Innovative design was the linchpin of a dramatic renovation that transformed a vacant telecom atrium office building into a state-of-the-art life sciences company headquarters. Creative process and meticulous planning combined to create a facility with the dexterity to meet a range of specific, strict criteria.
A leading life sciences company, providing integrated anatomic pathology and molecular testing services, required a new location for its headquarters in a location adjacent to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. The company receives and analyzes samples for thousands of patients per day, referred by physicians nationally.
The company had outgrown their previous facility in the area. As a fast-growing company, a consolidated headquarters was desired to streamline operations, provide expansion, and to create new, state-of the-art laboratory facilities. In order to accommodate its specialized and sophisticated operations, the company had to dramatically renovate a building.
Due to the complexity of its work, there were several criteria for the company’s new headquarters. The building required close access to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to expedite the receipt of thousands of high-priority tissue samples, a minimum of 150,000 square feet of space that could accommodate both corporate offices and laboratory facilities, and a building that reflected the correct professional image for the company.
In selecting the final real estate option, the company had to consider a variety of factors including the extent of renovation that would be required to adapt a building for the company’s requirements and vision for a cutting-edge headquarters. Once a building of suitable size and location was selected, the work began to plan the physical, structural, mechanical, and design renovations to support the specialized work that would occur in the facility.
Controlled Laboratory in Life Sciences Headquarters.
Turning a standard office building into a cutting edge life sciences facility is no simple metamorphosis. Expertise in several fields—architecture and engineering—guided the process from inception to completion. Because of the nature of work to be done at the facility, the first steps in transforming the building involved major structural renovations.
Structural reinforcement was required to support the high-density, optical glass slide storage used in the company’s research and diagnostic practice, as well as for the added HVAC mechanical units on the roof and the required new service elevator. In total, over 50 tons of structural steel was implemented to reinforce the building.
Paramount to the company’s operations was the creation of a state-of-the-art laboratory space within the building. Laboratories comprising 20,000-square-feet were produced with the potential to expand by an additional 22,000 square feet if necessary in the future. A vibration study was conducted to assess the suitability of the proposed laboratory locations to determine the best strategies to minimize the impact of vibrations generated by the company’s high-powered optical equipment.
The laboratory necessitated an immense upgrade to the building’s electrical systems. It also required fail-safe reserve power in case of utility outages; any service disruption to critical equipment was impermissible. To eliminate that threat, a new electrical distribution board backed up by a 1,000 KVA diesel generator and an 80 DVA Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) was added. The generator, roughly the size of a semi-truck, ensures non-stop operations. It contains enough fuel to run the facility for 24 hours in an emergency situation.
A state-of-the-art HVAC system was implemented to promote sound practices in the lab. A new air handler that brought in 100% outside air and exhausted internal air was required; in this environment it is important that air is not re-circulated due to contamination. The design of the HVAC system consists of an air handling unit, six laboratory exhaust fans, three 100-ton air-cooled chillers, and two chilled water circulating pumps to allow for eight air changes per hour. An energy recovery coil works with the air-cooled chillers to pre-cool the incoming fresh air so as not to disrupt the temperature in the lab environment. The system covers all rooms that contain hazardous materials to ensure complete indoor air quality assurance.
To accommodate the high volume of tissue samples imported to the building, all logistics surrounding the unloading, transport, and submission to the lab had to be meticulously examined—starting with the incorporation of a new dock into the building. The existing building did not have a dock, thus one had to be designed for the building and the specific needs of the company’s fragile and high-sensitivity shipments.
Once implemented, a new obstacle presented itself: there was not a quick path to transport hazardous materials from the dock to the elevators leading to the lab. Research determined that a dedicated service elevator was required to separate the employee elevator from hazardous chemicals. The service elevator was strategically located to service the new dock with direct access to the lab, interrupting the floor plate with a shaft through the entire building. The new HASMAT path incorporated an entire best-practices process including locations for cleaning and changing clothes after handling tissues and laboratory materials.
AESTHETICS AND FUNCTION DEXTERITY
The bulk of the interior was gutted to allow for a design transformation that reflected the company’s precision- driven scientific services. The design paired stark monochromatic color with organic shapes. Warm woods were paired with clean, minimalistic design elements. The atrium in the entrance was renovated to create a bright, white modern lobby with a dramatic three-story steel and glass staircase. The design gave a professional feel befitting the executive offices, while housed in the same building as advanced research involving hazardous materials. The successful juxtaposition of the different functions of the building required creative expertise in design functionality.
Due to the variety of employees occupying the headquarters—doctors, scientists, executives, office teams, shift workers—considerations and spaces had to be designed to support a broad range of staff. The building features many unique areas including: an executive area, an employee break room, and training spaces where large groups can gather. One conference room includes a microscope for each seat, allowing a range of doctors to review the same slides and conference in other doctors for collaborative analysis.
Based on the enormity of the move and renovations to the building, the company’s management team spent over six months evaluating potential solutions to its need for a new headquarters. The company weighed several considerations to deduce the most strategic fit from a financial, logistical, and technical standpoint. Aware of the significant investment in time and resources that any facility would require, the company created a commercial real estate team to assist in navigating the complex issues involved in the decision-making. The selected building had a plethora of challenges, but leading architects, engineers, and designers were able to implement an innovative renovation plan to transform the building in line with key objectives.
Mary Bledsoe, IIDA, RID, LEED AP, is a principal in lauckgroup’s Austin office. Mary creates innovative, sustainable, and multifaceted environments for a range of leading organizations.
Steve Breuer, AIA, NCARB, CSI, LEED AP, is a principal with lauckgroup. Steve focuses on the technical aspects of a project and moves it efficiently from conceptualization to completion. lauckgroup, 1601 Bryan Street, Suite 101, Dallas, Texas, 75201; (214) 922-9000; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.lauckgroup.com.