Alexandria Nautilus campus in Torrey Pines, San DiegoWhat if you could accelerate the time to discovery? Make employees happier at work, more productive, and innovative faster? Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. (Alexandria), the owner and operator of a four-building 240,0000 sf campus, recognized the opportunity to transform its dated, and mostly vacant, development into a state-of-the-art campus that would drive this type of success for its tenants.

Our workplace research shows that a balanced workplace—one that provides employees with a range of spaces and places to get their work done, collaborate, socialize and learn can indeed boost productivity by 22 percent—a big deal for any company. Working with Alexandria, who spearheaded the repurposing of this campus in the heart of Torrey Pines, San Diego, Gensler redesigned the development into a multi-use campus with amenities inside and out to create a balanced workplace.

While many large tech companies build corporate campuses that embody this principle, not every life sciences company needs an expansive campus. Alexandria set out to create a cohesive campus for its tenant base of life sciences companies. With health and wellness as the key drivers, Alexandria and Gensler approached the campus repositioning with employees top of mind, and the concept of healthy living as the core concept.

The new Nautilus campus, which was named in honor of John Jay Hopkins and his invention of the world’s first nuclear sub named the Nautilus, is designed to enhance the work experience of employees who work long days by providing a workplace that supports them with healthy food choices, access to the outdoors and nature, and promotes formal and informal collaboration among individuals, teams and campus tenants.

Through a series of visioning exercises, ARE and Gensler developed four “healthy-living” guiding principles underpinning the repositioning:

  • Nautilus + Eat: Brian Malarkey’s Green Acre Eatery providing, fast, casual and fresh organic food at low prices;
  • Nautilus + Grow: A 3,000 sf on-site organic garden;
  • Nautilus + Meet: Ample shared indoor and outdoor meeting facilities as well as increasing places for serendipitous interaction, informal meetings, and socializing among tenants; and
  • Nautilus + Fit: A new, cutting-edge on-site fitness center and access to nearby trails and walking paths.

The first step toward realizing the new Nautilus campus was to re-skin the existing façades to bring a new transparency to the buildings. By removing the precast cladding and enveloping the entire building with new curtain wall, the window area was increased by 30 percent to enhance daylight coming into the workspaces and to increase exterior views for all tenants. This new transparency strengthened the visual connection to the core of the campus, unifying the organization of all four buildings.

Before (L) and After (R) images: Main Entrance to Nautilus CampusIn concert with the buildings’ re-skin, Gensler effectively reshaped them to allow for more effective use of the interior spaces. Previously inverted building corners were squared off and a staggered grid frame system was added around the entire exterior of the building to mediate the existing irregular structural grid. These additions increased rentable space and regularized the floor plans, allowing for more effective and efficient lab planning and office layout.

Original building with new façade additionCommon spaces across the campus were completely reimagined and are now used to anchor the buildings together where previously the buildings were isolated among a sea of parking. A drop-off drive leads directly to the common spaces including the restaurant, fitness center, and conference facilities.

Green Acre, a farm-to-table eatery, is open to the public and attracts tenants from Nautilus as well as neighboring buildings and the broader community. The adjacent organic garden supplies Green Acre with fresh, seasonal produce daily, bringing new meaning to the idea of locally grown.

Restaurant detail, seating areaTwo state-of-the-art conference rooms provide spaces for tenants to host meetings and provide overflow for their own suite’s conferencing space. The 3,500 sf, fully equipped fitness center features the latest amenities, machines, spa-quality showers, and lockers.

State of the Art Fitness CenterWith the new enclosure, systems, and interiors, the renovation was awarded LEED Gold certification.

Working with landscape architect Spurlock Poirier, the Nautilus outdoor spaces have become a major draw for the development. A barbecue patio provides space for parties and the outdoor entertainment area includes a fire pit and a large landscaped patio with an elaborate shade structure and big screen TV fit for a resort hotel. Alexandria organizes tenant events of all sorts in the outdoor space and the space lends itself to spontaneous collaboration and chance meetings. Larger parties and exercise classes are hosted on the 3,000 sf multi-purpose event lawn and it also becomes an impromptu bocce ball and Frisbee court.

Outdoor meeting spaceFor Nautilus, the proof has been in the tenant pudding, and the vacant buildings were fully leased during construction. The campus’ fourth building is now under renovation to complete the complex and the Nautilus concept has been repeated with similar success at several other sites across Alexandria’s San Diego portfolio. The model of a life science campus dedicated to fostering the health and wellness of tenants across the workplace and featuring creative amenity spaces is redefining the future of what a life science campus can and should be.

Frank Ingrande is Life Sciences Regional Leader with Gensler in San Diego.