Share Linkedin icon Twitter icon Facebook icon Whatsapp icon
Latest Insights Latest Insights

03 April 2024

Gul Dusi on navigating Life Sciences construction in California

It's hard to understate what a powerhouse California has become in the life sciences industry. The state is the largest employer of life sciences workers in the US and has added more jobs in the sector than any other state over the last decade.

It's hard to understate what a powerhouse California has become in the life sciences industry. The state is the largest employer of life sciences workers in the US and has added mo...

With more than 22 years of experience in the life sciences design and construction industry, Gul Dusi offers extensive expertise in supporting design and construction projects for major healthcare and life sciences clients. On April 18th, Gul will showcase her expertise at the Bisnow Southern California Life Sciences conference, where she will engage in a panel discussion on the key considerations for Facilities of the Future in the life sciences industry. Tickets for this in person event are available for purchase through the Bisnow website. 

Explore Gul’s valuable insights on the California life sciences industry below.  

Few industries have as deep a footprint in California as life sciences. The sector is home to nearly 14,000 businesses that employ more than a million people at an average wage of more than $162,000 – Californians employed in life sciences earn a staggering $54.6 billion a year. And despite uncertainties in the US economy and massive layoffs in the high-tech sector, California life sciences businesses continue to attract significant venture capital investment, which jumped more than 50% from $11.4 billion in 2019 to $17.3 billion in 2022.

California's prominence in the medical realm extends to its abundance of exceptional hospitals and ground-breaking medical treatments often unparalleled elsewhere, further enhancing its appeal for various endeavors. It's no wonder that global pharmaceutical companies are increasingly sourcing innovation through alliances and partnerships with their peers in California. While talent and capital are key to this success, the physical infrastructure that makes this rapid growth possible is a critical part of the Golden State’s ascent to the pinnacle of the life sciences industry.   

Why California?   

It's hard to understate what a powerhouse California has become in the life sciences industry. The state is the largest employer of life sciences workers in the nation and has added more jobs in the sector than any other state over the last decade. California institutions were the top recipients of NIH funding in 2022; spending in R&D and innovation through partnerships and alliances has grown over the past two years. California accounted for 15–18% of patents granted in core life sciences applications between 2018 and 2022. It’s no surprise that California companies lead life sciences transformation worldwide, and other businesses from all over are clamoring to work with them.    

The state of California has a distinct set of assets that have driven growth in the life sciences industry. The state is home to world-renowned universities that produce a steady supply of masters- and doctoral-level talent. California also hosts multiple medical and biochemical R&D labs, think tanks, and drug development laboratories, and the state is also home to top hospitals and clinical laboratories that offer revolutionary infrastructure created by decades of dedicated public and private investment.    

All these factors and more have transformed California into a leading destination for life sciences facilities, making the state as well known for medical breakthroughs and biotech as it is for telecommunications and software. California’s world-class education system has created an unparalleled talent pipeline – more than 3.7 million residents have graduate degrees – as well as an array of workforce development initiatives, focused on life sciences careers. California is also well-positioned to benefit from an increasing emphasis on diversity in clinical trials, and its global dominance in digital technology has created a critical growth skill set for life sciences careers.   

Embarking on Life Sciences Construction 

In discussing the construction landscape for life sciences facilities in California, it's worth highlighting that California is the fifth largest economy globally. This economic prowess lends a significant backdrop to the dynamic landscape of challenges and innovative solutions in the life sciences sector. While grappling with higher real estate costs and initial construction expenses compared to other regions, California's thriving life sciences ecosystem balances these factors. The stringent regulatory framework, encompassing sustainability demands, code requirements like Title 24, and meticulous regulatory reviews, might initially appear daunting. However, these measures signify California's commitment to upholding elevated standards and fostering sustainable growth. 

While STEM talent compensation reflects real estate costs, the state's advanced skill set should be noted. Growing demand has cultivated an adept pool of labor and construction professionals, enhancing the industry's backbone. Seeking project partners in this climate demands careful consideration but benefits from a talent pool versed in life sciences facility intricacies. 

Addressing concerns about construction pace and cost efficiency necessitates a broadened perspective. California excels in harmonizing sustainability, cutting-edge tech, and skilled labor, creating an environment that outlasts obstacles. Proficiency in minimal rework, optimized scheduling, and streamlined costs positions California as a pioneer for transformative life sciences projects. 

Tackling challenges head-on, Integrated Project Management is a revolutionary approach that benefits California's life sciences sector. Specialized project managers lead collaboration among architects, cost managers, schedulers, and construction specialists. This synergyaligns with Lean Principles and Integrated Project Delivery, ensuring seamless coordination from design to compliance and pricing dynamics. A comprehensive team crafts tailored solutions, culminating in transformational designs that transcend norms, displaying excellence within California's regulated environment. 

Two Examples   

To truly grasp the immense value that specialized project managers bring to life sciences companies, let's delve into an experience of mine. One of the clients I had the privilege to collaborate with envisioned constructing a central utility plant powered by 100% carbon-neutral materials and renewable energy. The ambitious goal was to surpass even California's stringent environmental standards. In this endeavor, we adopted a holistic approach beyond mere cost considerations. 

In the pursuit of excellence, we presented the client with diverse options from the outset of the pricing review. Carefully evaluating around 15 pricing models, the client chose a hybrid solution that seamlessly blends renewable and non-renewable energy sources. To get there, we conducted a comprehensive investigation, exploring material and equipment options, conducting thorough site visits to assess the feasibility of renewable energy projects, and engaging with equipment vendors. This method extended to reviewing the design and energy models, all contributing to a more thorough pricing strategy with the client's best interests in mind. 

Another instance involves a building selected that wouldn’t supply necessary ceiling heights for our tenant improvement (TI) program. During the initial document review and site assessment, our skilled team noticed that these heights didn't meet our standards. We ingeniously used communication methods and reprogramming strategies from the TI and core and shell sides to solve this. These innovative approaches effectively resolved the problem, highlighting California's proactive stance in tackling challenges early through advanced technology and collaborative on-site teams. Like the tech sector, the state's construction industry shines with top-tier contractors and engineering firms, highlighting its progressive and dynamic nature. 

The Golden State offers profound opportunities as medical and biotech research trajectories continue to center there. With lab-grown food gaining approval for sale and synthetic food and beverage giants establishing roots in California alongside researchers pioneering longevity treatments, the state solidifies its role as a nucleus for progressive breakthroughs. Moreover, the pressing concerns of climate change resonate across diverse scientific domains, and it's conceivable that the subsequent monumental discovery might emerge from within a California-based life sciences entity. 

Investor confidence remains unwavering in California's life sciences ventures. Industry leaders harboring aspirations of being part of this dynamic ecosystem should consider establishing a presence in the state. Navigating the intricacies of high real estate costs, intricate state regulations, and licensing requisites calls for guidance from construction consultants. These experts stand ready to ensure projects are executed at the right price and within the stipulated timeline, solidifying the legacy of California's pioneering spirit. 


Related Insights