Roche plots $3.2B overhaul at Basel HQ, joining parade of Big Pharma building projects

Roche's corporate headquarters plan in Basel, Switzerland--Courtesy of Roche

Following in the footsteps of other Big Pharma heavyweights, Roche ($RHHBY) is giving its corporate headquarters a  multibillion-dollar facelift. The drugmaker will funnel 3 billion Swiss francs into a renovation project to add new labs and offices, and upgrade existing buildings on its Basel, Switzerland-based site.

Roche is setting aside 1.7 billion francs to construct a new research and development center for 1,900 employees. It has earmarked another 500 million francs to a new office tower smack in the center of its site, where another 1,700 staffers will work. The buildings will be ready to go in 2021 and 2022, the company said in a statement.

Together with a 700 million-franc renovation of older buildings, the headquarters revamp will allow the Swiss pharma giant to consolidate 6,000 of its 9,000 employees there at the site. The rest will remain in rental space around Basel.

"Roche is committed long-term to Switzerland and to Basel in its dual role as corporate headquarters and one of our most important sites worldwide," CEO Severin Schwan said in a statement. "Employees from all parts of the company are making a vital contribution to Roche's innovative strength, and we want to provide them with an attractive work environment. The new buildings will continue Roche's tradition of elegant, distinctive and functional architecture."

The new facilities are designed to save energy--and maintain good relations with neighbors. New high-rise buildings such as "Building 1" will be located in inner areas of the Roche site, where they'll be less intrusive for nearby residents and workers. The new buildings are also designed to use one-fifth of the amount of energy required to run an existing 40-year-old structure, the company said in a statement. Renovating older buildings will make them more energy efficient as well.

Roche is not the only drugmaker dolling up its corporate HQ. In mid-2012, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) unveiled its new, 205,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia's Navy Yard with wide-open meeting spaces and no fixed desks. Biogen Idec ($BIIB) followed suit in 2013, and constructed new Kendall Square headquarters with "pop-up rooms" for meetings and no private offices.

Not to be outdone, Novartis ($NVS) is also hard at work on a new corporate HQ in Sydney, Australia. The blueprints aren't as drastic as those of Biogen and GSK, but include open conference areas, shared desks and fewer private workspaces.

- here's Roche's statement
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