Designing exceptional life sciences facilities for innovation and growth



Mark Pelletier

Mark Pelletier, AIA

Maugel Architects

BOSTON – Maugel Architects has been creating exceptional spaces for innovation and growth for nearly 30 years. Our projects have been brought to life on millions of square feet of commercial property throughout New England, and during that time we have worked with a wide range of life sciences clients and real estate development firms in the medical device, biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical industries, and more. and clinical laboratories. Many of these clients have been with us from the beginning and continue to choose Maugel over and over again to help them realize their vision.

Everyone loves to pretend to be “innovative,” but at Maugel Architects we use innovation to solve problems. We are not afraid to think differently or think big because this approach has always served our clients well in all the life sciences we serve.

We understand the complex needs of research and development, technological manufacturing and distribution, which are major challenges in the design process in the life sciences. We always take into account the needs of our clients to ensure the future growth and sustainability of the property, developing a fresh approach to any design challenge. Thanks to our flexible, dedicated teams with deep scientific expertise, we are able to assign experts who will focus on your specific needs and work with you throughout the entire process to ensure the success of the project.

Here are some of the ways we’ve helped our clients create an exceptional life sciences environment.

Designing laboratories for optimal workflow and efficiency

The design of biomedical facilities overlooks laboratory space — not in terms of importance or functionality, but rather in terms of “softer” aspects such as workflow and comfort, where additional design considerations can be critical. When properly designed, good laboratory design can lead not only to increased productivity and cost savings, but also to happier scientists.

Maximizing unique geometry

Rented premises are often irregular in shape, which creates design problems. For an R&D client in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the potential space had the right square footage and location, but a unique geometry. Before excluding the location, we created a test fit for the program. Lab space is the most expensive space to build, so we focused on carving out labs in space aligned with structural compartments. This approach made it possible to obtain the most efficient layout and the correct proportions of the hull. The client’s office area was placed in irregular spaces, which heightened the design interest and character of the workspace.

Workflow optimization

Often laboratory equipment is placed without much concern for efficiency – wherever there is free space on the table, equipment is often placed. To optimize the workflow, we leverage our deep understanding of the field and carefully plan the space for maximum efficiency. Our design team examines each component and determines its value for the entire process. It is imperative to invest time in case management diagrams that will lead to highly functional, ergonomic labs that are healthy and productive.

Integration of purchased product lines

The race to bring products to market, along with an abundance of investment capital, has significantly increased the number of products purchased. We have helped many clients integrate their acquired product lines into existing lab environments. When an acquisition is made by a non-US firm and shipped to a US facility for further development or production, it can become a design problem. We recently helped a longtime medical device client in Burlington, Massachusetts set up a new lab for a line of products acquired in Australia. Our team tested the new product line and then modified the existing workflow to meet US standards and improved efficiency.

Relocation of existing buildings to prepare for laboratory work

Due to a shortage of laboratory space, we are currently helping many of our real estate development clients relocate commercial and flexible buildings to attract biotech tenants. However, building owners face numerous challenges in planning a laboratory space in a room that was never intended for this use, and the increased costs associated with creating a laboratory-ready environment is often a surprise to many commercial building owners. If you’re considering relocating an existing facility, here are five main building features that an experienced lab tenant should consider:


Life science companies and their researchers want to feel part of the community and will look for places with clusters of other life science companies. Over the past couple of years, we’ve worked with several commercial developers to relocate more than half a dozen properties in the Hartwell Avenue area of ​​Lexington, Massachusetts, and in cities along Middlesex Corridor 3 and along Interstate 95 – all fast-growing life sciences hubs. We are also seeing a lot of activity in the Greater Worcester area.

Mechanical space

Even the simplest laboratory rooms are mechanically stressed. It is important that your building has sufficient mechanical room space in addition to distribution routes to avoid unsightly communications. Often the most economical solution is to locate laboratories on the top floor so that the open space on the roof can be used. With proper planning, you can place equipment on a support base with neatly placed screens and avoid unsightly mechanical systems.


Vibration, clear ceiling height, glazing, and the ability to withstand concentrated loads are all important factors, but one of the first things we look at when evaluating a building is the ability of the existing framing system to coordinate with the laboratory module. The module is the ideal floor space required to meet research needs – this area must fit into the structural compartment and provide utility passageways in both the floor and ceiling.

Material handling

Material handling is vital to the day-to-day operation of most biomedical facilities. Unfortunately, this is often one of the most overlooked characteristics when assessing the suitability of a building. Life sciences companies rely heavily on chemical delivery and waste collection services. Depending on the research materials used, proper handling often requires multiple loading docks to prevent cross-contamination.

Efficient workplace

The most valuable space in the laboratory is the laboratory bench. Workplaces are usually monopolized by specialized equipment such as spectrometers, incubators, and ovens. It is essential that the lab designer looks for storage options while maximizing all usable space, above and below the counters. The best geometry is a rectangular layout that allows for efficient and organized handling of enclosures, which is often the least interesting to design but most practical to function properly.

When considering a life sciences tenant, you should first consider consulting with a professional with experience in setting up laboratory spaces. By establishing that your building can accommodate the key functions and amenities of a shared laboratory environment prior to signing a lease, you avoid building cost nightmares and ensure the success of your project for both you and your new tenant.

(Mark Pelletier, AIA, is the director of Maugel Architects. He leads the life sciences practice. He can be contacted by phone (978) 456-2889 or email For more information visit maugel .com / natural sciences.)

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