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A well-designed incubation facility provides flexible space and amenities for a variety of clients while encouraging networking and other incubator goals. In this article, architects and incubator managers share advice for designing effective incubator facilities.

Incubator facilities 101: Consultants and managers share advice for designing buildings that work

by Brian Walker

February 2005

When CityWide Development in Dayton, Ohio, hired Jeff Wray as architect of The Entrepreneurs Center in early 1999, the technology incubation program was still at the earliest stages of development. The CityWide team wanted to involve Wray from the onset to ensure that the 35,000-square-foot facility would complement and enhance the program rather than limit the services it could offer. So, long before Wray sat down at the drafting table, he and the incubator development team researched business incubation together.

In Kalamazoo, Mich., Chief Operating Officer Sandra Cochrane met with building design experts William Hartzell and William Bailey nearly every week during the six-month planning and design process for the 58,000-square-foot Southwest Michigan Innovation Center (SMIC). Once construction began, Hartzell and Bailey, principals of the architecture, engineering and design firm Facilities Solution Group (FSG) in Elk Grove Village, Ill., were on site every two weeks. Hartzell and Bailey still travel to Kalamazoo monthly to show potential clients of the technology and life sciences incubator how their firm can design unfinished incubator space to meet each company’s unique needs.

These incubator developers understood the importance of engaging consultants early in the facility design process to ensure the resulting plans meshed with the incubation programs’ goals and their future clients’ needs. They also recognized the need to maintain regular communication with their consultants to keep the design process on track. Following these two basic rules helped get The Entrepreneurs Center and the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center off on the right foot. Read on for more advice about designing appropriate incubator buildings from facility experts and incubator managers who recently completed new construction projects.

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Keywords: consultant, facility management, facility renovation/expansion, facility selection/construction/renovation, networking activities -- client, specialized equipment/facilities

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