Flexible Design in Lab Space

Keeping up with the pace of innovation is critical to pharmaceutical companies who are racing to get their drugs from research, to testing, to pharmacy shelves. Life science companies don’t have the time, and don’t want to incur the expense, of having to reconfigure pharmaceutical or biotech lab space. Instead, new flexible design principles are in demand so these companies do not experience delays associated with the needs of their lab space.

There are a few key factors driving flexible design in laboratories. Firstly, there is a growing need to shorten time spent in research and development (R&D). The return on R&D investment for large bio-pharmaceutical firms has declined from 10.1% in 2010 to 3.2 percent in 2017. Second to that, long-term reduction of renovation costs and lab downtime has been a driving force for flexible design. While there is more upfront cost when building flexibility into lab space, having built-in flexibility offers cost savings over time.

Speed and efficiency are key to getting products on shelves faster than ever. Part of that process is enhancing the speed at which lab space can be reconfigured. Scientists can get faster results because they can initiate new studies without having to wait for major renovations and reconfigurations.

So what does flexible lab space actually look like? Designers are organizing space in new ways to support collaborative research. Flexible engineering systems and casework are installed to encourage research teams to alter spaces to meet their needs. Designated offices and write-up areas are established where people can work in teams. Overall, there is less and less space that is designed for a particular department.

When appropriate, labs are large and open with as few walls as possible. Newer “neighborhood” or “partitioned” concepts are on the rise. These concepts allow flexibility, while still providing environments for research. Interior glazing becomes an important design aspect to allow people to see one another. Moveable casework and plug-and-play ceiling outlets allow for change on a moment’s notice.

The goal of flexible design in a laboratory is to make lab space flexible enough to support changes in business models over time. As science continues to develop faster and faster, the physical space where discoveries are made must be able to keep up with the pace of innovation.

Katie Craven
Katie Craven is Marketing, Communication and Brand Manager at Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers, a real-estate consulting firm that provides owner’s representation and project management services. More about Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers as well as additional blog posts can be found here.
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