High Tech Campuses – Going Vertical

As cities diversify their economic base, a key element in boosting knowledge-based export is the development of high technology production campuses: IT software and services, high-value component manufacturing, research, alternative energy, pharmaceuticals, and increasingly food science initiatives.

For decades the old model was simple: low cost land, tax incentives, cheap energy and water, commuting talent, high flexibility / low investment laboratories and facilities. My old colleagues designed hundreds of such campuses, for the earlier tech giants: Boeing, Hewlett Packard, Electronic Arts, etc. The sprawling campus of the 60s-90s was a definitive statement and identity for so many of these industrial giants.

Today’s more competitive field is seeing companies invest less in land, assets, and hardware, and instead more on people. They follow the talent, and stability in legal structures and transport logistics. Inspiring and fun workplaces. Exit strategies lie at the forefront. We are seeing modular systems, talent attraction and retention, integrated housing and community amenities, and colocation with suppliers in a hyper-agglomerative economy.

Examples of the integrated, flexible, multi-use campus are emerging: Vrindavan TechVillage in Bangalore comes to mind. In executing the master plan, we paid as much attention to the lifestyle cluster at the front as to the rest of the meat-and-potatoes speculative and build-to-suit parcels. Consistent popularity among multinational tenants is testimony to the effectiveness of this evolution of campuses.

Now the challenge will be how to make clusters of these high-tech uses even more efficient in land use, reducing commute impact, increasing density, achieving resilience and sustainability. Labs and manufacturing lines have in the past tended toward low-cost, spread out arrangements on land. Vertical lab and manufacturing is more expensive in the short run. But we hope that the elimination of inefficient surface parking, the energy and material efficiency of taller buildings, and location on transit routes will all improve the ability to smartly use remaining land for amenities and people places.

Sylvester Wong

catalyscity, 12 Tung Chung Waterfront Road, Hong Kong, New Territories, Hong Kong