Laboratory Design Newsletter 2012 Selected Abstract

Collaborative Life Sciences Building: Three Institutions Combine Resources to Advance Inter-Institutional Research

Diane Kase, HKS
Earl Walls Associates and David Piper, SERA Architects


The Collaborative Life Sciences Building (CLSB) is a unique, multi-use facility, housing undergraduate science education, medical, and dental professional programs as well as advanced biomedical research. Located on a new campus within a dense urban area, the site in the South Waterfront Central District is at equal distance from Oregon Health and Science University's (OHSU's) Marquam Hill campus and Portland State University (PSU). The land was donated to OHSU by the Schnitzer family; the CLSB is the first building of a multi-phase development.

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The facility has two owners in a tenancy-in-common agreement: the Oregon University System (OUS) and OHSU. Three institutions—Oregon State University (OSU), PSU, and OHSU—are the main tenants of the facility. Ground floor retail space rounds out the tenants, and the facility will provide a 400-space parking garage with bicycle parking and lockers/showers.

The facility is composed of two towers, connected by an atrium. The CLSB is 187,276 net square feet; Skourtes Tower, a phase 2 addition to the facility, is 110,084 net square feet. The delivery method is Fast Track, with the foundation, structure, envelope, and program/interiors schedules running concurrently. The design started on May 9, 2011, and construction began on October 25, 2011. Substantial completion is on track for December 2013 and PSU will hold classes in the building during spring semester 2014.

Working with owner representatives, we developed three basic laboratory types (organic/nano-chemistry, biochemistry, and biomedical) and established the types of support spaces needed. The open-laboratory concept provides for expansion or reduction of space assigned to a researcher as needs allow. Some laboratory support is shared between all institutions, while a portion of laboratory support for each institution remains dedicated to that institution. An electron microscopy suite and vivarium, both located in the basement, also support the research. The floor plates maintain those critical spaces where people gather or meet.

Because of the OUS/OHSU tenancy-in-common contract, many of the major expenditures are shared between the two owners and the three institutions. However, the structure of the owners' contract led to a firm cap on the total project budget. In addition, grants and some donations came with spending restrictions that require tracking of costs separately.

A multi-institutional facility presents many technical challenges that need to be addressed. Operational expenditures, facilities operations and management, logistical support, and environmental health and safety compliance are just a few. The most important challenge is the management of the science program(s) housed in the facility. While the potential benefits of collaborative research are clear, the governance of the collaborative science program(s) is contrary to traditional academic culture. In some instances the program(s) fail to achieve their full potential as a result of unresolved governance issues.

One issue is reluctance by deans and/or chairs to assign faculty to laboratory space they do not control or that is located away from their college or department. It is important to reach a clear consensus and understand who controls and assigns space within the facility. The most successful research programs have narrowly focused themes that can be developed into areas of national preeminence. Faculty are recruited specifically for their fit into these themes. Core facilities are determined by the requirements of the selected theme(s) or niches of science. For example, if a theme involving therapeutics is considered, a cGMP manufacturing core may be required for clinical trials. The programmatic strength of the facility also supports the development of partnerships with private sector.

Another issue is that collaborative programs require the right mix of research faculty. Not only do faculty need to fit well with the science, they also require a collaborative, even entrepreneurial, talent. In the best case, research conducted in these facilities is carried farther down the development pipeline, enabling an accurate assessment of the value of intellectual properties developed, and the institution and faculty are fairly compensated in the capitalization of technologies. Managing the mix of faculty is extremely challenging considering traditional academic culture and is amplified in multi-institutional facilities.

Once the project moves into construction, the hard part is thought to be over—but for the owners, the difficult decisions have just begun.