48 / BUILDING DIALOGUE / December 2022 ELEMENTS Mass Timber Mass Timber: Designing for Differentiation in Life Sciences I t’s no secret that the life sciences industry in Colorado is booming. Companies looking to move inland from more expensive coastal hubs and tap into the region’s highly educated workforce are driving de- mand way up for life scienc- es-capable environments. And unlike other industries shifting how (and how of- ten) they use office space, life sciences campus- es represent more certainty as in-person, hands- on innovation is a must for this workforce. With so many commercial real estate devel- opers eager to get in on the life sciences game – whether it’s a ground-up development of a ret- rofit or an existing office – the industry is see- ing record levels of investment in the market. With more than 3.5 million square feet of life sciences development underway now in the Denver-Boul- der area alone, differentiation is the name of the game for an increasingly crowded space. Mass timber can be that differentiator. But, while mass timber has become the hottest trend in office design for both the strong biophilic benefits and its potential as a more sustainable building material, developers (and ten- ants) of life sciences properties have been slow to adopt the practice. As a result, life sciences office and lab spaces still look largely interchangeable, creating a significant op- portunity for forward-thinking developers. Through our firm’s work on the design of the first cross-laminated timber office building in Colorado and in subsequent work with clients, including those exploring CLT in a life sciences context, our team and our partners have conducted extensive research on the applications of this material. The reality is that mass timber is suitable for life sciences projects and can help developers and owners set their space apart, create healthier, more sustainable en- vironments and appeal to the next generation of the work- force. n Myth-busting CLT. First, let’s address the misconcep- tions that are preventing developers of life sciences proj- ects from using cross-laminated timber in their develop- ments today. Using large amounts of wood in an environment with flammable or sensitive materials, or environments that require a high degree of cleanliness, would seem on the surface, risky. However, a growing body of research shows that cross-laminated timber can be perfectly safe in many lab applications and, in fact, may prove more structurally The entryway at Vaisala’s headquarters embodies Scandinavian aesthetics complemented with CLT. Viasala’s North American headquarters in Louisville showcases CLT throughout the space. Joseph Anastasi, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Associate Principal, OZ Architecture