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University of Georgia Animal Health Research Center

The Animal Health Research Center (AHRC), located on the Campus at the University of Georgia, Athens, is a two-story concrete and masonry structure with a gross area of 73,000 square feet.


The original facility design and construction was completed in 1998 by others, however the existing building was not successfully commissioned for operation due to construction and operational deficiencies.  WSP USA was engaged to redesign, renovate, commission and validate the existing facility to meet all current applicable USDA and CDC guidelines, codes, and to correct defective works previously installed. 

The project incorporated upgrades to the existing facility functional program and planning layout, as well as the architectural, mechanical and electrical systems to be consistent with a world-class BSL3 Agriculture facility. The final facility program included single and double animal rooms and necropsy areas at USDA BSL3Ag classification, small animal rooms at CDC ABSL3 classification, research laboratories at USDA BSL3, CDC BSL3 and BSL2 classifications, and office/administration support spaces.  

A thorough existing condition survey was completed for each room area and analyzed against the relevant safety and security guideline performance criteria to determine non-compliance and potential remedial strategies. Alternative containment techniques not normally utilized with new construction had to be developed in order to work with less than ideal existing conditions and conform to applicable codes and guidelines. The technical solutions developed incorporated innovative steel shell containment construction and new membrane coating technologies, which substantially reduced the role of structural concrete in the containment barrier system. Extensive testing and validation was performed on new technologies in order to ensure final installed performance. Full room-scale mock-ups of barrier systems, including all typical penetrations and openings were designed, built, tested rigorously, and used as final acceptance criteria before facility-wide execution of the new technologies was approved, commissioned and delivered.