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Galveston National Laboratory

Biocontainment is one of the most challenging science and technology categories we routinely work on. Every one is different. Each requires keen problem-solving skills and intense collaboration.

Galveston National Laboratory

As one of two national biocontainment laboratories constructed under grants awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/National Institutes of Health (NIAID/NIH), the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) provides much-needed research space to develop therapies, vaccines and diagnostic tests for naturally occurring emerging diseases such as SARS and West Nile encephalitis and avian influenza as well as for microbes that might be employed by terrorists. This new facility totals 186,000 sf and has over 47,000 sf of laboratory research space that includes BSL-2, BSL-3, BSL-3 Enhanced, and BSL-4 laboratory research space and BSL-3, BSL-3 Enhanced, and BSL-4 animal holding and research space. The animal research space is designed to accommodate rodents, non-human primates, and avian species. Total construction cost was $174 million.

WSP USA, formerly ccrd, provided mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems design, engineering, and commissioning for the ground up development of the GNL at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB). Construction of the GNL entailed demolition of an existing administration building, modification of existing campus site utilities, and erection of an eight-story building that included a bridge connection to the existing Dr. Robert E. Shope, M.D. BSL-4 Laboratory. In addition, a connection to the existing Keiller Building was made which entailed renovation work within the existing building infrastructure.

The MEP systems serving this facility were designed to comply with the NIH Design Guidelines and Standards which require N+1 systems redundancy to minimize single points of failure. The HVAC systems include redundant supply/exhaust fan systems with HEPA filtration. The electrical power systems include redundant services, risers, and emergency generation. Specialty systems for the BSL-4 area include primary and back-up breathing air systems, solid and liquid waste effluent decontamination systems, chemical shower decontamination systems, and high level building automation and security systems.

This facility is home to the world’s first high-resolution cryo-electron microscope placed within a high containment BSL-3 lab, allowing detailed analysis of highly pathogenic emerging viruses. ccrd was a member of the design and commissioning team in place from initial planning through commissioning and occupancy of this unique facility. The WSP + ccrd engineering and commissioning teams understand and have unparalleled empirical knowledge in the design, operations, and commissioning of BSL-4 high containment facilities.

Collaborating on demanding engineering projects like this is always challenge. Coming up with the perfect solution is what makes this job as much an art as it is a science.