London landlords will need to experiment with how they build and let lab space

Until recently, life science occupiers looking for office and lab space in London had limited options due to a significant lack of purpose-built stock, especially outside the primary clusters of Kings Cross and White City. However, this is now starting to change with new schemes in the pipeline, as well as a focus on emerging locations such as Whitechapel and Southbank.

The challenge though is that this type of space is often more expensive to build and less efficient than a conventional office building. This is especially true when factoring in the additional space required in order to facilitate larger plant areas, enhanced M&E and the slab-to-slab heights needed to accommodate a laboratory.

Nevertheless, an increasing number of developers and landlords are considering developing suitable space in order to attract life science occupiers. This has led to discussions about how best to make these buildings viable, particularly from a cost perspective.

Consequently, landlords are getting creative. There are already examples in more mature markets in the US and closer to home in the UK that have struck a successful balance.

One example is Chesterford Research Park near Cambridge, jointly owned by Aviva Investors and Uttlesford District Council. Following the success of the Newnham Building, a 37,000 sq ft fully fitted laboratory refurbishment that was fully let prior to completion last year, they have now started work on the whole-scale refurbishment of the existing Emmanuel Building. Upon completion the building will provide an additional 37,400 sq ft of fitted lab space, office and ancillary areas divided into four self-contained suites. Offered at a premium, rents are approximately 30 per cent higher than a conventional office building to reflect this enhanced specification.

What then are the benefits to the occupier?

In London specifically, the availability of pre-enabled or pre-fitted lab space is incredibly limited. Up until now many life science businesses have had to look at converting existing office stock at significant expense, with limited options as this can only be carried out on a building by building basis and isn’t always possible.

Therefore, the existence of this type of building will, in short, offer better provision of lab space throughout the capital enabling life science occupiers to create bespoke facilities without the associated costs.

Ultimately, in order to cater to life science occupiers, London landlords will need to take a new approach to ensure they factor in the flexibility to futureproof their developments.


First published by Savills, 15th April, 2021