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Biotech firms grow with North County

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San Diego's North County has seen substantial growth in recent years, and the region's biotech community has been part of it, with multiple life sciences companies opening offices further up the I-5 from usual hot spots like La Jolla. One company is looking to give back to the region by making its building more eco-friendly.

Several of these companies, including Genentech (NYSE: DNA) and Isis Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ISIS), have done some kind of expansion in the past year, whether building new facilities or, in Genetech's case, getting approval from the Federal Drug Administration to create new medicines in existing facilities. Invitrogen (Nasdaq: IVGN) has not completed new construction, but the company is making its new headquarters "green" in anticipation of moving in 375 employees.

"Invitrogen is committed to doing our part to preserve the environment. The initiative started from the ground up and employees at all levels have been key in the process and even had input in the design, layout and features of the new building," Eric Endicott, a spokesman for the company, said in an e-mail. "Greg Lucier, chairman and CEO, is fully behind the concept and allocated the resources necessary to see that the building was made to U.S. Green Building Council LEED standards."

Located on Van Allen Way in Carlsbad, Invitrogen's future headquarters is a 75,000-square-feet building which the company hopes will rank highly on the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ranking system. The USGBC, a nonprofit composed of leaders from the building industry, promotes environmentally responsbile buildings.

To begin with, 75 percent of the construction waste from this project has been already recycled. Thirty 30 skylights will be installed to harvest light during the day so there is no need for electric lighting during the day. Carbon dioxide sensors throughout the building will be used to determine employee occupancy to manage air conditioning needs, increasing heating and air conditioning efficiency. The building is designed to reduce water usage by 30 percent, in hopes of helping with Southern California's water shortages.

Preferred designated parking is planned for carpool and hybrid cars, and 60 percent of the furniture is being reused from other buildings in Carlsbad. The company is designating 225 square feet of space to a recycling center.

Exact figures are not yet known, but Endicott said the project will cost millions of dollars. Alltech Builders and HLW Architects have been hired to design and build the headquarters.

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