Case Study

850 Phoenix Bioscience Core (850 PBC) A Biomedical Job Catalyst Inspired by Desert Landscape

Phoenix, Arizona, USA

The Challenge

Real estate development company, Wexford Science & Technology, enlisted HKS to design their first lab building to serve as a gateway for the northern edge of the PBC and the largest multi-tenant, commercial lab building in Phoenix. Wexford, Arizona State University and the city of Phoenix are partners in this project. 

The Design Solution

Located within the Phoenix Bioscience Core, Wexford’s Building, known as 850 PBC, expands the downtown biomedical corridor to the northern edges of the urban core. Designed to straddle the line between the academic and professional worlds, the building offers opportunities for meaningful collaboration among the building tenants and the community at large. The building’s design purposefully invites the neighborhood to participate in its success through ground-floor design elements that are visually porous and accessible.

850 PBC was inspired by the saguaro cacti, which are native to the Sonoran Desert ecosystem that straddles Arizona, California and northwestern Mexico. This plant species provides food and shelter for many desert animals. 850 PBC is a modern architectural metaphor of this iconic plant. Like the saguaro, the building façade combats the arid climate conditions with geometric ribs that shade the structure and help mitigate the effects of the extreme solar radiation. Desert temperatures can swing by more than 50 degrees from daytime to nighttime. The materials used for the exterior are primarily concrete, weathered steel and brick, which are slow to warm up during the day and dissipate the heat. Glass is used sparingly.

Meanwhile, the site’s landscape uses xeriscape techniques, eliminating the need for supplemental water from irrigation within five years of construction. The simple design on the outside extends to the interior, creating a rugged aesthetic that reinforces the stark and elegant beauty of Arizona. All decorative design was stripped down, reinforcing the “bootstrap” mentality in the startup world, where some entrepreneurs look to fund their own ventures. User spaces are iterative layouts curated by the users as they like it.

The Design Impact

This life and science technology building is part of a projected $3 billion investment in life science and health care projects with the potential to create 7,000 jobs in Phoenix. Up to 40 percent of the jobs at 850 PBC may not require a four-year college degree. In addition, the building supports not only the science and technology community but also the local art scene. 850 PBC integrates public art for both permanent and rotating exhibitions, boosting the local government’s downtown revitalization efforts. The building achieved LEED Gold certification.

Project Features

  • 240,000 square feet (22,296 sqm)
  • Biosafety Level 1 (BSL-1) labs
  • Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) labs
  • Wet and dry labs
  • Retail space
  • LEED Gold certification


  • NAIOP Arizona – Medical Office Building of the Year 2020