In the wake of the pandemic, life science construction witnessed a historic surge when vaccines escalated the demand for labs, research and development (R&D) facilities, manufacturing plants, and data centers.
As per the CBRE 2021 report, life science companies sought around 23.8 million square feet of new lab space across key US markets, which exceeded the lab space under construction by nearly 2.8 million square feet. This demand-supply gap shows that even though construction has picked up significantly, the life science industry is growing at breakneck speed.
However, construction of these highly innovative hubs requires specialized expertise as there are strict technical requirements and rigorous performance standards to follow. Thus, biotech executives should partner with life science construction companies that can mitigate various challenges while building laboratories and other advanced biotech facilities.
What is the Life Science Industry?
The ‘life sciences’ is an umbrella term for several branches of science involving scientific study of living organisms such as microorganisms, plants, and animals including human beings. The life sciences industry encompasses companies operating in research, development, and manufacturing facilities committed to improving and protecting organism life.
Businesses in this sector are involved in creating, producing, and commercializing advanced treatments, diagnostic tools, equipment, and software to enhance lives. From developing life-saving vaccines to prevent and cure diseases to creating surgical tools and revolutionizing genetics, the life science industry plays a vital role in increasing the quality of life.
A life scientist is typically involved in showing findings, participating in fieldwork, brainstorming innovative ideas for experiments, and distributing the results across the scientific field.
Branches in the Life Science Sector
There is a vast range of disciplines that fall under life sciences sector, such as –
- Biotechnology-based Food and Medicines
- Medical Devices
- Biomedical Technologies
- Food Processing
- Crop Technology
- Cell Biology
- Marine Biology
- Life Systems Technologies and other disciplines that improve the lives of organisms.
Why is Life Science Construction In Demand?
Among the top life science markets in the US are Boston-Cambridge, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. These well-established hubs have a high number of scientists, industry funding, a sizable workforce, and lab space inventory.
The reasons why life science real estate has a strong demand are as follows –
Due to the sudden and accelerated activity around Covid-19 vaccine development, the life science industry saw a massive boom in its demand. Contrary to the increased vacancy rates reported in major office markets, the vacancy rate for existing R&D spaces is at a record low of 4.9 percent.
Maintenance of Supply-Chain Management
In an effort to manufacture the latest vaccines and to maintain the supply-chain of critical drugs, the US federal government has been actively incentivizing manufacturing facilities. For decades, the country was dependent on foreign facilities, which financially burdened large pharmaceutical companies. So, government incentives like these encourage small-to-medium-sized companies to manufacture natively at lower costs.
When the pandemic brought economic disruption, biopharma companies were able to recover part of their lost valuation, which indicates the industry’s power. Currently, the US government is empowering life science projects to strengthen the economy and avoid supply-chain problems.
Growing Interest in Investors
As clinical trials quickly advance with promising data, investors and shareholders are realizing the gravity of investments in innovation, discoveries, and life-saving treatments. All these factors are driving the demand for life science construction and will continue to be a flourishing market in the future.
Types of Life Science Facilities
As varied as life science branches are, so are its facilities. The major life science facilities biotech companies build are as follows –
- Wet and Dry Laboratories
- cGMP Facilities
- Clean Rooms
- Biotech and Clinical Manufacturing Facilities
- Diagnostic and R&D Laboratories
- Biosafety Level Laboratories
- Pilot Plants
- Pharmaceutical Facilities
- Office / Corporate Headquarters and Support Space
Challenges in Life Science Construction
The life science industry is constantly evolving as discoveries and innovations emerge daily throughout the world. Although demand for infrastructure is soaring high, there are particular challenges contractors and developers have to face while building these state-of-the-art facilities.
1. Specialized Infrastructure
Life science buildings are unique from typical office construction and require design specifications for high-tech spaces. Commercial contractors need to take care of designated spaces for chemical storage, climate control, cleanroom spaces, special ventilation, fireproofing systems, extra power, and safety.
Life science companies must understand the complexities of support systems, wet labs and cleanroom standards, and the everyday needs of users while ensuring they meet protocols set for such spaces. It’s a complex environment where health safety is paramount. Hence, construction companies should employ an integrated approach to risk management that supports and optimizes facility operations.
2. Repurposing Existing Spaces
There is a new trend floating around of repurposing existing space into lab science facilities. Instead of focusing on time and cost-savings, life science companies are preferring to convert existing spaces than build ground-up facilities.
Such buildings are often occupied during construction, which makes the building and renovation processes much more complicated for contractors. This also jeopardizes the safety of the tenants and disrupts the project’s operations.
Besides, not every building is suitable for conversion. There could be issues with the foundation, location, or neighborhood that might impact the efficiency of life science buildings.
3. Supply-Chain Demand
Medical advances combined with a high global prescription drug market have boosted the demand for the construction of lab spaces. There’s also a growing interest in multi-product facilities that manufacture personalized medicines in smaller quantities. With all these considerations in mind, the life science sector needs speed, flexibility, and agility in its ongoing construction projects.
As a result of the global upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, supply-chain has been upended for construction companies. There is a shortage of necessary building materials, equipment, tools, as well as skilled laborers. In order to stay competitive, construction firms have to expertly tackle these supply and labor shortages to deliver their life science projects on time.
4. Installing Sustainable MEP Systems
According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, a typical laboratory consumes five times the amount of energy and water as a typical office. Life science buildings need large numbers of power-consuming containment and exhaust devices, plumbing fixtures, heating equipment, 24-hour power supply, emergency backup generators, and so on. Meeting this level of utility services means increasing the facility’s MEP capacity, which further strains the planet’s energy resources.
In the future, life science construction companies will face the challenge of smartly installing energy-efficient technologies such as low-energy exhaust systems, water recycling, and air quality monitoring systems to not only reduce environmental impact but also consumption costs.
5. Dealing with Biotech Expansion
As the biotechnology field evolves, so does the approach to designing, building, and running life science facilities such as testing labs, manufacturing plants, and other biotech commercial buildings. To keep up with the exploding client demand, builders have to adopt prefabrication, off-site construction, or modular systems to deliver end-products quicker than traditional builds.
They also need to partner with special manufacturers providing advanced energy-efficient equipment that is focused on adding value through their system designs. Such distinctive needs and high standards of new life science facilities compel project owners, architects, and contractors to rethink their working approach.
Companies have to make modifications according to emerging life science construction trends related to site location, process design, equipment selection, decontamination protocols, and other project aspects. This, to an extent, complicates the whole construction process. Not to forget the growing client expectations of speed, budget certainty, and future-ready designs.
Life science is one industry that remains at the forefront of human experience and value creation. The global pandemic confirmed this fact, as the sector has been constantly expanding at an unprecedented rate to invent new treatments and deliver existing ones. Thus, it will undergo transformations in future times too, which will inevitably affect the construction and design of its facilities.
As speed-to-market is important today, biotech companies should collaborate with expert commercial contractors that can overcome shortage barriers, handle government authorization, and build new working spaces within timelines. Construction companies must show adaptability through their problem-solving skills and contacts with quality vendors and subcontractors. To sum up, builders should uphold the exceptional standards that the industry is recognized for.
Our experienced team at Constructive Solutions, Inc. is dedicated to handling the challenges of the ever-changing requirements of laboratory spaces. We aim to maximize the efficiency of our clients’ life science facilities while maintaining the quality of services and workmanship.
Looking for a reliable construction partner for your life science project? Contact us today.
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