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Injecting brand and personality into lab design

The client

Sphere Fluidics is a ground-breaking organisation working in the development and commercialisation of single-cell analysis technology for biopharmaceutical discovery.

Having worked with the client in what is referred to as ‘Phase One’ at Granta Centre which is a statement building on Granta Park, the company’s growth and expansion continues with Phase Two.

The brief

Sphere Fluidics tasked us with expanding their footprint in Granta Centre following Phase One. This included a significant number of specialised laboratories, welcoming spaces to host clients and flexible spaces to accommodate for future growth.

This multiple-stage project aims to bring together all the client’s teams currently located at three different sites and accommodate for their expansion. To achieve this, the new space needed to be converted, as it was originally designed to be an office and conferencing space, and the client required multiple labs to be installed, as well as adapting the existing office space.

Despite the plethora of labs required for this project, the client wanted to create a space that did not feel clinical and that seamlessly integrated into its natural surroundings, whilst embodying the new branding in a bold and aspirational setting.

TWI plane outside Granta Park building

The challenges

  1. Conducting major building works in an occupied, multi-tenant building was the primary challenge for this project.
    • Having previously worked in the building, we were familiar with the environment and, consequently, able to mitigate potential risks.
  2. The complex requirements for air handling meant that we had to install a new air handling unit, as well as a new ventilation riser from the ground floor up to the roof plant deck.
    • To facilitate the new riser installation, we engaged with a structural engineer to design and remove large sections of concrete slab. To ensure the utmost safety we carried out temporary works design with stringent health and safety considerations.

The Solution

Phase Two includes:

    • Bold and significant new kitchen / breakout space
    • Several open-plan offices
    • Formal and informal meeting areas
    • Impressive reception
    • Boardroom
    • Chemistry labs
    • Mass Spectrometry Lab
    • Microfabrication lab
    • Production lab
    • Quality Control lab
    • Workshops
    • Logistics area

Brand cohesiveness

The team at Sphere Fluidics has completed a rebrand since Phase One; moving away from a light purple, pink and navy, to an electric green and dark teal, with bright accent colours. Our design team was tasked with maintaining consistency whilst showcasing the vibrant new branding.

As the client wanted to step away from a white and clinical lab, we suggested that each lab had an accent colour to inject personality into the space – quite a departure from the common look for a lab.

To maintain consistency, we integrated certain key features from Phase One, including:

  • Banquette seating with planting
  • Glazed partitions
  • Kitchen tiles
  • Office planters

Bringing the outdoors inside

Both the client and the design team focused heavily on employee wellbeing. This is of particular importance when designing laboratories, as employees are likely to spend a large portion of their time in clinical and sterile environments.

Biophilic elements have been shown to have a significant influence on employee wellbeing. We chose to draw influence from nature in our designs by:

  • Making use of the new branding which draws on natural tones of green.
  • Maximising the breath-taking views of Granta Park surrounding the entire space.
  • The sheer use of space is evident in the ceiling gantry in the reception area, the rounded organic shapes, and the accents of walnut.
  • Using planting to add natural touches and create an added layer of privacy and separation between banks of desks.
  • Consistent oak effect finishes to tabletops throughout the offices and breakout spaces.

How to cater to different types of labs in one space

Sphere Fluidics has a multidisciplinary team that requires specialised and bespoke lab spaces for different elements of their work, which meant converting the designated office space into eight new laboratories.

As the building’s existing air handling units were not able to meet the necessary air ventilation requirements, we designed a new ventilation riser and installed a fume extract system alongside a dedicated air handling unit.

In addition to the above we also:

  • Supplied CO2 system for the client’s laboratories including incubators and other laboratory equipment in the Quality Control laboratory.
  • New dedicated distribution boards serving the lab areas and uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) for any sensitive equipment.
  • New ducted fume hoods for the Chemistry and Production laboratories.
  • Installed a house vacuum system across the laboratories.
  • Built a workshop with local extract ventilation for a Lathe and a Milling machine.
  • Extended services from Phase One: CAT-5 boosted cold water system.
  • Supplemented and modified the existing lighting SIMMTRONIC lighting control system to ensure the open plan space, offices and Lab areas are provided with the correct LUX levels whilst maintaining an energy-efficient lighting system.
  • New bespoke building management system (BMS) which monitors all the new plant installed, including motorised Variable Air Volume (VAV) dampers on the fume cupboard system linked to individual monitoring stations.

Employee safety was a priority

To ensure employee safety, in all labs that required CO2 and nitrogen systems, a new gas detection/oxygen depletion system was installed. Even when working with inert gases this is important for the safety of all staff as these are an undetectable threat unless monitored properly via oxygen depletion alarms.

The outcome

This project included extensive M&E work with additional work commissioned by the landlord to upgrade the space and meet the client needs, which had to be added to our existing programme.

Despite the challenging brief, the project was completed within budget and on time. The result is a range of magnificent, state-of-the-art, non-clinical, lab spaces, with extensive breakout spaces, which incorporate the client’s new branding and a sense of personality.

collage of office and lab space in Cambridge

What our client thought

“We used COEL to convert circa. 20,000 sq ft of conferencing space into purpose built laboratory and office facilities. Our laboratories comprise of Chemistry, Biology, Production, QC and Engineering so we have quite specific needs and also wanted to create an aspirational workplace for our staff. Our challenging brief required a fit out company who could really understand our needs and work with us to achieve a complex design and fit out.

COEL were selected following a competitive tender process as a result of their understanding of the brief and the production of a costing pack that was clear and within budget. After selection, there was still significant work to be done to finalise the design, understand the specific technical requirements for the labs, as well as incorporate the company’s new branding into the look and feel of the offices and furniture.

The project was delivered on time, including the relocation of staff and equipment from our previous site on a different campus. The Sphere Fluidics team are delighted with the final delivery of the space which exceeded the expectations and aspirations of our employees.”

Philip Butterfield, Director of Health, Safety and Facilities at Sphere Fluidics.

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