Designing for life-changing scientific inquiry

After 20 years of working in North Carolina, in 2021 Shepley Bulfinch furthered its commitment to the Research Triangle region with the acquisition of Durham, based PARC design lab. It allowed the firm to expand its significant academic science, research, and healthcare portfolio to support leading life science companies, institutions, and start-ups delivering transformative and life-saving therapies.

One exciting venture is Triangle 54, with Longfellow Real Estate Partners, a campus of 1 million sf envisioned as a vibrant world-class science and technology campus for transformative companies. Located in the heart of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, the campus is organized around a courtyard that fosters a creative and connected working environment, including various collaborative research spaces, light manufacturing, vivariums, workplace, greenhouse facilities, and lifestyle services.

Triangle 54 is one of the region’s first large-scale life science development properties to consider integrated sustainable and resilient design beyond the known checklist. Throughout this project, design guidelines were created to reduce carbon use, conserve water, promote health and wellness, increase biodiversity through ecological restoration, and ensure climate readiness. However, site and project-specific constraints do not support on-site renewable energy productions such as solar or geothermal systems. Instead, the project uses high-efficiency heat pumps, air handlers, and energy recovery, and future campus microgrids to anticipate a future net-zero-ready project while reducing operating costs by as much as 30%.

Life science design

Prominently located along the regional Interstate 40 corridor in the growing Research Triangle Park, Building One of Triangle 54 is both large-scale, permeable, and welcoming. It is a seven-story 295,000 SF building with a mechanical penthouse capable of supporting leading life companies and start-ups in the innovation economy. It serves as a prominent campus entry and its site and scale relationship to future development will create a unique research environment.

The design of Building One facilitates energy reduction through solar orientation, façade material selection, and shading devices while also providing generous access to natural light and views. The building skin is a composition of metals and glass with broad shading devices in concert with a rhythm of vertical mullions of varying lengths and depths, creating a dynamic façade that tracks the sun’s movement throughout the day.

At the ground plane, the building rests on a natural stone base, connecting visitors and users to a vibrant and sustainable courtyard through windows and prominent entry. The stone base opens to amenities and meeting spaces, branded as Elevate. Together, these programs are designed to spark engaging connections that will enrich the campus and community.

Today’s research environments require flexible and functional spaces capable of supporting a variety of wet, dry, and computational labs. These facilities are more than speculative office buildings on an 11-foot lab structural module. They require understanding the breadth of future research needs and predict the potential safety, security, and specialty equipment needs. We seek to balance the maximum open space of a building plan with the ability to provide various programmatic adjacencies and ongoing access to service infrastructure. Additionally, these easily-transformable environments require efficient structure and infrastructure such as thoughtful bay spacing, loading capacity, low-vibration, floor-to-floor heights core locations, and the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

Triangle 54 is an exciting addition to Shepley Bulfinch’s portfolio of innovative design. We are honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with Longfellow Real Estate Partners and North Carolina’s innovation economy. We also look forward to continued design collaborations with leading private-sector developers and academic institutions – in the RTP and beyond – to create interdisciplinary research facilities and biotech manufacturing spaces that can deliver ground-breaking solutions to our world’s challenges.

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