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Life Sciences Organizations Are Growing And Their Space Must Meet Their Needs

A laboratory with SelecTech flooring

The global life sciences sector is growing rapidly. A record $70B of private and public capital was invested in life sciences-related companies in North America in 2020, according to Cushman & Wakefield, a 93% increase from the previous record in 2018.

Many of these life sciences organizations need laboratory space equipped to meet their specific requirements. One way a building owner might create the space that top tenants are seeking is to implement a raised floor with underfloor service distribution — a design with all services hidden beneath people’s feet that can create a flexible, clutter-free environment. A laboratory environment requires all the same services an office needs — electricity, heating, internet, air conditioning — as well as specific services such as plumbing, drainage and lab gases. 

Raised flooring specialist Tate has partnered with sustainable flooring company SelecTech to offer a solution specifically for lab environments: a watertight raised floor with SelecTech’s floor tiles made from recycled plastic. This offering aims to meet four specific needs.

The Need For Flexibility

All businesses go through change, perhaps more rapidly than ever post-pandemic. Life sciences organizations are no exception and are often subject to organizational changes that could require a facility's layout to change. Evolving funding circumstances in incubator spaces, for example, would require staffing, equipment and layout changes. 

In contrast to a facility where wires, pipes and ducts are permanently routed in the ceiling and directed down columns, a raised access floor with underfloor service distribution can quickly and easily adapt to the changing demands of the building occupants. Each individual workstation can have direct access to the underfloor services through the raised floor panel. As lab benches and offices are rearranged, the service terminations can be disconnected and relocated to best serve the new layout.

“The concept is to provide services at the point of use, so a person can have what they need, where they need it,” SelecTech President and CEO Tom Ricciardelli said. “This also creates the flexibility to reconfigure the space with less disruption than would otherwise be required.”

Cleanliness Is Paramount

Laboratories and other life sciences facilities have unique cleanliness requirements, including spill mitigation and plenum cleanliness. The floors must be easy to clean, and typically have requirements to be watertight or water-resistant, often with chemical- and abrasion-resistant finishes. SelecTech’s tiles are made from durable, recycled plastic and can create a watertight seal, even when used with Tate’s raised access floors.

“The old way to create a watertight floor was to permanently seal floor tiles together and lose the accessibility of the underfloor plenum,” Ricciardelli said. “In contrast, our flooring tiles overlap and interlock, which creates that liquid tightness necessary in a lab environment. To take it a step further, we can use a releasable seam sealer between the interlocking tiles to create a fully watertight seal, while still maintaining accessibility.”

A raised floor with underfloor service distribution

The Laboratory Aesthetic

Creating a bright, open environment is a priority in most lab environments because access to daylight is beneficial for the occupants. Placing services under the floor eliminates the need for overhead service distribution boxes and drop-down connections. Removing overhead obstructions allows an opportunity to increase the occupants’ access to daylighting and views. 

Additionally, SelecTech’s floor finishes have been designed with the look and feel of laboratories in mind, Ricciardelli said.

“The finish of our product is designed for a lab, as it has the right slip resistance, cleanability and aesthetic,” he said. “Another benefit of our product is sound reduction. A lab doesn’t generally have many soft furnishings, but our finish is slightly soft to improve acoustics and comfort. Feedback from customers is that it is very comfortable to walk on.”

Increased Focus On Sustainability

Sustainability is a growing priority for all businesses, not least in a laboratory environment that could create a lot of waste since many elements cannot be reused. A raised floor can be taken apart and reconfigured again and again using the same service distribution materials, and SelecTech’s product adds a further green dimension.

“We invented our product to be made from the highest recycled content possible,” Ricciardelli said. “At 80% recycled content, this is a very green option. Because you can pick up the panels at the end of their life, they are also 100% recyclable. We even have a process where we will pay to take them back and recycle them in-house.”

As the life sciences sector continues to grow — 2021 could be another record year, Cushman & Wakefield’s report suggests — both Tate and SelecTech expect their combined offering to gain traction over the coming months.

This article was produced in collaboration between Tate Inc. and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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