The Site Design Secrets Behind Streamlined Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

27 October, 2023

As traditional office space demands dwindle, developers are seeking new ways to fill  business parks and mixed-use buildings – and pharmaceutical tenants are proving to be a viable source of occupancy.

However, an abundance of speculative construction has provided biotech companies with numerous possibilities and allowed them to be selective in site choice. To attract end users, developers should do more than simply add a life science label to traditional flex space. They need to provide the specific features and amenities drug makers seek.

Research, lab, and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities require highly specialized infrastructure and site layouts. Even if a property is zoned to allow for life sciences, design and development teams need to understand the proposed operations in order to optimize the facility for such use.

Understanding Unique Operations

In many cases, multiple loading docks are required to separate incoming and outgoing materials to prevent contamination of sensitive operations. Tenants may need buildings with advanced climate control and ventilation, redundant electrical feeds, high-volume water and sewer service, on-site wastewater pretreatment, backup power, and reinforced floors to support manufacturing equipment. Depending on anticipated operations, pharmaceutical tenants may also require improved overall structural quality that minimizes noise and vibration, which can mitigate disruptions in delicate scientific processes.

see related: developing life science – 4 ways to deliver facilities faster

Pharmaceutical manufacturing needs specific requirements, and converting office, retail or industrial properties can be challenging. New construction can be easier and faster than relocating utilities, changing structures or altering traffic flow. Developers need flexibility too. Each life science tenant may need specific site design changes for their unique operations, so quick and cost-effective space transitions are critical for campus success.

Engaging Local Stakeholders

At Bohler, our teams advocate early collaboration with local governments to discuss rezoning, variances, and approvals and to begin the process of generating community support for the development.

This was an important component of Bohler’s role at The Reactory, a biomanufacturing campus in Worcester, MA. The Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC) acquired and repositioned the project, which will bring approximately 470,000 SF of manufacturing space to the 46-acre property. While the neighborhood was generally supportive of the renovation, there was still concern over several key factors. Earlier attempts at redevelopment of the property, for example, attempted to retain and repurpose historic administrative buildings from its former use as a state hospital.

The Reactory in Worcester, MA

As it turns out, those existing structures were a barrier to redevelopment because they were too small, the corridors were not the appropriate widths for modern use, and they were not able to function as modern real estate. Our team helped to educate the community and make a successful case for demolition and new construction.

Bohler assisted with early master plan concepts to help get the proposed redevelopment approved.

— Matt Mrva, Principal, Northeast Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture

WBDC had the vision to transform the underutilized property into something that would benefit Worcester and all of central Massachusetts. Bohler joined the team as soon as the WBDC closed on the property, and developed early master plan concepts, guided the WBDC through state and municipal permitting processes, and then shepherded the project until it was ready to attract tenants.

Today, WuXi Biologics and Galaxy Life Sciences are two of the project’s cornerstone tenants.

Attracting Tenants

Laboratory and biomanufacturing tenants share challenges common to many employers. Business parks and corporate campuses that offer dining options, access to recreation areas, conference rooms, lodging, and other amenities increase employee satisfaction and provide tenants with an advantage in hiring and retention. As a result, these features and amenities are a critical differentiator for your property.

see related: smart strategies for developing life science innovation districts

Spring House Innovation Park, a 133-acre life sciences campus being developed in Lower Gwynedd, PA, is a prime example. Bohler’s planning, landscape architecture, and design team identified areas where the developers could incorporate amenities like restaurants, a trail network, and outdoor gathering spaces. These features helped transform the property into a life science destination.

Spring House Innovation Park in Lower Gwynedd, PA

see related: 5 times early landscape architect engagement is key

For the majority of the campus, Bohler provided master planning, site civil engineering design, and permitting assistance.

Our design has helped the campus stand out to tenants and increased the overall value of the property.

— Matt Mrva, Principal, Northeast Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture

When designing an outdoor amenity space for the Bristol Myers Squibb campus in Devens, MA, Bohler used a similar approach. The team transformed a previously undeveloped area into a vibrant network of lighted pathways, seating options, and an open gathering space. While they could have built a new manufacturing arm or more office space, Bristol Myers Squibb intentionally left this central campus area for amenities that would set them apart.

Bristol Myers Squibb Campus in Devens, MA

Moving Pharma Forward

Understanding unique facility requirements and catering to life science campus needs are critical elements in attracting valuable tenants in the competitive world of pharmaceutical manufacturing site selection.

Ready to elevate your next pharma project? Connect with our team today.

About Matt Mrva
Matt Mrva Bohler Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture New England

Matt’s nearly 25 years of land development and landscape architecture experience encompasses a wide array of projects, ranging from open space planning, recreation, and amenity space design to intricate streetscape improvements.

Matt is renowned for his ability to transform visions into reality, offering a comprehensive skill set that includes crafting conceptual site plans, detailed landscape designs, as well as producing visually engaging 3-D and hand-rendered exhibits. One of his notable strengths lies in leading community-based consensus-building workshops, a testament to his commitment to engaging diverse stakeholders and fostering collaborative decision-making.

Currently, Matt is focused on the seamless integration of planning and landscape architecture with site civil engineering, ensuring a harmonious and integrated approach to every project. Under his guidance, his studio operates as a collaborative environment, comprising talented landscape architects with diverse backgrounds in the industry.

At the core of Matt’s philosophy is a deep-rooted focus on understanding a site’s unique qualities, its environmental assets, and constraints. This understanding serves as the foundation for his creative approach to placemaking and the enhancement of public realms. Beyond his professional endeavors, Matt is an active contributor to the field, currently serving on ULI Boston’s Sustainability Committee, where he continues to shape the discourse around sustainable urban development.

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