Princess Astrid of Belgium unveils a plaque celebrating the UCB building's expected LEED and WELL certification in June. Photo by Trevor Williams

Belgian pharmaceuticals giant UCB had the environmental bona fides of its new metro Atlanta campus officially certified last week, months after receiving a royal congratulations from Belgium. 

The Cobb County complex covering six buildings and 47 acres hosted Princess Astrid from UCB’s home country during her historic mission bringing more than 300 Belgian companies to Atlanta in June. 

The event boasted a plaque congratulating the company on the anticipated gold-level approval by LEED, which certified the new research hub at the heart of the expanded six-building campus. 

Perhaps just as important for a company that prides itself on employee well-being and improving patients’ lives through innovation, UCB also received the International WELL Building Institute’s WELL certification for the renovation of its U.S. corporate headquarters, known internally as the UCB Warehouse project. The name came from the previous use of the main research building, which housed old factory equipment before UCB over.

The project stemmed from UCB’s “inspace” project, an evaluation of its own work environments around the world that included feedback from across more than 40 countries. 

“It was intentional and reshaped our work environment to improve employee wellbeing, inspire collaboration and creativity and to enable all of us together to live our patient value strategy,” said Patty Fritz, vice president for U.S. corporate affairs, at the opening. 

Across the whole campus, solar arrays — including 100 panels on the main research building alone — offset more than 20 percent of the buildings’ energy use. Thousands of bricks were among the materials reused in the rebuilding, Ms. Fritz told Global Atlanta in an interview.

The research building inaugurated by the princess leans more tech hub than corporate office, with collaborative spaces, a library, multiple kitchens, an 8,000-gallon rainwater collection tank for irrigation and a recreational room with a pool table and arcade games.

That makes sense given where the company’s therapeutics are going, as researchers increasingly use big data and artificial intelligence to inform their work. UCB has seven molecules in development to add to its treatments for epilepsy, Parkinson’s and other disorders.

“It’s sort of an inflection point, and health and technology are coming together to really fuel the next breakthroughs,” Ms. Fritz said. “This convergence of AI and biology and chemistry is how we can solve the mysteries that are currently unsolved.”

And that means attracting not only the best minds in medical research, but also those who understand technology and innovation.

UCB started in the corner of one building with 40 employees; now, it has 425 locally and 2,000 in the U.S. after a number of acquisitions. The company, Ms. Fritz said, is committed to helping Atlanta “foster a thriving ecosystem of innovators” and building the life-sciences economy in Georgia. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...