Having a future-focussed mindset challenges us from the outset to design-in changes in scale, use and technology. Outbreak response, for example, requires testing laboratories that can accommodate a major ramp up in throughput as well as a range of pathogens. Building in a resilient scale-up capability is increasingly important to deal with the unknown and is now a fundamental requirement for facilities fighting a major disease outbreak.
Climate change is also an important driver. Responding to this requires highly resilient, energy-efficient buildings that can accommodate a wide range of temperatures. Ventilation rates must be maintained in extreme weather and utilities must remain secure even in the face of more frequent storms, floods and droughts.
Being future-focussed also means designing smart buildings and factories that are easy to update in response to rapid technological advances. This is why more and more of our projects are digital twins – so that future scenario planning can be carried out in a virtual world.
A seamless flow of information is a vital part of a future-focussed mindset. Recent projects have seen more collaboration across companies, with digital tools used not just for virtual meetings but for information flow. This ensures project teams that are spread across several companies all see the latest information.
While nobody knows what the next challenge facing the pharmaceutical industry will be, it’s likely that a quick response will be required. This means facilities must be agile, designed for speedy changes in focus – if new equipment must be brought in or new technology emerges, for example. Designers must be agile too, adopting the latest powerful and efficient digital tools to provide early design concepts that enable quick decisions on estimating and scheduling – and encouraging the supply chain to do the same.
Applying the full benefits of BIM by creating a digital twin with full integration of design tools at the beginning of a project enables ultra-fast-track delivery. It also enables changes to existing facilities to be made quickly, supporting rapid and thorough decision making.
Safety and security
Flexibility and agility count for nothing if business continuity and the highest standards of safety and security are not integrated into this approach. We must continue to maintain the highest standards, applying quality by design and constructability principles, ensuring we specify robust systems that enable the vital work the pharmaceutical and life science sector undertakes to continue no matter what.
The resilience of engineering systems to component failure – especially for facilities undertaking complex research and biosafety programmes – are also key drivers in our designs. We need to accommodate space for duty standby provision, as well as secure buildings and IT systems to combat physical and cyber security breaches, which are becoming a more significant threat.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry has worked extensively across governmental boundaries and with the entire supply chain. As designers, we must work collaboratively too – leaving our badges at the door and working as single, unified project teams.
As a designer, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable when working this way. Not having everything nailed down before engaging supply chains can seem alien to engineers and scientists. That brings with it a growth mindset and the industry continue to push the boundaries of possibilities.