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Workplace Trends in the Life Science Space

In the Bay Area (and beyond) the biotech industry is booming, and more and more, biotech and pharmaceutical companies are turning to coDesign for design and construction support. Some of these companies are freshening up existing spaces, others are expanding their footprints where they are, and some are building out and furnishing entirely new facilities.

As we’ve dived deeper into the life science space, our team has become aware of some interesting workplace trends particular to the industry, which we’ve shared below. We’ve observed some of these trends in our own clients, but we’ve also learned a lot from speaking with others, notably Sandra Jamme, Principal Construction and Facilities Project Manager at SLJ Business Services, and by attending events including the Tradeline Space Strategies Conference, and the webinar, Right Sizing vs. Flexibility in Lab Design.

Landlords are looking to transform their buildings into life science facilities. With the life science industry booming, it makes sense that landlords are looking to transform their spaces into facilities for these clients. But, doing this comes with a unique set of challenges - city zoning and a lack of needed infrastructure can certainly be roadblocks.

Sharing facilities is becoming increasingly popular. Building owners catering to life science clients are designing shared facilities that multiple tenants can access. Doing this prevents the need to purchase multiple pieces of the same equipment and enables building owners to make better use of their real estate. To learn more about this, we recommend that you listen to the webinar, Right Sizing vs. Flexibility in Lab Design, with Principle Planner, Chuck Cassell, and Project Architect, Eric Douville, both from HDR.

Life science clients are building for maximum capacity.

Biotech companies want employees in the office, and they’re designing their workplaces to support large numbers. In fact, not only are these companies building out space for existing employees, but they’re designing workplaces that can accommodate their projected growth. This trend, however, does not mean that life science companies are opting for a 1 person to 1 desk ratio. Rather, they’re assessing who needs an assigned bench and making data-driven design decisions.

We’re moving away from an open floor plan. With the continuing COVID-19 risk, and the desire to minimize human contact, some companies are now moving away from the open floor plan and instead building lab groupings, where multiple labs are built around a shared space. The labs can then operate as a series of separate facilities, or they can be opened onto the shared space to create one, larger lab space. Again, the webinar, Right Sizing vs. Flexibility in Lab Design, is a great resource for learning more about this.

Companies are dedicating greater space to circulation. In the past, planners were tasked with making life science workplaces as small as possible, but this is no longer the case. Now, organizations are dedicating more space to circulation, thereby enabling employees to easily and safely move through their environment.

Modular furniture is gaining popularity. Life science clients are selecting modular furniture over heavy, fixed pieces. This provides them with the greatest flexibility and enables workplace employees to experiment with layout, both inside and outside of the lab. Modular furniture also increases the longevity of a workplace, as it allows companies to rearrange their space when it’s no longer working for them, in lieu of moving out.

Creating visual transparency is gaining popularity.

Companies are now creating a line of sight between their labs and more traditional workspaces. The goal? To increase safety and create a greater feeling of connectivity between employees working in various roles.

Sustainability is a priority. Sustainability is top of mind for companies in the life science sector. They’re installing energy efficient lighting and refrigeration systems and turning towards furniture brands that offer more eco-friendly options.

Greater attention is being paid to acoustics. With the increase in hybrid working, virtual calls have also become more prevalent in the life science industry. More and more, designers of life science spaces are incorporating sound baffles and acoustic wall treatments into their designs to mitigate noise.

Neutral colors and curved lines are a favorite. Unlike tech companies which often enjoy bright, bold colors, biotech companies are creating more neutral workplaces with soft, curved lines. Their workplaces are often painted in a shade of white and have carefully selected color and subtle branding moments throughout.

Employee wellbeing is top of mind.

Life science companies are prioritizing employee wellbeing. Companies are including more windows in their designs in an effort to maximize exposure to daylight. Additionally, larger companies are providing employees with amenities typically seen in tech. Gilead, for example, recently built out a 60,000 sqft wellbeing center where employees can visit the gym, partake in exercise classes, and receive physical therapy.


It’s exciting to be at the forefront of the design changes that are taking place in the life science space! If you’re interested in discussing any of the trends mentioned above and how they relate to your own workplace, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team would love to chat!

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