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Fostering Collaboration in Research Facilities: Biogen Case Study

Roger L. Spears, AIA, O'Brien/Atkins Associates, PA


Sustainability Begins With the Creation of a Community

The objective of this poster is to graphically illustrate the value of creating a tangible sense of community within a corporate research organization through architectural design. Once established, this spirit of cooperation and collaboration will offer a firm foundation for all manner of initiatives that benefit the organization, the greater community it serves and the environment that sustains them both.

Biogen BIO 24 is a research laboratory designed for Biogen and is located on the Cambridge-based company's 150-acre site in Triangle Research Park, North Carolina. The 152,000 square foot building houses approximately 150 research scientists engaged in the development of pharmaceutical products.

As an essential component of its enlightened corporate philosophy, Biogen has initiated a series of design practices that encourage the development of a tangible sense of community within the facilities it commissions. Such practices include the creation of generous collaboration and consultation spaces in the midst of the building's working laboratories. Staff members are encouraged to gather throughout the course of the workday and share the ideas and insights that arise from their work. The design of an architecture that engenders such enriching activities is the focus of this presentation.

The significance of these strategies is their potential to promote a more productive, humane workplace. Natural day-lighting and exterior views are introduced into every lab space. Breakout rooms and public gathering spaces are appointed with contemporary artwork, comfortable furnishings and attractive, inviting finishes. General building amenities, including conference areas, refreshment lounges, recycling areas and mailrooms are all centered about a dramatic four-story atrium which floods the building's interior with indirect sunlight. An adjoining spiral staircase unites departments on the building's various levels and stands as a symbolic recognition of the company's commitment to the well-being and sociability of its staff and researchers.

These strategies are illustrated with a series of photographs of the work environment, accompanied by architectural plans and diagrams


Out of the Sense of Community Comes Involvement

People who work in a supportive, nurturing environment that encourages cooperative participation are far more likely to support environmental initiatives both within the organization itself and beyond.

The poster will illustrate that as a result of these amenities and features, Biogen anticipates a corresponding enhancement of worker productivity and innovation, better employee satisfaction, higher morale, improved staff retention and most important, personal involvement. Not coincidentally, a well-adjusted employee outlook also enhances facility safety, attention to sound building management practices and in short, a much more productive and efficient work environment.

The premise underlying this poster is Biogen's realization that even the most wisely designed and prudently engineered sustainable environment will not succeed without a supportive and committed workforce. The success of Biogen 24 begins by creating a coherently integrated community of individuals who are then empowered to best promote the resources of the company and the natural environment.

The presentation will conclude with the company's plans for future expansion of its research site, extending these concepts of holistic community building to the scale of a small cityscape.

The poster will include graphs that suggest both the expected and realized benefits of this design strategy.

Labs21 Connection:

Biogen 24 has been designed with in accordance with these aspects of the Labs 21 Approach:

1. Whole Buildings Approach

  • The building is specified to include high efficiency lighting, pumps and chillers.
  • Heat recovery on once through air systems
  • Variable frequency drive on all fans

2. Lifecycle Costs

  • All major HVAC systems selected for the project were analyzed in terms of their lifecycle costs. Decisions regarding initial fit-up costs were tempered by this analysis, resulting in an overall more energy efficient mechanical system.

3. Equipment and Controls Commissioning

  • A system-wide commissioning review has been implemented

4.Sustainable Energy Efficiency Strategies

  • Modular equipment, high-efficiency chillers and variable frequency fans are employed to enhance energy efficiency
  • Energy recovery strategies have been implemented for once through air systems
  • Daylighting is optimized, particularly in laboratory areas.
  • Water-efficient sinks and toilets are specified.

5. Green Construction Materials

  • Recycled-content and low toxicity materials are specified.

6. Operations and Training

  • Limited promotion of energy and water efficiency efforts have been undertaken at present. Future plans call for more expensive programs to be developed as the masterplan reaches as critical population of users.

7. Beyond the Building Site

  • A conscious decision was made to provide structured parking for the facility, a choice that reduced the site's percentage of impervious cover and minimized runoff, improving community water quality downstream. Wastewater from the parking facility is passed through an oil/water separator to ensure the preservation of water quality in the vicinity of the project.


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