Laboratory Design Newsletter 2012 Selected Abstract


Pfizer's New Laboratory Paradigm

Jay Hallinan, The SLAM Collaborative
Paul Janssenswillen, Pfizer, Inc.


Research facility design has traditionally followed guidelines and best practices that serve the competitive needs of the times in which they're built. Through successive generations, previously established "current best design" may become inappropriate and must evolve. At Pfizer, the current evolution of laboratory programming and design seeks to create a "shared asset culture" within a 100 percent flexible facility. The goal is to yield operational flexibility and energy savings by minimizing redundant equipment and processes, optimizing space, and reducing overall facility footprint. Pfizer's new approach is pushing the envelope of efficient, flexible, quality research space.

The previous model had been characterized by rigid boundaries between "open" and "closed" laboratory, laboratory support, and office. Although generic planning and flexible furnishings have been standard for years, laboratory facilities have been customized to a large extent to accommodate everything that is usually fixed in place (HVAC zones, partitions, exhaust devices, and service risers). Office space has been hierarchical and amenities have often not aligned with need. High renovation, operations, and energy costs have been tolerated to accommodate redundant laboratory equipment and processes owned and conducted by scores of individual research teams. This was the state of laboratory design a decade ago, when Pfizer used big new buildings as carrots to attract the best minds in science.

Times have changed. Maintaining that extravagant model on suburban manufacturing campuses no longer serves corporate interests. Pfizer has restructured its discovery research groups and moved them to regional "hot spots" near academic institutions and biotech clusters. There is a transition underway and a hope for fostering more effective collaboration within and outside the walls of Pfizer. Research units have been tasked with assessing and streamlining operations and inventory wherever possible. As they gradually relocate, they are adjusting to a new way of doing things, relying on open access support laboratories and equipment, using "democratic" (in some cases non-assigned) write-up stations and offices, and using uniform service infrastructure above ceiling with an innovative, completely flexible kit of parts for the laboratory and office environment below. Each step in this transition promises better collaboration and productivity opportunities, while maintaining fewer pieces of equipment, less laboratory net square footage, and minimized operational costs due to necessary changes over time. As the research activity condenses into better-used space, exited facilities are mothballed, sold, or in some cases demolished to reduce Pfizer's tax base and energy consumption. In many cases, Pfizer is now leasing laboratory space rather than owning and maintaining. By leasing (another form of sharing), Pfizer can right-size its research space as needed. It can expand and contract and now has an exit strategy to quickly respond to changes in the market place.

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Pfizer Neuroscience and CVMED groups are case studies in the cultural and physical transition. These research units will have occupied three different homes within the span of three years, as they have moved from Groton, Connecticut, to leased facilities on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. These lightly renovated, temporary homes are stepping stones toward the new model, incorporating some of the new programming and design strategies wherever possible. There is a marked difference from the user's perspective, and by all accounts a positive buzz is being generated. But from a design and facilities management point of view, the most exciting changes are still to come with the completion of 610 Main. When finished, 610 Main will be at the cutting edge of uniform service distribution and the use of a 100 percent mobile kit of parts.

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