Science should not be stressful

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South Korean conglomerate CJ Corporation was on a mission to combine its distinct pharmaceutical, biotechnology and food products businesses into a single location in order to increase both efficiency and global competitiveness. The company turned to CannonDesign to develop CJ Blossom Park, its 1.2 million gross square foot research and development headquarters in Suwon, South Korea.

Completed in March 2017 at a total construction cost of $608 million, CJ Blossom Park takes the inspiration for its architecture from CJ’s own brand identity—a three-petal flower representing its three distinct science divisions. Each of the divisions is housed in its own respective tower, and the three towers are built around a sunlight-filled central atrium where employees can meet to collaborate and socialize. The design team used advanced barometric monitoring to study the movement of the sun around the building to maximize daylight.

Mehrdad Yazdani, Design Principal, Director of Yazdani Studio at CannonDesign, was the submitting architect for the Laboratory of the Year entry. “While the building occupies a prominent site along a major boulevard in Suwon, it is also adjacent to a park providing views of trees and a landscaped hillside. Our team set out to design a facility that was truly responsive to its environment and took advantage of the unique attributes of the site. The resulting building’s massing and form creates an iconic presence along the boulevard, while its façade design maximizes daylighting and views for its occupants.”

“Creating this building became a very interactive design process. Our team worked in close collaboration with not only CJ’s leadership, but a wide range of the company’s scientists and staff,” Yazdani said. “We held numerous interactive workshops in Seoul and Los Angeles to solicit input from the client at various stages of the design.”

The architecture of CJ Blossom Park, which brings three research areas together into a central facility, is intended to reflect CJ’s company mantra, “Only One.”

“The goal of the new facility is to unite scientific expertise that existed in the firm in different locations into one common collaborative environment that could support modern research technologies,” said Steve Copenhagen, LEED AP, Science and Technology Planning, Principal with CannonDesign. “Additionally, the facility is designed to offer best-in-class research technology and remarkable amenities to boost recruitment and retention of top researchers.”

The three-petal flower identity represents not only the company’s three previously separate businesses, but the idea of delivering health, happiness and convenience to its customers as well. The concept of well-being and contentment also carries over to the employees who work in CJ Blossom Park. The Laboratory of the Year judging panel admired the project’s approach to culture and the avoidance of “burnout mentality,” with a vast array of amenities available to those who work in the building. About 900 researchers work in approximately 750,000 square feet of lab space at CJ Blossom Park—space was needed for them to meet, collaborate and relax.

“The design of CJ Blossom Park is rooted in the ‘New Scientific Workplace’ concept—a radical design approach that replaces traditional laboratory planning ideas with integrated innovation strategies to create dynamic, boundary-less environments that increase productivity, efficiency and creativity,” said Copenhagen. “Designing to empower this concept was vital for the CJ organization, as it helped bring together all of its disparate business entities into one central location.”

In order to attract and hold on to the next generation of scientists, CJ worked with CannonDesign to develop a plan that accommodates not only laboratories and workspaces but nearly 50 distinct amenities, encompassing 100,000 square feet of the building, to help CJ employees unwind. These special features include coffee shops, a library, fitness rooms and a spa, sleeping pods and a café. Also featured is an “interior living forest,” which spans two levels of the building and can be seen from inside the laboratories.

The labs at CJ Blossom Park start on the second floor and include all subsequent floors. In order to achieve flexibility for future advances in research, the building utilizes a universal grid system which consists of three planning modules measuring 10.5 feet. This option allows for an easy transformation to interior spaces, while avoiding any dramatic changes to the infrastructure.

The facility employs a universal bench design measuring 5 feet by 2.5 feet—this setup is non-directional and can therefore be organized in either parallel or perpendicular direction to offer greater flexibility for collaboration and teamwork. To address utility concerns, an overhead service boom accommodates power, data and lab gasses.

To save money and energy, a task + ambient lighting strategy was employed in CJ Blossom Park. General lighting (with its lower illuminance requirements) was separated from the task lighting, which requires higher foot-candle levels for more fine-tuned tasks. Energy-intense light levels were localized solely to the areas where they are required, rather than entire laboratory zones. Task lighting is able to move with the furniture during bench layout reconfiguration to improve the overall visual experience no matter where the furniture or workers are physically located.

CJ Blossom Park’s active chilled beam system is unique to Korea, featuring a centralized heat pipe energy recovery system concept that serves all open lab spaces and works in collaboration with a centralized, manifolded AHU system that serves the open lab spaces in each petal tower. CannonDesign decided to go with this system rather than a conventional VAV system and a CV fan coil unit system due to its maintenance simplicity, competitiveness of net construction costs, flexibility potential in regards to changing lab space cooling loads, thermal comfort and exceptional energy performance. The result is an active chilled beam system that provides over 9 percent energy savings (63 percent fan energy savings) over a CV fan coil unit system. The task + ambient lighting strategy shows over 52 percent Lighting Power Density savings compared to the code.

Copenhagen said that this choice resulted from “a number of discussions, education and explanations plus hardcore engineering calculations. The system challenged the local conservative engineering approach and understanding relative to local climate conditions. Our engineers worked closely with the local Engineer-of-Record to develop risk assessments and to show the operational and energy savings a chilled beam system could provide.”

Planning a building located in Asia presented a unique situation, said Yazdani, who is based in Los Angeles.

“Designing an innovative and complex facility thousands of miles away presents many challenges that require creativity and timely problem solving as well as a commitment to collaboration and idea sharing,” said Yazdani. “Two of the main challenges we faced included constructing the building’s exterior metal scrim, as it required close collaboration among our team, our local architects and engineers, CJ construction managers and subconsultants—and persuading CJ scientists that the New Scientific Workplace concept would bolster their efforts. We addressed this challenge by engaging them during the design process and illustrating how it could increase collaboration, flexibility and productivity.”

The plan to merge three previously separate businesses into one central building was also a challenge for CannonDesign. CJ Corporation was not initially keen on the idea, but the benefits of increased collaboration eventually swayed the company.

“There is always anxiety with change. CJ’s three business divisions were not originally sure of the benefits that could stem from cross-operational collaboration. Previously, their focus has been on delivering their individual business mandates and not reaching out to the other units,” said Copenhagen. “The projects started with a programming effort to make sure each group’s technological and equipment needs were understood and could be accommodated, and that the adjacencies both vertically and on each floor allowed for the desired programmatic functions and interactions. While there is a significant difference between a kimchi pilot facility in the Food tower and a cGMP pharmaceutical development lab in the Pharma tower, the common denominator is the genius and creativity of the CJ scientists. Creating a research facility to foster this collaboration synergy was always the driving vision of the project.”

“The bigger challenge was the cultural change management necessary for the New Scientific Workplace approach to fulfill its vision,” Copenhagen continued. “This approach intentionally focused on creating the collaboration within and between the separate business units. The use of more ‘open’ laboratories with enclosures only as functionally necessary was an entirely new approach compared to the company’s traditional facilities with the goal of increased collaboration within and between the different units.”

The Laboratory of the Year judging panel remarked that CJ Blossom Park is an “attractive building,” which successfully uses its grand identity as its framework. Yazdani, in his Laboratory of the Year acceptance speech at the 2018 Laboratory Design Conference in Philadelphia on April 23, said that CJ Blossom Park was a project that was truly a pleasure for him to work on, and that he was happy to be part of a unified team that worked in very energetic, collaborative ways.

“This truly was a dynamic dialogue between the design team, the lab design team and the client, and the result is a building where you don’t know who did what,” said Yazdani. “It’s been a truly seamless collaboration.”

Science should not be stressful

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