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SIOR Releases New Whitepaper on Extending Lifespan of Biopharmaceutical Facilities


The Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR), in conjunction with The Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC), has released its second whitepaper in the DesignFlex2030 initiative. Rx for Change: The Flexible Biopharma Facility of the Future” outlines creative and practical suggestions on how to extend the lifecycle of future biopharmaceutical facilities so they can be repurposed quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively for rapid scale-up and scale-down, technological change, scientific breakthroughs, and process innovation.

“Our goal in creating these whitepapers with IAMC is to ensure that members of both organizations, and in turn all of the people and interests that they interact with, remain at the forefront of the CRE industry’s best-in-class thought leadership and trends, which in turn creates value across the entire ecosystem,” said Geoffrey Kasselman, SIOR’s Global President. “This paper encourages our industry to think about the issues specific to pharma facilities in the very beginning stages of design and development. Heeding these considerations and suggestions can ensure that unforeseen issues and/or significant project setbacks with such facilities are diminished or avoided all together.”

The whitepaper addresses the problems with biopharmaceutical facilities that are built for today’s use, with no thought about the future. New life sciences production facilities can cost anywhere from $500 million to upwards of $1 billion. They are typically built around a single product and can’t be easily reconfigured, so they are often unusable after just 15-20 years. Whenever companies bring a new drug to market the process starts over, and they invest millions more in new facilities and equipment. Reselling aging and unwanted pharma real estate represents a challenge to both the owners and economic developers, who may have a hard time attracting new users due to the lack of flexibility.

“The distinctive design proposed in this new whitepaper incorporates the latest thinking in industrial design and workflow efficiency and will help companies attract and retain the highly educated talent they will need to retain their competitive edge going forward,” said Tate Godfrey, Executive Director, IAMC. “Such upgrades will also increase public support and acceptance, enabling a smoother permitting and construction process.”

Key aspects of next-generation design and best practices for future biopharmaceutical facilities include:

  • Expandable and adaptable facility for rapid change-out of equipment as technology or processes change.
  • Easy conversion to other uses, vastly increasing industrial capabilities and upping the resale value.
  • Wide open spaces with few structural columns for total flexibility; allows for ramp up for a single blockbuster drug or ramp down after patent expiration
  • Flexibility to produce in massive quantities or on a small scale.
  • Manufacturing of multiple products at the same time, using both continuous and batch production, depending on what works best.
  • Rapid retooling to meet sudden demand for a vaccine or medicine in the event of an international public health emergency.
  • Pre-fabricated fill-and-finish modules that snap into other modules on site can ship globally to where demand is highest.

Two acclaimed firms with significant architectural, engineering, industrial process and construction expertise in the biopharma and pharmaceutical sector, Burns & McDonnell and Fluor, lent their top architectural, engineering, and industrial process resources to participate in the project and develop the design concepts.

“Building life sciences facilities with maximum flexibility will not only allow for a boost in manufacturing efficiency with multiple processes and functions happening under one roof but also lower the risk of cross-contamination and reduce energy costs,” said Todd Mion, Facilities Integration Specialist, Fluor. “It’s exciting to think that the future facilities will be able to morph into whatever size or form is needed and will no longer become obsolete.”

This is the second DesignFlex2030 paper in the series. The first whitepaper, “Recipe for Change: The Flexible Food Processing Plant of the Future,” offered practical and innovative design solutions that would facilitate ease of repurposing, improve efficiency, increase worker safety, and up the resale value of food processing facilities.

 The full study can be found at, and



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