Whitepaper: 10.15.2015

Focus on Research Labs

Research laboratories and cleanrooms require a high attention to detail during the construction process to ensure their effectiveness for all end users. Emphasis on schedule, quality assurance and cost control have long been the key drivers to success. Today, early design phase services and virtual design and construction (VDC) technology tools are helping to deliver even greater certainty for laboratory owners.

Schedule Certainty
In today’s climate, major healthcare and research facilities often operate under a fast-track schedule. When building the $115 million, 200,000-square-foot, LEED Platinum UC San Diego Health Sciences Biomedical Research Facility, the team spent many weeks planning out the schedule and receiving subcontractor input to develop the schedule. The project included a grand entry atrium, five levels of wet lab and research space, and seven levels of attached office and support space.

McCarthy utilized team techniques by including all major subcontractors and engaging them in a Pull Scheduling session to facilitate collaboration and gather valuable field input and buy-in during preconstruction. Helping subcontractors take ownership of how their scopes of work would be most effectively executed was imperative to maintain schedule and budget on this complex facility. Throughout construction, McCarthy also immediately investigated any issue that occurred and developed viable solutions, which were presented to the architect and owner.

Virtual Design and Construction Technology
Due to the complex scope of research lab projects, virtual design and construction (VDC) technology helps ensure the entire project team, including designers and subcontractors, can continually improve efficiency, constructability and, ultimately, predictability on projects. 3-D Modeling, 4-D Modeling (adding time as a fourth dimension) and 5-D modeling (adding the concept of cost over time) provides clarification on scheduling and allows owners to explore what the budget/estimated cost of a project might be at any point in time during the project.

McCarthy is currently constructing a new 5,500-square-foot, single-story, freestanding building for a major national health system in Scottsdale, Ariz., built to house a cyclotron, lab space and additional support space. The facility will also contain a pneumatic tube system that will connect to a nearby proton beam therapy building, enabling the delivery of the cancer fighting materials for use in proton therapy. Designed with limited space to control cost, McCarthy’s VDC team coordinated mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) work above ceilings, underground and inside walls to ensure everything will go in right the first time, saving both cost and time in the future.

The cyclotron and hot cell equipment have very tight tolerances for cleanliness, utility connections and temperature control; they are also very heavy, adding a structural element to McCarthy’s planning. Early and detailed planning ensures the structure is built correctly to meet these tolerances. Furthermore, data from the Equipment and Operations Manuals will be programmed into the virtual model to provide detailed, accurate operational information right on the model itself, aiding facility maintenance.

When constructing the UC San Diego Health Sciences Biomedical Research Facility, McCarthy utilized VDC tools extensively to manage and control the project, specifically as a coordination and communication tool among the team, including the architect, engineers, subcontractors and owner.

“The highly MEP-intensive, below-grade vivarium floor was the most technically challenging aspect of this construction project,” said Bob Betz, executive vice president of McCarthy, who oversees the company’s San Diego operations. “Building Information Modeling was utilized extensively to help in the coordination of these spaces, along with Bluebeam™ for the electrical plan room. We brought our subcontractors aboard during the initial design phases to help us fashion a seamless, integrated building process.”

Quality Assurance & Control
In 2014, McCarthy completed construction for the new $39 million J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in La Jolla, Calif. The LEED Platinum, net-zero-energy facility represents the most ambitious sustainably designed biological research laboratory project built to date and is integral to JCVI’s quest to perform the science needed to solve critical environmental and human health challenges.

To meet the client’s goal of creating the most sustainable laboratory in the world, the facility incorporates high-performance architecture, low-energy-use systems, water conservation strategies and on-site renewable power generation. McCarthy self-performed all the concrete work, enabling greater oversight and quality control on the project.  

“Target value design played the most critical role in the overall planning and coordination of this project,” said McCarthy Project Director Craig Swenson. “McCarthy was brought in early to perform preconstruction with the goal of significantly lowering the initial estimated construction costs while still allowing the client to achieve LEED Platinum status. This target value design approach enabled us to maintain the integrity of the highly sustainable design while also making the budget work for the client.”

In order to ensure the successful completion of complex research lab facilities, the key is to plan early and work the plan. An experienced general contractor who finds ways to engage all team members and end users on-site through effective scheduling, early design phase services, the use of VDC technology, and an emphasis on quality assurance and control results in stellar projects delivered on time and on budget.

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