Does Your Building Qualify for a Life Sciences Conversion?

Daniel Hackett

By Daniel Hackett

BOSTON–Interest in converting assets for life sciences use is growing amongst building owners. Cushman & Wakefield’s Project & Development Services team developed basic building performance criteria based on the minimum standards that life sciences companies typically require.

Zoning, planning & occupancy  

  • There is a clear path to providing Group B Occupancy

HVAC & plumbing  

  • A design path to dedicated lab AHUs/100% OA units
  • A design path to dedicated exhaust (1 cfm/sf – min)
  • Design path to supporting utility shafts for HVAC and utilities, likely upgrade/ addition to base building capacity

Vertical circulation (multi-floor buildings) 

  • There is a segregated elevator for lab supplies/activity or there is a way to install one

Floor-to-floor clearance (multi-floor buildings)

  • 13’0”+ clearance desired – anything less is limiting


  • Service up to 8.0 watts/sf for intended lab area sf
  • Emergency generator capacity or service yard to install – for lab hoods & critical lab equipment plug load
  • Capacity/consideration for data/low voltage for lab controls, data collection, enhanced BMS


  • There should be live load capacity at 100 psf+
  • The roof will likely need additional load capacity for mechanical equipment typical for life sciences
  • As-built/current vibration design criteria should be known.

If your opportunity asset does not meet most of the above criteria a life sciences conversion or reposition is unlikely. In all cases, Project & Development Services is here to help. We offer a wide variety of support for both brokerage and clients, as feasibility and early assessments are developed. Here is a list of activities and deliverables we can provide to facilitate next steps and keep projects moving forward.

  • Assist brokerage in gathering information about the target asset in relation to its current life science capability/suitability
  • Perform due diligence in the form of an assessment or feasibility report
  • Create cost and schedule information to determine next steps
  • Provide a proposal to the developer or client for early project support .

(Mr. Hackett is Managing Director of Life Science & Medical Technologies
at the Boston office of Cushman & Wakefield.)