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Trends in San Diego life science facilities

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San Diego’s homegrown industry is most often referred to as biotech, but that really does not capture the industry’s broad swath. In my view, what are generically labeled as biotech facilities are actuality life science facilities.

Our local industry reaches across a broad continuum: From institutes engaged in life science research and firms that research, develop and manufacture Research Use Only products, to companies that research, develop and manufacture products under Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations. One constant is that the industry relies on knowledgeable, creatively flexible and determined facilities professionals to operate and manage facilities that are under continual transition.

I’ve come to learn during my career in life science facilities to expect the unexpected and to roll with the changes. Take this case in point: A new instrument is delivered to life science company XYZ and the vendor is scheduled to be on site the following week to install it. Unfortunately, the word didn’t get to the facilities colleague that the instrument was on its way, so the scramble is on to make room in a full laboratory and to install the needed utilities while tending to the planned events of the week.

While this uptempo rate of change can be a challenge for us engineering types who like to plan and then work the plan, it is also an invigorating characteristic of the industry. The consistency of change in life science facilities has driven change within the industries that support the life science community.

To keep pace with a life science company’s changing needs, facilities professionals rely on partnership with their scientific colleagues, a network of industry peers and on-demand resources such as vendors, consultants and contractors. As San Diego’s life science community matures, so does the supply-side base. Building owners, property management companies, and even forward-looking life science companies have focused on providing real estate, facilities and laboratory solutions exclusively for life science tenants in different stages of development: from incubator spaces through larger multitenant arrangements to single-tenant occupied facilities.

A differentiator available at some facilities are facilities and lab services provided to tenants, thus allowing scientific personnel to focus on science and not on the tasks needed to keep the lights on. In this model, facilities professionals are retained by the supply-side organization.

An exciting trend in practice over the past several years is rehabilitating aging lab and mixed-use facilities into state-of-the-art life science facilities. Examples are readily viewed on John J. Hopkins Drive in Torrey Pines, on Nancy Ridge Drive in Sorrento Mesa and along Sorrento Valley Boulevard.

These facilities are brought up to date in nearly every aspect — exterior appearance, building systems, support infrastructure and occupant amenities. One of the key benefits in rehabbing facilities is to update the facilities technology in order to capture operating cost savings and drive sustainable practices. Older facilities often do not have updated building management systems (some do not have even that) thus the ability to clean sheet infrastructure equipment and systems allows building owners and occupants to capture the benefits of advanced facilities technology.

All in all, the life science community in San Diego presents facilities specialists and supply-side organizations with opportunities to develop cost-effective, sustainable solutions across a range of platforms.

-Gardner is a member of the San Diego chapter of the International Facility Management Association and is the founder of FM&O Advisors, a facilities management and operations firm that creates real-world solutions through planning, execution and excellence. His facilities management and operations expertise was crafted at Gen-Probe Incorporated, Invitrogen Corporation and Pfizer Inc. prior to the formation of FM&O.He holds a B.S. from San Diego State University and a MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.

Facilities management is as much about navigating employer-driven change, personal goal achievement and market opportunity, as building technical, managerial and leadership prowess. For more information about IFMA San Diego Chapter please visit ifmasandiego.org.

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