In recent years, artwork has become an integral part of the design process, rather than a decorative afterthought. The goal of art in architecture is to improve the environment, provide wayfinding, and enhance the physical and mental well-being of employees and guests. The impact of art in healthcare design is no different, especially for behavioral health facilities. Art that is integrated into the design of a space from its conception plays a vital role in creating a positive patient experience and recovery. Not only does it provide an aesthetic escape and help with wayfinding within a space, but it can also help create a sense of community and calm, especially in a clinical setting.
Examples of beneficial uses of art in behavioral healthcare design include but are not limited to; paintings, murals, landscape photography, biophilia, and interactive sensory opportunities where light, touch, and sound are all part of the experience. Sensory experiences have been shown to help patients self-soothe when experiencing emotional distress. Biophilic installations, such as live plants and green walls, have been shown to help reduce stress in both healthcare and workplace settings, which is beneficial for patients and providers alike. Abstract and landscape paintings, as well as photography, can enhance patient experience, lessen recovery time, and improve staff morale.
While biophilia and plants may not be your initial thought when you think of art, they are an essential part of our natural world and are becoming increasingly common within indoor environments. A study has shown that spending 120-minutes per week in nature is tied to good health and well-being. With the pandemic, we have seen activities in nature and incorporating natural elements into the workplace becoming more common. Further studies have shown that enriching a space with plants can increase productivity by as much as 15%. Not only do plants help with productivity, but they can also help with stress relief as well. When surrounded by greenery, people have a more relaxed and tranquil attitude.
Incorporating art into the design of the expanded behavioral healthcare units at Sanford Medical Center in Sanford, ME was critical to the project. Photos of scenic Maine lighthouses and waterfront views were carefully selected to create full wall murals. The intention behind using these images was to help foster a sense of calm in patients and instill a sense of place and community between patients. Natural imagery and organic textures were also used, when possible, to help create a sense of calm. A relaxing color scheme was curated to avoid causing patients or staff negative emotions, as certain colors can evoke negative feelings. The group therapy room features a textured installation with primary colors, and customizable lighting and sound to generate a full sensory experience.
Incorporating art of all types into the design of clinical care settings, especially behavior healthcare facilities, is integral to creating a calming experience for patients and staff alike. We foresee this trend becoming only more prominent in the future.
This year will be one in which the life sciences market will moderate due to economic factors, even as it remains resilient, according to a December 2022 report by CBRE. New construction is forecast in the three top-tier markets: the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, and Boston-Cambridge. As part of the normalization process, the report cites that there will most likely be demand for multi-tenanted lab/R&D space in smaller geographic markets, and larger life sciences companies may be in acquisition or partnership mode with small but promising firms.
This bodes well for the industry and economy, spurring construction projects ranging from small-scale renovations of existing lab space to relocations driven by the need for increased square footage or a more customized environment. Because laboratory construction is expensive—a fit-out in an existing building in one of the top three U.S. life sciences markets can range from $300 to $650 per square foot versus $110 to $315 for typical office space—understanding how the process works will save time and money while realizing a finished product that accomplishes most, if not all, project objectives.
Existing Lab Renovation vs. New Space Fit-Out
Whether planning for renovations to your current leased space or considering new space at another location, the process is similar but not exactly the same. Here’s why.
Renovating or expanding in the same building in some ways may be simpler in that the building systems are known; a precedent has already been set for your lab equipment, layout, and ancillary space; and site search and lease negotiations are not required unless the expansion is into another area of the same building. Factors to consider when planning this type of project include confirming that the program plan is code compliant; phasing the renovation so that the existing lab can remain safely operational during construction; verifying that new equipment will fit; and determining whether upgrades to existing mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) and lab utility infrastructure are necessary to accommodate new equipment.
Aside from location, cost, and amenity considerations, a life sciences company looking for new space must also evaluate such factors as the availability of space on the lowest floors of a high-rise building for optimization of control areas; construction type classification; sprinkler and/or fire suppression systems; and the ability to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and ordinances. The new space search will ideally incorporate careful review of existing conditions such as floor-to-floor heights, sufficient building systems, and proof that the floors are rated to allow for separate control areas. When the floors aren’t rated—this includes the gap often found at the perimeter of the building where the slab meets the building facade—there are alternatives. One is to upgrade the floors to create a two-hour rating. Another is to fill the perimeter gap with an approved fire safing assembly. Lastly to create a rated storage area on the first floor of the building. The latter, which takes advantage of the higher capacity of chemicals permitted to be stored at lower levels, allows chemicals to be transported to the lab when needed. Whatever the approach for control area strategy for the building, it should be clearly documented in your lease and discussed during lease negotiations. If you are planning to take more space than you currently need to sublease, be aware that your company is now the landlord, the control area strategy needs to be confirmed with your sub-tenant, and that if your science grows faster than originally anticipated, the space may not be available for you to reclaim due to contractual leases.
A Technical Process
Renovating an existing lab or fitting out space in a new location is a highly technical process that will synthesize key input from the life sciences end users and stakeholders to facilitate a functional design that is responsive to their immediate and future science needs. No matter what the renovation scenario is, the first step in the process is to determine how much and what type of space is needed, keeping in mind that it is the size of equipment, equivalent linear feet (ELF) of bench and types and amounts of chemicals to be used and stored are what will drive the design program.
During the pre-design phase known as programming, the architect or lab planner works with the client to establish the project goals and vision to better understand the proposed use of the space while analyzing the client’s program components—square footage, head count, equipment, adjacencies, furnishings, etc.—to determine if sufficient space has been allocated for each function. At this stage, all components and their interrelationships and adjacencies are verified, and program requirements such as major pieces of equipment, chemical usage, and control area strategy are confirmed. The client should be prepared to answer dozens of questions leading to this outcome, some general and some very specific. Examples include:
How many employees should the space accommodate, now and in the future?
What biosafety level will your lab require?
What gases and/or utilities do you anticipate using in this lab?
Do you prefer fixed casework or movable benches?
What type of support spaces are required?
What spaces or departments need to be adjacent or any that need to be segregated?
Provide a list of the chemicals you plan to use in the lab with classifications and amounts.
Provide a list of existing and proposed equipment for this project, including dimensions.
At the conclusion of programming, the architect or lab planner will produce a programming report summarizing their findings, with practical recommendations for optimum lab layouts. The report will include basic information such as total headcount, growth projections, and square footage requirements. Also included will be a description of how the workspace should function, what equipment and furnishings will be retained from the existing workplace, if applicable, and/or replaced with new, and what should be avoided.
The next steps after programming are visioning and a preliminary layout, or test fit. The test fit takes all of the information gleaned during programming and translates it into graphic form. This provides the basis for the schematic design phase, which introduces early design concepts, floor plans, lighting plans, and incorporates an equipment matrix for coordination with mechanical and electrical loads and any required process utilities. It is not uncommon to perform a preliminary cost estimate near the end of this phase.
The design development phase crystallizes favored concepts established during schematic design and finalizes choices involving lighting, finishes, and color. It is at this point that a more accurate cost check can be performed, and the construction manager can prioritize long lead items for early purchase. With the recent supply chain issues, these may include rooftop mechanical equipment, generators, electrical panels or switchgears, lighting, cold rooms, and casework. The last two phases are construction documentation, which produces the final documents and specifications that will be submitted to the city or town for the construction permit, and construction administration, which is oversight of construction to make sure that the design is implemented as intended.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the renovation process is the relocation itself—no one enjoys packing and moving under any circumstances, and especially not when the transport of glassware, samples, reagents, instruments, and sensitive equipment are at stake. This is a job for a laboratory relocation specialist that will manage all facets of your move, including packing and unpacking, decommissioning equipment, establishing IT connections, security, and performing required compliance procedures, among other services. Specialized moving companies that have experience in laboratory moves and relocations are needed. They have the required electrical support to move freezers on their trucks and understand the sensitivity needed in a lab move. Some equipment, such as mass spectrometers and confocal microscopes need to be disassembled, crated, moved, and reassembled by the manufacturer to maintain warranties. Because transport of sensitive equipment can affect settings and performance, calibration and validation once reassembled are critical to the science readiness of the new lab. This needs to be managed appropriately and scheduled well in advance of the actual move.
There may be opportunities to accelerate the project schedule. This is most successfully done when the project team is aligned in their understanding of the client’s goals for the project. When the client is able to internally identify their goals and prioritize the design, the design team can leverage that information and incorporate it into the program for the space, focusing during programming on a finer level of detail that can save time in later phases.
Also, having access to accurate existing condition drawings for the building, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and structural, provides the design team with more information about the base building and its existing infrastructure. This information is critical for lab and GMP design. The ability for the design team to include more information in drawings allows the contractor pricing the drawings to provide accurate pricing quicker than if there were unknowns during the design phase.
No matter what its size, scope, or location, a laboratory renovation is a highly specialized project and process that requires dedicated in-house and external teams to see it through to successful completion. Our best advice to all lab managers is twofold: plan ahead, and always incorporate maximum flexibility into the design, because no one truly knows what the future will hold.
By Steve Adams, Banker & Tradesman
Kerrie Julian has enjoyed an up-close perspective on Greater Boston’s powerful life science expansion over the past two decades, advising industry leaders including Biogen, Pfizer and Moderna as an architect at leading local firms. Last June, Julian was named director of science strategy at Margulies Perruzzi, a role that includes project management, staff recruitment and finding new clients. A Wentworth Institute of Technology graduate, Julian’s career has included stints at SMMA, Gensler and Perkins + Will.
Q: With the continuing surge in subleasing activity in Greater Boston’s lab market, what do life science companies looking at those spaces need to know?
A: Some tenants have said: ‘Let me get more space than I really need,’ and sublease it, so we’ve run into that a couple of times. That tenant has to understand there’s a control area, and by code you’re only allowed so many chemicals and the higher you go in a building, the less you can have. Do you share the control area between the two companies? Suddenly, if your science is successful and your growth is faster than you thought, you can’t kick out the subtenant. It’s an interesting dynamic. There are lots of spaces available, but you have to be aware you’re partnering with the right company, subleasing to the right company and that your growth projections are in the right spot for you to do that.
Q: Are you still seeing substantial activity by life science developers for spec suite buildouts, and what are the unique design requirements
A: The spec suites are really geared toward the landlords and developers helping get that tenant on board with minimum construction and design costs. Spec suites are really successful when the base building has an ability to tie into lab infrastructure. Flexibility is another thing, and power requirements. A lot have similar components, such as a tissue culture room. There are a lot of similarities, but there are specific processes they run, so it can become specialized.
Q: Based upon inquiries to your firm, how does lab demand compare to early 2022?
A: It’s an interesting time. There are a lot of lab buildings that are under way, and space that will come online in 2023 and early 2024. It’s really a tenant’s market. It might mean that somebody in an incubator might come out earlier if they have the right deal. It’s great potential for those smaller companies. When there were low vacancy rates, folks were starting to move into the Watertowns and Walthams. Now that space will be coming online in the Boston and Cambridge area, it’ll be on the side of the tenants for better rates and maybe better leasing options.
Q: Is the office-to-lab conversion market drying up?
A: There’s not as much this year, or even in the last six to eight months, as there was during 2021. Not everything can be a lab building. Maybe you can, but the cost is going to be astronomical and your return on investment is going to be so long, landlords aren’t opting to do that. You have to put enough into it to make sure it can work, such as different loading zones to get equipment in and out. One of the architect’s first jobs is to make sure people can get out of the building safely. In a lab building, it’s particularly critical. You have to be careful with the ratings of the floor slab, and making sure the fire won’t creep up into the next space.
Q: Is biomanufacturing demand more stable than R&D space in the current financial market?
A: It is huge. A lot of the manufacturing is coming into Massachusetts for several reasons. We are not going to outsource this to other countries. It needs to be closer to the R&D facilities. They are ready to start making those drugs and you need the land and space, so you’re coming out into the Route 128 and[Interstate] 495 belts to support that large-scale, 100,000- to 150,000-square-foot facility. These industrial properties are either going to become an Amazon distribution center or cGMP for biomanufacturing.
Q: How significant are the changes to lab design under new state and local decarbonization regulations?
A: We have the new edition of the Massachusetts building code coming out, with a higher energy code than previously, and it’s something we’re anticipating being released this summer now that the new administration is on board. With that, there will be some updates. We are doing the best we can, but even with some of the advances in clean energy, they still have a huge draw and need for electricity.
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.