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constructing science constructing science

Constructing Science: New Guidance For Building Better Life Sciences Labs

Michael Aston • 10/07/2023

Michael Aston, Head of Life Sciences EMEA, discusses a new initiative, Constructing Science.

A ground breaking initiative that addresses the lack of accessible and universally agreed design and construction standards in the booming Life Sciences sector.  

With over 2 million square feet of active demand for laboratory demises within the Golden Triangle, this demand is expected to soar further with the Government's commitment of a £650M support package, 'Life Sci for Growth,' aimed at boosting the UK economy.  

Constructing Science External Link provides a common language and clear direction, offering an overview of key variables, fast-tracking professionals to crucial design and specification issues, and fostering the adoption of common standards and language to demystify the world of life sciences real estate. 

What Is Constructing Science?  

Constructing Science is a first-of-its-kind and free to use dynamic model and building standards for the Life Science sector, essential right now with the high demand for lab space.  

The initiative, first launched in April 2022 and has been produced over the last year by industry-leading firms, including engineers, architects, project managers, cost consultants and developers. Names include Buro Happold External Link, CPC Project Services External Link, EEDN External Link, Hoare Lea External Link, Gensler External Link, Gleeds External Link, MedCity External Link, Mission Street External Link, and Ramboll External Link.  

The online tool has been developed and built around a simple and intuitive interface. Providing the user with a ‘decision tree’ of development options, site and asset credentials and building performance specifications. This web-based tool will be regularly updated to keep pace with evolving best practices. 

Who Is Constructing Science For? 

Whether you are a new entrant or already established in the life sciences sector, these materials are designed for decision-makers within the industry – occupiers, investors, developers, planners or designers. 

How Will Constructing Science Improve Life Sciences Real Estate? 

Constructing Science aims to encourage a common understanding of good practice. It comprises technical design and performance criteria, and combines regulatory requirements with specification recommendations. 

It should be emphasised, though, that the report and the online interface don’t represent a full directory of necessary specifications for the construction of Life Sciences spaces.  

Constructing Sciences aims to provide a guide to the rudiments of life sciences specification including: 

  • Structural vibration 
  • Floor loading 
  • Structural grids 
  • Slab-to-slab heights 
  • Air changes per hour 
  • Levels of containment 
  • Segregated drainage 
  • Power supply 
  • Waste treatment 
  • Use of laboratory gases 
  • Fume cupboards etc.  

Also included in the report is introductory material on sustainability in developing life sciences buildings. Since such buildings often include highly-serviced laboratories or manufacturing space, this is critical. 

Finally, there’s some guidance on the specification of different levels of fit out, on cost drivers, and on repurposing old building stock. 

Why Is Constructing Science A Game Changer For Life Sciences Real Estate? 

We are currently tracking over 2 million square feet of active demand for laboratory space in the Golden Triangle of London, Cambridge and Oxford. In the face of that demand, there’s almost nil availability. The challenge of the moment for real estate providers is to bring forward new supply. There are specialists operating in the UK (with much of the expertise coming from the US), but other developers are also rising to the challenge and learning fast. 

In the Cushman & Wakefield Life Sciences team, we get enquiries coming across our desks daily about whether this site or that will work for laboratories, or whether such and such a building can be converted successfully.  

The Constructing Sciences materials will be a useful companion in responding to these challenges –  providing a starter kit for some, a useful checklist for others, and for everyone it will encourage standardisation of terminology and common ground on specification, especially for speculative development. 

Who Should People Get In Touch With If They Want To Find Out More? 

Constructing Science External Link is intended as a prelude to engaging further and seeking professional advice on the ins and outs of the case you’re exploring. 

If you would like to find out more, please visit the Constructing Science Website External Link or get in touch with a member of the UK life sciences team.  

Meet the team

Michael Aston
Michael Aston

Head of Life Sciences, UK
London, United Kingdom

+44 (7736) 125220

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Jamie Renison - London
Jamie Renison

Head of Life Sciences Agency, UK
London, United Kingdom

+44 207 152 5421

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Nick Blevins
Nick Blevins

London, United Kingdom

+44 207 152 5189

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