Now that we know working from home works, how can employers entice workers back into the office? The answer lies in pilot studies and data analysis that focus on the collaborative, activity-based work spaces that make the commute worth their while.
Alternative Work Styles
A healthy work environment—with good air, good water, the right kind of light, and a comfortable temperature—is not just a nice-to-have perk. Studies show that attending to "cognitive ergonomics"—how a workspace impacts the occupants’ ability to think—can improve cognitive performance by as much as 50 percent.
The post-pandemic science facility needs to be configured to adapt to the changing demands of both the research and the researchers. The balance between offices, collaboration spaces, and labs must be fluid enough to change with the science. And organizations must accommodate growing expectations for a hybrid work environment that provides staff with an acceptable work-life balance.
The University of Toronto was able to repurpose leased space in an off-campus office tower into biosafety research labs for its Temerty Faculty of Medicine by implementing innovative HVAC solutions and modular design. Filtered ductless fume hoods obviated the need to vent exhaust up 20 stories to the roof, and a flexible floorplan can accommodate fluctuating research teams.
Private Industry and Academic Institutions Unveil Post-Pandemic Hybrid Workplace and Space Utilization Initiatives
The evolution of space planning and utilization was kicked into overdrive during the COVID-19 pandemic, as everyone from private industry to higher education to government entities was forced to rethink who works where, and when. After three years of transition, organizations are now implementing innovative hybrid work scenarios and space utilization initiatives that reflect the new workplace landscape. The emerging solution is a hybrid work model that blends work-from-home with time spent at a shared physical work environment. That provides institutions the opportunity to make the most efficient use of the space they have, shed the facilities they don’t need, and focus on creating spaces that entice employees out of their home offices and back to the workplace.
Faced with a massive renovation and no swing space for 1,800 cages of "dirty" mice, the University of Missouri at Columbia opted to lease a pair of modular vivaria, install them in an underutilized warehouse, and switch to disposable cages. Researchers were prohibited from entering the viviaria, so cages were delivered directly to their labs. How well did it work? "I would do it again, 100 times,” says the university’s assistant director for research in the Office of Animal Resources.
When lockdown ended, many organizations saw the proven viability of telecommuting as a chance to reduce their real estate needs. Sandia National Laboratories seized the opportunity to use its work-from-home dividend to renovate its older buildings and update building amenities.
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh is working in partnership with San Francisco-based Emerald Cloud Lab on a new $40 million facility that will house more than 200 discrete life science and chemistry research instruments, but very few human researchers, teachers, or students. Instead, the instruments and artificial intelligence tools within the new CMU Cloud Lab can be accessed remotely via the cloud from anywhere in the world to conduct experiments at any time of the day or night. The new 16,000-sf Cloud Lab will be housed in a CMU-owned building in Pittsburgh’s Bakery Square, 10 minutes from the main campus. Construction is scheduled to conclude by May 2023 and to be fully operational by the fall 2023 semester.
Among all the questions about the post-COVID workplace, a common realization is taking hold: Organizations must be especially mindful of employee needs in their return-to-office planning. The pandemic upended not just the professional but also the personal side of workers’ lives. One of the things that distinguishes this new era is the much larger role empathy and understanding will play in the design process, says John Campbell, president of the architecture firm FCA. The new workplace will feature a variety of recalibrated space types that are more purposeful, employee driven, and less unitized.
Takeda is partnering with BioMed Realty to create a 600,000-sf R&D center in Cambridge. Designed by CBT Architects, the 16-story facility will provide sophisticated lab and office environments for the discovery of next-generation biopharmaceutical therapies and vaccines. Takeda has executed a 15-year lease for all of the research floors in the building, which will feature flexible spaces that maximize in-person interaction and connection under a hybrid working model.
Elanco Animal Health broke ground in April of 2022 on its global headquarters campus in Greenfield, Ind. Designed by RATIO Architects and CSO to serve as the foundation of a planned animal health epicenter, the $100 million complex will support collaborative R&D with business incubator High Alpha and AgriNovus, the state of Indiana’s food and agriculture initiative.
EMD Serono completed construction in March of 2022 on the $70 million Horizon Building in Billerica, Mass. Designed by PM Group, the 149,000-sf structure provides collaborative research environments to accelerate the creation of specialty pharmaceuticals. The mixed-use R&D facility includes approximately 30,000 sf of flexible wet lab space featuring reconfigurable benches and overhead service panels with plug-and-play connectivity.
Ferris State University will begin construction in May of 2021 on the $29.5 million Center for Virtual Learning in Big Rapids, Mich. Designed by Stantec, the 64,000-sf facility will provide a centralized home for the university's online education activities. Accommodating current and future advances in virtual learning approaches, the project will feature unique adaptable environments for digital content creation and instruction.
Silverstein Properties & Cantor Fitzgerald are partnering with University Place Associates to create a biomedical innovation center in Philadelphia. Providing leading-edge lab and office facilities, 3.0 University Place is pre-certified as LEED Platinum v4 BD+C for core and shell, and will also target WELL Core v2 Platinum certification.
The most-read Tradeline articles in 2020 reflect how the industry has responded to the COVID-19 crisis with flexibility and adaptability. From virtual site visits and virus-mitigating HVAC solutions to forward-looking models for office work, research programs, and higher education, readers learned about the innovative solutions that peer organizations have adopted to weather the storm and position themselves to thrive in the recovery.