Considerations for Typical Life Sciences Shell Speculative Buildings for GMP Manufacturing Tenants

Considerations for Typical Life Sciences Shell Speculative Buildings for GMP Manufacturing Tenants


Do you want to lease your spec building for GMP manufacturing, but wonder what specifications clients are seeking? To help you get your building ready to lease, we have developed this list of considerations for life sciences shell spec buildings.

This guide will help you evaluate your building’s readiness to attract distinguished biopharmaceutical manufacturers. We have included general building characteristics, structural requirements, and infrastructure considerations to guide you as you assess your building.

General Building Descriptions and Trends

  • Sized right – Typical speculative building sizes for a life science shell are 50,000 SF, 100,000 SF, 150,000 SF, or larger if built to suit specific needs. In the last couple of years, we have seen a high demand for the 150,000-SF to 250,000-SF range.
  • Room for growth – Potential tenants want space to accommodate future growth (i.e., a 150,000-SF building with space to build another 150,000 SF next to it) or a layout that allows multiple 50,000-SF buildings to be built adjacent to each other.
  • Proper space planning – Area usage varies significantly, but we are seeing the following distribution of space for manufacturing application programs: 30% office and amenities, 15% lab testing, 25% support areas (mechanical rooms, back of house, CUP, etc.), 20% manufacturing space, and 10% warehouse.
  • Built right – Typical building shells include:
    • Fully insulated and painted, airtight building shell
    • Caulked floor joints to reduce cracks and crevices for pest control
    • Minimum 40 x 40 FT column spacing for open bays
    • Minimum 36-FT clear height to accommodate manufacturing tenants, including bioreactors, mechanical mezzanines and other GMP-specific needs
  • Plenty of back-of-house space – One side of the building is typically back-of-house or an equipment yard with space to lay out and accommodate the following:
    • Shipping/receiving
    • Lab gas tank farms
    • Multiple generators with fuel tanks and fueling capabilities
    • Chillers, cooling towers, and boilers
    • Dumpsters and chemical waste storage trailers

The space could also be used by the tenant to build a central utility plant (CUP).

  • Equipment and piping on ground floor – Heavy equipment and piping systems are typically on the ground floor located near or in the back of house or CUP area.
  • Air handlers hidden – The preference is for HVAC air handlers to be located on the rooftop with screening, or in a penthouse space or mezzanine above the serviced areas.
Manufacturing Shell clear-height and column requirements

Must Haves/Structural Requirements

  • Two loading docks – Tenants prefer a minimum of two loading docks with doors and shelters. Both should be equipped with dock seals, lights, and locks to reduce pest access. At a minimum, one dock should be a full-size, truck-height dock with a 35,000-lb dock leveler, and another dock could be a drive-in door.
  • Plenty of parking – Parking should be no less than 1.5 – 2.0 spaces per 1,000 SF.
  • Proper slab and infill:
    • It is desirable to have a minimum of 2,000 PSF soil bearing capacity.
    • Tenants with extensive underground piping will prefer no slab or just a temporary mud slab in place.
    • If the slab is infilled, it’s desired to have a high-quality, uninterrupted, and well-documented or commissioned vapor barrier under the slab.
  • Structurally sound – Foundations and building columns should be sized to support a second-floor mezzanine or interstitial space.
  • Appropriate roof structure – The building structure should be designed to carry additional loading for HVAC equipment in the central area of the roof, and to add hangers for ductwork, piping, conduits, etc. (100 PSF minimum). Also include additional loading to support a walkable ceiling and process/building utilities.
  • TPO roofing – Roof should be 60-mil TPO single-slope with a minimum of R-20 insulation (R-30 is preferred).
  • Roof access for maintenance – Provide full-size access stairs to roof for preventative maintenance of HVAC equipment.
Truck-Height Loading Dock with Doors and Shelters Image

Additional Infrastructure Considerations

  • Properly-sized electrical service – Typical power usage requirements for light manufacturing are between 10 to 15 W/SF, and for heavy process-driven facilities as high as 30 W/SF. Ensure that the building’s electrical system can handle this capacity.
  • Capacity for generator – In the back of house, provide connections and wiring to support rented backup generator usage for full building service. Provide a clean ground and ground grid for sensitive equipment and controls.
  • Extended water and waste lines – Extend water mains to support back-of-house utilities such as USP purified water, clean steam, etc. Also extend building waste to support additional underground connections.
  • Flexible manhole requirements – Manhole requirements will vary based on building configuration and operations.
  • Monitoring manholes – Assume that the process wastewater stream will require a minimum of one monitoring manhole on the back of house before it joins the sanitary wastewater stream to comply with wastewater permitting.
  • pH neutralization – Tenant may require installation of a pH neutralization tank or system.
  • Ability to add on cooling – Code minimum ventilation for the shell will be acceptable when the building is empty. Tenant cooling will vary based on process.

Options and Next Steps

Changes to these considerations could be made in an effort to reduce costs or if there is a unique approach needed for the project (such as a new greenfield facility, a pharma building, or a repurposed non-pharma building).

If you would like guidance on how best to meet the needs of prospective life sciences tenants, connect with an expert at 35 North. You can leverage our vast experience working with life sciences and GMP manufacturing clients to efficiently prepare your property for lease. We specialize in program, project, and construction management, cost management, and commissioning, and can add valuable insights to maximize your budget and attract new GMP manufacturing tenants.

35 North Director of Project Management Services Pablo Hernandez

Pablo Hernandez is the director of project management services for 35 North. He brings 25 years of practice in engineering, project management, and site operations in the compliance-focused life sciences industry.

Additional Contributing Authors: Christian Matthews, vice president of life sciences, Evans General Contractors.

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