In dense metropolitan areas like Greater Boston, undeveloped, appropriately zoned land for life sciences facilities with essential services and amenities nearby is becoming uncommon. Converting existing spaces to current good manufacturing practices or cGMP facilities rather than “greenfield” construction is trending, with drivers including speed to market, cost, and location.
DPS Group works with clients to evaluate existing properties against their unique program needs. We advise owners / developers on preparing properties for life sciences and novel therapeutics uses in both single and multi-tenant buildings, and have designed state-of-the-art facilities that began as office buildings, call centers, warehouses, and even mail sorting facilities. Our experience lends itself well to the following discussion about emerging patterns in the conversion of commercial real estate to cGMP manufacturing facilities.
Building size, shape, layout, and division are significant considerations. While cGMP space is the heart of the facility, it is typically 20 to 30% of the building; support spaces, office, labs, loading docks, mechanical, warehouse make up the balance. Personnel and materials flow throughout the facility is one of the key components to its success. The single-use platforms that are favored for novel therapies create challenges of space requirements for storage of necessary on-hand materials and waste generated. Outside space to house solvent tanks, bulk gasses, a chiller plant, or backup power generation is also a consideration to avoid using valuable internal square footage.
Attention should be paid to geographical location. Access to highways, airports, public transport, parking, and amenities are all criteria to attract a workforce and sustain business operations.
So what does the ideal building look like? Attributes include sufficient unobstructed floor to underside of structural steel height for manufacturing space. The height to add a walkable mezzanine or platform above cGMP space is highly desirable. Sufficient space for mechanical/HVAC, electrical, plumbing and fire protection services to run above the clean space, with clean room equipment below is preferable. Maintenance access from above enables servicing of components without contaminating the clean environment and leading to production downtime. A wide structural column space allows for more flexibility in designing cleanrooms and ease of use for modular pre-fabricated cleanroom solutions.
Converting property requires careful evaluation of existing utility capacity and recognizing potential infrastructure upgrades. Modifying existing HVAC systems needs careful planning; new rooftop equipment can require structural reinforcement to support the additional weight. The existing structural steel is rarely sufficient to support such equipment. Also to be considered are the power consumption of other mechanical systems needed to support the facility. Electrical upgrades can be lengthy and are almost always on the project’s critical path. Natural gas, sewer, water, waste treatment and data availability must also be accounted for.
Often there is a rush into selecting a building before understanding program requirements. We experience greater success encouraging clients to model their process and massing needs first, then help them source the right facility to repurpose. Additionally, we help landlords jumpstart a facility by upgrading a property in a tenant agnostic fashion that will suit a variety of programs, often resulting in time and cost savings for occupants. Identifying and planning for a client’s needs ensures thoughtful planning and use of space in converted facilities.
About the Author
Eddie Skillington is the Vice President of Business Development at DPS Group, a privately-owned, global engineering, procurement, construction management and validation (EPCMV) firm serving high-tech process industries. For more information, please visit https://www.dpsgroupglobal.com/.
You can read the article as published on June 17, 2021 here: