Lab Design and Furnishings

Professional Profile: Albert Chiang

Lab Manager speaks to Albert Chiang of CAC Architects

MaryBeth DiDonna

Albert Chiang is managing principal with CAC Architects in San Francisco, CA. Lab Manager recently spoke with Albert about his career, experience, and personal interests.

Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers mid-stream, etc.?

A: I started my career working with a very large architectural firm. After a few years, I switched to a local architectural firm that focused on life science projects. The project type was fascinating to me, and I've been learning ever since.

Q: What is a typical day at work like for you?

A: With capital investments flowing steadily into biotech companies in the last few years, CAC Architects has been growing carefully and steadily. The project type dictates careful attention to planning, design, and construction documents, and emphasizes quality over quantity of projects. During the pandemic, as the flight of capital into biotech grew significantly, CAC was able to increase staff size with the influx of new projects. A typical workday averages around eight to 10 video conference calls, roughly 200 emails, and wrapping up the night with programming and test-fitting.

Q: If you weren’t in this profession, what job do you think you’d be doing instead?

A: I would either join my young son in his aspirations to be a tow truck driver, or do something in the medical / biosciences field.

Q: What’s a common misconception about your job?

A: That it’s glamourous. I appreciate and look forward to presenting to my clients every opportunity I get. From the public's perspective, the design process appears very dynamic and fast-moving. The reality is that presenting and programming represents only a small portion of the effort, from coordinating with scientists, MEP engineers, and structural engineers to eventually submitting drawings to the authority having jurisdiction; there's a tremendous amount of production needed to permit a lab project. For the most part, every project is a custom product.

Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you’ve faced? How did you overcome it?

A: Hiring / finding the right candidate(s). Still working on it.

Q: What lab projects are you working on at the moment?

A: We have non-disclosure agreements on all of our projects. By size, we have a couple 100,000 SF projects in South San Francisco; a 111,000 SF project in Brisbane; and an 85,000 SF project in Palo Alto, to highlight a few. We have numerous speculative lab projects around the Bay Area and a 250,000 SF data center project in San Francisco.