One of the trends likely to occur in sci-tech real estate is the re-purposing of commercial spaces like offices, retail and warehouse units, to lab space. With increased demand for this space amongst occupiers including the life sciences and tech sectors it seems logical (where change of use is permitted) to repurpose units sitting vacant. However, there are some specific and technical considerations needed. Location and logistics are at the top of the list.
Location, location, location
The lab type occupier, especially start-ups, usually want to be located near to similar organisations and one of the strengths of science and research parks are the links to academia, transport and the collaborative working benefits these bring. It is likely that take up of repurposed space will be most successful where it is close to existing hubs or districts. Good examples of this are the emerging hubs at White City or Kings Cross/Euston Road in London, and Circle Square in Manchester but without doubt new hubs will also emerge.
The original building will need to have the height to accommodate considerable duct work: an absolute necessity for the functionality of a lab. Accessibility to the building will be needed for both the renovation work and to allow regular deliveries of specialist equipment used by the occupier, such as large gas cylinders. There will also need to be space to house external plant especially if the building will be multi let.
Fitted or kitted?
Another key consideration will be whether the lab space is initially fitted or kitted out. An established organisation will know exactly what they need from the space but a start-up might not, and so more flexibility might be required. The cost will also be a factor as will the type of lab user. Some users may need exacting control over temperature, air flow, moisture, and vibrations whereas others might just need a sufficient goods lift and appropriate waste disposal.
It is going to be an interesting time as we see space re-purposed for lab use and how far this permeates into our high streets and business centres.
Author: Amelia Lewis, Principal Associate, Mills & Reeve LLP