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Growing Pains: Part 3 – Creating a Roadmap for Your New Lab Space

When you are about to build out a new lab facility, you need to have a clear plan for how to get to the endgame: functional lab operations. A project roadmap is critical; having an owner’s representative to help you through the early planning phases can make all the difference. This article will outline the five steps to create your project roadmap.

1. Develop a Project Charter.
A charter is a document created to identify and document the project drivers, risks, and priorities, as well as other goals you hope to achieve. Include key stakeholders in the conversation and ensure your budget constraints are clear.

Your C-Suite executives need to be involved to help identify the goals and the long-range business objectives for the project. Everyone should understand the priorities of the organization, as you may need to make compromises during the design and construction process. Your design will in many respects define the culture you are trying to achieve.

2. Generate a Program Document.
The information you used to determine if a location meets your space requirements is helpful, but usually headcount and projections don’t fully represent the needs of your business. Therefore, a more detailed program is crucial.

Work with your project team on this step. They should have direct access to the staff who will be responsible for specific spaces. Your program must capture how groups work together, what areas of growth are expected, as well as the nuances of your work flow, your storage and office support needs, and your detailed equipment requirements.

3. Create the Equipment List.
This list will be critical in planning and designing your new lab. It identifies all pieces of equipment, required utility connections, as well as details about size, weight, ventilation and electrical requirements. It will help you identify the different spaces you’ll need to include, as well as capture detailed information that will be critical as you move forward in planning. Your architects and engineers will use the program and lab equipment list to develop the ultimate plan for your new lab.

4. Create a Master Project Schedule.
You need to plan for the time it takes to design, build and buy furniture and equipment for your new space. Consider the time it will take to gain consensus and acquire internal approvals. Understand what is needed to get your space up and running before you start – commissioning and validation can mean production downtime. Permits are required for items such as hazardous/flammable chemical storage and water discharge – EH&S needs to work within state and federal timelines for approvals. Unrealistic expectations can derail even the best laid plans.

5. Create a Project Budget.
Consider all costs associated with the project, not just the construction. Soft costs (design and consulting fees) and other “below the line” costs typically aren’t included in construction pricing. This includes expenses like furnishings, equipment, and supplies. Relocation and decommissioning costs need to be factored in as well. Understand your lease termination requirements – delays in schedule could lead to additional costs if you need to extend your lease.

Complete these five steps and you will have the roadmap for your new lab. If things change, use your roadmap to determine if you can accommodate for this in your project scope. Additionally, you can benchmark against your milestones throughout the project to ensure you are keeping your project on track.

Be sure to check out parts one and two of this series:

Growing Pains – Moving Beyond the Comforts of an Incubator Lab Space

Growing Pains: Part 2 – How to develop a safe lab environment

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