green trees

Leveraging the power of design to progress Sustainable Development Goals

There is a global shift towards achieving a sustainable future. This provides a valuable opportunity for biopharmaceutical companies to become a driver of positive change.

How can you manufacture your products in a more efficient and sustainable way? By starting with the facility design. Keeping sustainability in mind at the beginning of a project can optimize business operations, enhance product flexibility, improve facility resiliency, and decrease operation costs.

The Sustainable Development Goals Matter to the Life Sciences Industry.

Sustainability is often characterized by three central tenants: Environmental, Social, and Economic (ESG); the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) expands these pillars into 17 integrated goals for a prosperous world. The SDGs were adopted by 193 countries in 2015 as a shared call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and establish a global partnership by 2030. The life sciences industry plays an important role in supporting the SDGs, and many organizations are aligning their business operations to actualize these goals.

Taking a closer look at biopharma organizations that are actively upholding the SDGs, many are prioritizing Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12), and Climate Action (SDG 13).

We’ve compiled a list of sustainable design solutions aligned with these SDGs that you can incorporate into your facility design that will help minimize the environmental impact of your operations while meeting your organization’s sustainability goals.

Facility design empowers good health and well-being

Given the life-enhancing work that life sciences companies do, it is no surprise that the Good Health and Well-Being SDG is a top priority for many. This is a broad goal, though, that can encompass the drug products you produce, in addition to the well-being of patients and your people. Facility design is critical in ensuring products can be manufactured in a safe, efficient, and reliable way. Additionally, good design can play an important role in the day-to-day well-being of your employees.

Flexible facility design delivers life-saving drugs in a fraction of the time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more apparent than ever that speed when producing new treatments, in addition to safety and efficacy, can enhance our global well-being. Manufacturers need the ability to scale or pivot quickly, especially when therapeutic technologies are advancing rapidly.

Multimodal facility design is the answer. By leveraging segregation and careful flow paths, facilities can be designed to produce different types of products concurrently or reconfigured to respond to changing demands. For example, multimodal advanced therapy medicinal product (ATMP) facilities provide manufacturers the liberty to support existing products, implement emerging technologies, shift to updated market projections, and prepare for clinical uncertainty, all while decreasing speed to market.

The key is identifying products with operational and regulatory synergies. Then you can design a manufacturing space that can transition between them, which minimizes decontamination time, maximizes equipment usage, and future-proof facilities for tomorrow’s therapies.

Key Takeaway: Facilities responsive to the dynamic needs of the life sciences industry can adapt to the evolving ATMP landscape to deliver products efficiently at scale and as quickly as possible to patients across the world.

SlateXpace™, a CRB solution, is a platformed modular solution which provides multimodal manufacturing unparalleled in speed-to-market, cost effectiveness + adaptability.

Optimization improves the well-being of your facility and employees

Even with well-intentioned facility design, companies often develop a number of non-value-adding activities in their operations and processes over time. While some of these activities may be innocuous—simply creating inefficiencies—others could have negative effects on your products and the well-being of your employees. Any non-value-adding activities that jeopardize the safety of your personnel or your product need to be addressed immediately. Operations improvement consulting can identify these issues and propose fixes to them.

Operations improvement consulting analyzes your facility and processes, identifying non-value-adding activities and developing lean operational solutions.

Key Takeaway: Implementing these improvements allows you to spend more time on value-added activities, like increasing throughput and improving product quality. Streamlining your process also lowers your chances for errors and damage, resulting in a more viable product and enhanced employee safety.

Facility design enhances the employee experience

The health and wellness of your personnel is vitally important to your success and operations. If your facility does not enable and inspire their work, your people will not be able to achieve their full potential. That’s why facility design needs to not only account for the requirements of your process but also the needs of the building occupants.

Safety is paramount. Air and water filtration, active particulate monitoring, humidity control, and material management programs protect occupants from exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Furthermore, the right design can enhance your employees’ experience. For example, you can reduce stress and increase comfort through building design that increases natural light and provides sound mitigation. Access to art and nature indoors, as well as ergonomic workstations, can also improve the way your people work.

Key Takeaway: A facility designed to prioritize the health and wellness of the building occupant can improve mood, productivity, and satisfaction for an enhanced occupant experience.

Facilities can maximize sustainable consumption and production practices

Early, holistic planning can incorporate innovative utility and cost-saving measures to ensure manufacturing facilities operate using minimal resources. A sustainability charrette at the onset of project initiation aligns the project team on goals and begins the ideation process of solutions that best suit your project’s needs.

You cannot improve on what you cannot measure

An important first step to achieve the goal of sustainable consumption and production is getting a baseline on your current practices. You need to understand your current consumption and use before you can determine how you can improve it. Start by setting up a metering program to measure your use of energy and water, as well as your production of waste.

Trending data from submeters for specific processes can identify opportunities for energy, waste, water, and cost savings. Operational data is crucial to facility expansion and future projects so you can set reduction goals and right-size new equipment for the facility, eliminating unnecessary waste.

Key Takeaway: Monitoring energy, water, and waste systems in real-time confirms systems are operating properly and allows for early indication of leaks or anomalous operations, saving time and money to troubleshoot.


Once you’ve determined how your facility is currently using resources, you can put measures in place to use those resources in a more sustainable manner. Biopharma facilities and processes tend to use a lot of water, but there are plenty of opportunities to reduce and reuse water to improve your overall water management.

Condensate, wash water, reverse osmosis (RO) reject, and clean-in-place (CIP) water can be reclaimed in some process systems, used as utility feed water, or re-directed for site irrigation to reduce facility water consumption.

Air-cooled central plants using air water-water heat pumps or air-cooled chillers offer significant water savings by using the air as a heat source/sink and eliminating the need for cooling towers, associated chemical treatment, and refrigerant room machinery space, which frees more facility real estate for manufacturing.

Key Takeaway: Water is a crucial part of the manufacturing process and is a critical resource. Reclaiming reject water, implementing air cooled systems, and CIP optimization are all solutions to reduce water consumption and operate facilities most efficiently.

Ambient Water-for-Injection (WFI) by Membrane with Ozone Sanitization

There are additional opportunities to save water and natural gas with your WFI production process. WFI production through distillation is often one of the largest facility consumers of natural gas and water.

However, membrane WFI generation can be performed at ambient temperatures and typically does not require steam or cooling. Ozone sanitization can also be performed at ambient conditions, with smaller, fast-acting equipment that has faster recovery times than heated sanitization. Electric heaters can be used where hot WFI is required, potentially eliminating steam and limiting fossil fuel usage.

Additionally, membrane WFI production eliminates the space and cost required for traditional multi-effect distillation (MED). Membrane WFI systems typically require less welding and stainless steel than MED, decreasing installation complexity and duration.

Key Takeaway: Membrane ultra-filtration-based WFI generation reduces energy and water needs while maintaining high-quality standards for manufacturing.

Single-Use Plastic Waste Solutions

As the industry faces increased pressure to speed products to market while maintaining or reducing overhead costs, many facilities have implemented single-use plastic. It can help you achieve more flexibility while saving energy and water by avoiding SIP and CIP, but generating (and subsequently disposing of) more single-use plastic.

A solution to minimizing waste, even with increased use, is to repurpose plastics as much as possible. Some single-use tube sets and bags can be reused for certain test runs and research and development facilities. Plastics that cannot be reused can be shredded and sterilized for new applications.

Single-use plastic can be repurposed into construction materials, including plastic pellets and plastic benches, or reformed into syngas for energy production in cogeneration plants.

Key Takeaway: Solutions are available to help manage the plastic and chemical waste associated with single-use plastic.


Facilities can be zero carbon

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) trap heat in the atmosphere and include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Increased GHGs in the atmosphere are a primary driver of climate change. Strategic facility design can eliminate GHG emissions and reduce energy costs.

Energy Conservation Measures

During the design phase of a project, companies that go beyond the “code minimum” and implement sustainable-specific solutions are likely to benefit in the long term with lifetime energy savings.

For example, improving the building envelope can limit unwanted thermal energy gains and losses, enhancing other thermal reduction measures including demand control ventilation, modifying internal setpoints, and optimizing air change rates. Additionally, when it comes to HVAC and lighting for non-GMP spaces, occupancy controls can be an effective way to reduce energy consumption.

Key Takeaway: Reducing energy needs through applying best design and construction practices early on in a project and implementing energy conservation measures can reduce carbon emissions and energy costs.

On-Site Renewable Electricity

A growing number of biopharma companies are turning to on-site renewable electricity as a strategy for energy generation. There are many forms of prime power generation such as photovoltaics (PV), wind turbines, geothermal and hydro-power. While all of these options have their advantages, a distinct advantage of photovoltaics is that and implementation can benefit building occupants. For large manufacturing facilities, operators can turn an idle asset (the roof) into a valuable generator of renewable energy. They can also be installed as carports, which provide shade to building occupants and better street visibility for improved public image.

At present, financing is a key component to making renewables like photovoltaics economically viable. As PV systems grow in popularity, new options and strategies for financing are emerging.

  • Significant tax advantages and incentives from governments and utilities are available. For example, the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for Solar has been extended through 2026.
  • New business models are emerging to help companies finance their installation and maintenance. For example, a third party may finance your rooftop PV system and then you would buy back the electricity it generates at a constant low rate through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
  • For remaining electricity needs not covered by Solar PV generation, community choice aggregation (CCA) programs are available in an increasing number of states that enable end-users to procure green electricity.

Key Takeaway: Generating 100% carbon-free, renewable electricity on-site can decrease reliance on grid-supplied electricity, reduce energy costs, and decrease a facility’s carbon footprint.


Technologies that use electricity as a fuel source result in lower carbon dioxide emissions than those that use fossil fuels. Electrification doesn’t always mean a significant change to the setup of the manufacturing process, but rather a change in equipment or initial design.

For example, implementing an efficient hot water system design at low temperatures, combined with the use of electric heat recovery heat pumps can reduce thermal losses of a system and decrease energy costs. Another example is that campus steam can be reduced through optimizing SIP and CIP processes, and remaining steam needs can be generated through electric boilers.

Key Takeaway: Zero Carbon Emission facilities are possible through eliminating combustion and fossil fuels from operations and can reduce project capital and operating cost

Manufacturing facilities are crucial for life sciences companies to deliver life-enhancing medicines and can support the industry initiative to enact the SDGs. While not an exhaustive list, these solutions align with the SDGs and offer ample opportunity to optimize facility operation, increase flexibility, resiliency, and cost savings. Each facility is unique, and these innovations can be tailored to best achieve a specific facility’s requirements and goals.

Curious how your facility can best align with the SDGs for maximum benefit? Our sustainability experts are here to help. 

 Return to top

Related Content

inside a vast warehouse

Warehouse layout ideas for a sustainable future

Forward-thinking sustainable warehouse design ideas for layout, resiliency, efficiency, and safety

Read More
Sustainable site energy solutions: Ten things you can do now for big impact

Sustainable energy solutions: 10 things you can do now for big impact

While alternative energy solutions are not a new thing, their economical payback has improved considerably with increased technological strides and available incentives.

Read More