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Office conversions help meet growing demand for life sciences space

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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As demand for laboratory research increases, redevelopment of vacant office space for life sciences applications has gained momentum. Last May, for example, CBRE estimated that Half of the 125 office conversion projects Which was underway was then adapted for life sciences use.

Among the recent conversions are two office buildings, 32,000 and 52,000 square feet, within the Rock Creek Property Group-owned Precision laboratories campus in Germantown, Maryland, which has been converted into a cGMP-ready white box facility and a state-of-the-art laboratory, respectively.

Ware MalcombeThe Science and Technology Group, working alongside the company's in-house architecture, design studios and site planning, completed this adaptive reuse project last June with the general contractor Coakley & Williams ConstructionMEP Engineer CFR Engineeringand CE VICA-MD. Rock Creek Property, the project developer, has retained services Established Logix As a subject matter expert. (Weir Malcolm revealed information about the project last month.)

Office releases focus on MEP upgrades

To transform these office buildings into move-in ready, speculative BSL-2 laboratories, the construction team focused on improving the electrical, mechanical, and sanitation infrastructure within the context of the original site zoning.

The single-story 20430 Century Boulevard building (white box conversion) was remodeled to accommodate a full-building headquarters with a 20-foot clear height, 30-by-40-foot column spacing, five loading docks, optimal utility services and floor loading capacity. The upgraded amenities provide tenants with complete independence to customize the space as needed.

The two-level 20440 Century Boulevard (laboratory) building was converted into a multi-tenant life sciences office/lab with six Biosafety Level 2 wet laboratory suites ranging from 2,500 to 7,500 square feet with 15-foot clear heights and state-of-the-art mechanical systems.

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According to Ware Malcomb, the construction team considered sustainability measures that would control costs and reduce construction waste. This included maintaining existing wing demarcations and locations of lighting fixtures, and reusing air handling and other mechanical equipment. The team installed new energy-efficient LED lighting, and GreenSpec and Watersense certified plumbing fixtures. A high-efficiency variable refrigerant flow system for energy recovery for heating and cooling, and a building automation system to control and monitor HVAC equipment, were also installed.

“The project embodies innovation, flexible design and creative repositioning,” Lori Ambrosch, director of science and technology at Ware Malcomb, said in a prepared statement. The cost of the transfers was not disclosed.

Last June, for the site Lab Design Newsco-authored by Ambrosch with Council on Foreign Relations Vice President Jason Sambolt, who is condition Which addressed design and engineering considerations for office-to-laboratory conversions. The article notes, for example, that there is a better chance that a building's existing electrical service will be adequate if a large amount of laboratory equipment is not needed, and the building has natural gas service. If an electrical service upgrade is required, construction teams must consider extended switchgear distribution periods (up to 52 weeks at press time), as well as the fact that larger switchgear will reduce profitable space.

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