow down available options during the site search. This includes location, approximate square footage based on full-time employees, future growth, and desired building infrastructure and amenities. Understanding square footage and amenities are important because although the tenant will only occupy the usable square footage, it is the rentable square footage – a percentage of the property’s common areas – that is used to calculate the lease amount. Many times, lab architects are asked to do preliminary lab layouts or a test fit to validate the client’s space needs and to confirm the client’s overall program and space requirements.
Extending beyond preliminary test fits, lab programming can help determine the client’s needs regarding location within the building, sometimes requiring the lower floor levels of a building, ensuring construction type classification and building infrastructure will meet the client’s needs and comply with all applicable federal, state, and local codes, regulations, and ordinances.
Unique Programming for Lab Space
Planning for lab versus office space is different for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the use and storage of hazardous materials and chemicals. Due to the nature of the work and type of equipment, labs also require increased security and flexible design; place higher demands on HVAC, electrical, plumbing, emergency power, and structural systems; and need generous plenum space for ductwork and piping, requiring higher floor-to-floor heights.
During programming, the lab planner and/or architect will collect and analyze data from the client and specific end users that will not only provide a foundation for the lab layout with respect to square footage, adjacencies, equipment and furniture types and sizes. It will also establish lab and support space standards, identify building system performance criteria, and validate the owner’s existing facilities program strategies.
Timing is Everything
Whether a start-up moving on from incubator space or an established company looking to expand, the time to partner with an experienced lab design professional is as soon as the need for new, more, or different space arises. Identifying the client’s real estate needs is the key to finding the right building and leasing the appropriate type and amount of space necessary to meet their short and long-term business goals.