Due to an increased demand for life science labs, people have been looking for available real estate for these facilities. Following the pandemic, many businesses have moved entirely remote, meaning their office spaces are no longer in use. These office spaces can be transformed into functional life science laboratories.
However, converting offices to life science labs is not as simple as labeling it something different. There are multiple factors to consider before you even begin renovating.
Keep reading for the best advice on how to convert office space to life science labs.
What to Consider
Making a plan is key to a successful project. Before you even begin planning your renovation, you want to make sure your project is even feasible.
Office spaces are not automatically good fits for life sciences labs, so check the following to see if you even want to begin the process.
Location and Proximity
Though space is a big deal, you also have to keep in mind that your life science lab can’t be too remotely located. Labs need to attract skilled workers and researchers, so their location relative to other amenities and attractions is important.
Is your office close to universities or other centers of information? How far is it from the city?
Life science labs will also require many shipments, sometimes even regular supply deliveries. How easy would it be for these shipments to be made based on the position of your proposed lab?
Structure and Features
On the topic of shipments, does your office space have a loading dock? For larger pieces of equipment and supplies, you will need this space.
In addition, does your building have capabilities for proper waste removal? You will likely need to add disposal equipment to what’s already present, but making sure you have enough dedicated space is crucial for life sciences, which often results in multiple forms of waste.
In terms of the structure and capabilities of your building, you will also need to make sure it is suitable for the needs of a life science laboratory. According to Building Design and Construction, you’ll need 25-29 watts per square foot in terms of energy.
This is higher than more office spaces already have. Your space will also need a backup generator.
Space-wise, a 16 or 17-foot drop from floor to floor is advisable, giving ample room for equipment such as an HVAC. This can be circumvented but will be far more expensive.
Additionally, you will need to ensure that your building can take the much higher weights associated with equipment. 125-150 points per square foot is BD+C’s recommendation for life science labs.
Does your proposed building have the right zoning? Can you realistically make the necessary adjustments and renovations to your building?
If your budget is not big enough and you aren’t able to meet all the requirements of a successful lab, your endeavors could go fruitless.
The Renovation Process
Once you’ve finished guaranteeing this is even a good idea, you can proceed with actually carrying out the conversion. Turning office spaces into labs isn’t something you can do alone, and you will want to consult various professionals on the best way to go about each individual step.
Having an adviser is a good idea, as well as looking into the opinions of researchers in the market for what they are looking for at a time.
Finding Your Contractors
Converting an office space into a science-grade laboratory will take numerous teams. You may find yourself hiring architects, engineers, plumbers, mechanics, and advisers.
You may want to consult an independent cost-estimating firm that could give you a better look at your costs. Make sure you have a large enough budget, as life science laboratories (as well as any laboratories) are not the place to skimp out on.
Updating Safety Measures
Safety is a huge priority of life science labs, as the materials and procedures conducted there can be dangerous. For this reason, there are numerous components that will need to be added to your space or updated. Some of the main ones:
- Implementing an updated HVAC
- Putting in eye wash stations and safety showers
- Updating smoke detectors/fire alarms
- Designating spaces and establishing plans for the disposal and removal of waste materials
- Ensuring enough ventilation and air circulation, especially in areas where more chemicals will be in use
Are you familiar with the safety codes for laboratories and buildings in the area you are developing in? Do you have the right paperwork and clearance for these renovations?
Do you have enough fire extinguishers at the location? These are all questions you should be asking (and have/find answers for) when considering the safety component of your eventual lab.
Labs need researchers. There is a high demand for life science researchers, though there are many reputable workplaces that people will flock to if they have the chance, such as university-affiliated labs.
Where does your lab come into play?
The most popular cities for office space to laboratory conversions are Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco, and San Diego. If you plan on developing there, you may face other labs attracting more researchers, especially since these locations have established research footholds in the biomedical sector.
However, since the demand for life science lab growth has increased by over 34% in the last year, don’t fear an empty lab—just don’t neglect the marketing aspect in your conversion.
Furnishing Your Lab
Once you finish your structural renovations and you’re ready to implement furniture and equipment, there are a few things to consider. After all, the lab isn’t just the structure of the building; rather, you’ll want to include furnishings as an added perk to working at your lab.
First and foremost, can you afford the newest and latest equipment? This is a massive pull factor for researchers in the market for a lab to work in.
While there are some instances where the newest model doesn’t necessarily mean the best, but for the most part, you’ll want to stay as up to date as you can. Consult an adviser on which products to go with, and don’t cheap out.
You’ll need to invest in multiple different types of furniture for the lab setting, such as worktables, casework, and countertops. You will also want to have additional spaces for more recreational activities, such as a break room for lab workers to socialize with their colleagues.
If you plan on dividing your workspace into multiple sections, you will also need dividers and unit-specific equipment. Decide which features will be provided as a part of the building and which ones will be up to the research organizations to supply themselves.
Remember, safety equipment should be integral to your conversion.
Lab furnishing can be difficult, especially on top of all the other work needed to convert an office space to a laboratory. For easy shopping, view some of our capabilities at OnePointe Solutions.
Not only do we offer high-quality furniture for your laboratory, but we can also help with lab design.