Vol. 2, Issue 6 | 12.2010

Green building and sustainable design approaches seek to achieve not only ecological, but aesthetic and experiential balance between the built environment and the natural environment.

The biotechnology industry presents some of the most unique challenges for achieving this balance. Meeting the diverse functional demands and specialized technical requirements of a biotech operation – in tandem with the needs of its workers and the environment – is inherently complex.

At TAG, we believe that it’s all about innovative thinking.

In the biotech world, where technology changes rapidly, sustainable design is still an emerging practice, which creates fertile ground for innovation. While biotech operations vary greatly, ranging from R&D and analysis laboratories to pharmaceutical manufacturing, opportunities abound for applying new sustainability and green building approaches that will enable these resource-intensive facilities to create highly functional, energy efficient, yet healthier, more appealing work environments.

We’ve found that many of the sustainability practices used in other types of projects – such as public buildings, commercial offices, and industrial manufacturing facilities – can be effective in meeting the highly individualized needs of biotech companies, when applied with strategic insight, creativity and precision.

— TAG International, LLP

Maximizing Your Green Building Potential®

Industry Focus: Biotechnology

The green challenges for biotech – particularly in laboratory and research settings – entail managing an array of biological products, chemicals, pathogens and materials relating to the human body, such as blood, tissues and DNA. Stringent requirements must be met for temperature, humidity and air quality controls. The growing trend toward automation and greater reliance on sophisticated equipment also creates increased demand for natural resources, such as energy and water.

“Green chemistry” practices are now being incorporated into biotech operations to reduce the impact of hazardous reagents, such as substituting environmentally benign solvents wherever possible, and implementing chemical-waste minimization strategies.

In addition to these measures, a variety of green building products, materials and techniques can be highly effective at meeting the specialized technical demands of a biotech operation, while minimizing environmental impact and reducing consumption of water, solvents, electricity, and consumables. New energy modeling practices can also aid in achieving even greater operational efficiencies.

Creating a state-of-the-art biotech facility that is both functional and environmentally responsible includes maximizing worker comfort, with natural ventilation for office spaces and non-lab areas, daylighting and views to the outside for both labs and offices, and continuous monitoring systems for air quality.

Many biotech operations, particularly lab facilities, utilize a 24-hour workforce which requires adequate lighting for parking areas and entryways. Skillful lighting design is important for ensuring worker safety, while protecting the night sky and avoiding light pollution for the surrounding community.

An environmentally conscious biotech facility not only provides the ideal setting for innovation and new discoveries, it also establishes a stronger connection to the community and helps to attract highly skilled workers who embrace sustainability values.

Project Spotlight: Clinical Pathology Laboratories

TAG International designed the corporate headquarters and central laboratory for Austin-based Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL), the largest pathologist owned laboratory in the United States. TAG’s current work with CPL also includes the completion of a 37,000 sf two-story addition and ongoing renovations to the original 60,000 sf facility.

TAG's design approach, for both the original building and the addition, incorporated a variety of complex requirements. TAG worked closely with CPL personnel to help streamline their process flow, coordinate lab furniture and equipment requirements, maximize space utilization, and provide for future flexibility in the lab design.  

In addition to meeting new City of Austin design standards for the building's exterior and accommodating the functional and technical requirements of the lab, TAG implemented a variety of sustainable design strategies and products throughout the CPL project (see sidebar for additional information).

TAG's Green Building Potential Guide: A Practical Guide to Sustainable Development

Step 5: Project Management

Rule of Thumb: Get It Done.  

Effective project management takes you from concept to completion as efficiently, painlessly and cost-effectively as possible.

Skillful project management entails the synchronized direction of personnel, money, materials, and equipment to meet defined project and sustainability goals. The project management phase is an especially critical stage for ensuring the practical translation of green concepts and the successful implementation of sustainable development strategies.

Project management should incorporate strong leadership to heighten the team’s understanding of sustainability principles, provide education regarding the benefits of these approaches, and oversee the implementation of green practices. Managing the various aspects of the project requires open, collaborative communication among team members, as well as alignment regarding the project’s sustainability goals and a shared commitment to achieving those goals.

Throughout the project’s execution, significant focus must be applied to monitoring the project schedule and budget, ensuring that these critical components are well-managed and maximized.

Additionally, it is important to understand and effectively manage the documentation process required for meeting green building program requirements.

Project management is about applying solid business acumen, maintaining a priority focus on sustainable development, and anticipating and removing roadblocks so that your project objectives are realized – on time and in budget.