4 interior design trends bringing life to cell and gene facilities

4 interior design trends bringing life to cell and gene facilities

The cell and gene industry is a competitive, exciting field that is centered on rapidly evolving science. It’s a vibrant world with unlimited possibilities—and with clever interior design, its facilities can reflect that same energy.

A well-designed facility can tell a story, project confidence, and generate interest from investors. In this article, we’ll dig into current interior design trends in the cell and gene industry and where they’re headed next. Let’s look at relevant best practices and overarching industry trends with these questions as our guide:

  • What is currently relevant?
  • What will be important to consider in upcoming years?
  • How can we create compelling spaces that work for end-users?   ‘

Spaces that create connections

THE TREND: one workplace

It is important to start by designing a facility as a whole. One workplace encompasses technical, administrative, and support spaces. How those spaces flow and interact with each other should be intentional to create opportunities for meaningful connections. To take the concept of one workplace somewhere new, architects and designers are experimenting with connectivity in several strategic ways.

When we think about visual connectivity, we consider direct and indirect views. Transparency can be used as a tool for putting science on display, creating connections between technical spaces and administrative spaces, and connecting end-users to the outside environment.

An example of this technique is repurposing a long facility’s corridor that traditionally separates manufacturing space from exterior walls. Using glazing between clean rooms and a corridor creates connection between the indoors and outdoors for employees, allowing outdoor views and daylight to reach deeper into the building. A view glass, or switchglass, can be used so visitors can push a button to see into research and development spaces. This simple choice of planning and materials transforms a facility corridor into an opportunity to celebrate and demonstrate science, creating inspiration for visitors and employees.

Another way to create connectivity is by celebrating the core purpose of many companies: the patients. Design can provide moments for employees and visitors to learn about the unique, life-changing stories from patients and their families promotes meaning and feelings of community. From interactive displays to patient photos or quotes, implementing storytelling stirs both emotion and passion. When we can spark these feelings through design, users can engage and draw connections.

Spaces that build community

THE TREND: hubs for deep work and collaboration

In recent years, there has been a shift in the type of science happening in manufacturing facilities. It has become more individualized, and companies are now seeking out PhD scientists, which leads them to compete over recruitment and retention more than ever before. Currently, many scientists in those facilities spend the majority of their time—often up to 90%—in cleanrooms, but encouraging them to come out of those spaces can help advance scientific progress and discovery. So it is essential to create a new space type outside of technical areas where they can connect with others at the company.

At CRB, we call this space typology a “marketplace.” The goal of a marketplace is to provide a common area for employees to work, connect, and recharge. It provides a combination of private, semi-private, and open areas with cafe amenities as well. While the marketplace is communal for all employees, locating it adjacent to the manufacturing areas can offer a place for scientists, who otherwise may not have a dedicated desk, to reside when working outside of the technical spaces.

The marketplace offers a sense of place for employees—who need a space to use their laptop, have a quick meeting, or make calls—allowing greater flexibility and adaptability among departments and companies in open office spaces.

Spaces that promote wellness

THE TREND: good habits by design

As more employers tune into the physical and mental health needs of their employees, they realize that workplace wellness has many facets—autonomy, movement, access to nature and daylight, among others. Designers are taking up the charge by creating employee-focused spaces.

The desire and value for personal autonomy are seen now more than ever. New hires are asking for more flexibility in the workplace and want the ability to choose where to work, how to communicate, and even the ability to personalize their workspaces for optimal comfort. Designers are responding with furniture solutions and modular wall systems to allow for curated flexibility. Designing spaces that offer choice and personalization allows employees to feel safe, supported, and valued. We expect that this flexibility in design will become even more important as cell and gene companies expand, merge, and refresh their spaces.

Paradoxically, limiting choices to promote good behaviors is another important consideration when designing for workplace wellness. Designers can take this even further by strategically locating certain amenities (eg. espresso machine or flavored sparkling water) on a lower floor, thus nudging employees to purposefully move about. This thoughtfulness in design can encourage wellness and invite experiences for community and connection.

An effective way to accomplish this is through the addition of communicating stairs, designed to move employees floor to floor and create a central hub for connection. Such staircases go beyond function—they are beautiful sculptural objects that people gravitate towards.

One example is stadium-style stairs, which can double as seating and even serve as the centerpiece of all-hands-on-deck company meetings. At other times, you might see some employees around the stairs using their laptops, taking a coffee break, or presenting to a small team. Communicating stairs and amenity spaces around them draws people in and encourages movement.

As companies continue to listen to employee needs, end-users will doubtlessly drive forward wellness trends within interior design. And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned another spotlight on employee wellness, forcing us to redefine what it looks like to design a healthy workplace.

Building and spaces that tell a story

THE TREND: bespoke innovations

The explosion of cell and gene therapies has created many emerging startup companies. The competition is fierce within the cell and gene industry, bringing the realization that facilities need to move beyond function in order to attract talent and investors. Clients are increasingly interested in creating facility exteriors and interiors that stand out from the crowd so a major trend we’re seeing is clients using design to celebrate science.

Startup companies, especially, see themselves through the lens of their innovations—and they want to be seen that way from outside as well. These science start-ups are similar in nature to the tech start-up companies that proliferated in Silicon Valley. They typically start in their “garage” working on something that did not exist, inventing new tools in the process, and creating new therapies and cures for previously untreatable rare genetic diseases. The work being done by these companies is nothing short of incredible.

Therefore, these companies want spaces that tell a story in order to establish their expertise, show off their personality, and promote their products. They want spaces that celebrate a facility’s process from early research and development to patient treatment. In fact, the interior and exterior of their facilities become a natural extension of their branding efforts.

Great design can communicate a company’s story to attract new talent, investors, visitors, and even demonstrate procedures to FDA officials. It also makes employees feel that they are part of something important.

As cell and gene therapy companies search for the best talent and ready investors, they’re leveraging the power of architecture and design to differentiate their work and showcase their story. At the same time, workplace norms are shifting as time spent in manufacturing, clean rooms, labs, support spaces, and administrative spaces is redistributed. Interior designers are meeting these challenges with designs that both work well and feel good for employees and visitors. Fortunately, the startup mentality of many clients allows designers to experiment and push boundaries with innovative, attention-grabbing, and flexible designs.

Understanding the state of the industry empowers interior designers to create impactful spaces that are relevant for years to come. Applying this knowledge to individual client needs produces unique spaces that are cutting edge—and one step ahead of the competition.

Interested in speaking to someone on CRB’s interior design team? Let’s talk.

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