Collaboration is in our genes

Article from our newsletter Perspective V5Q2 – By Paul Bonaci

In the field of biotechnology, timing is a critical factor when formulating therapy concepts and laboratory trials. There are many complexities in this industry, so a project in this space is right up our alley, as we indeed enjoy a big challenge!

For this biotech client, Seattle Genetics, we worked with Lease Crutcher Lewis Construction to gut a vacant aircraft component assembly building and build a state-of-the-art biotech laboratory facility with adjoining offices. The construction project schedule requirements were very aggressive with a ten-month duration. At project inception, we trenched new underground plumbing utilities and installed over 100 plumbing stub ups – and this underground work was completed two weeks ahead of schedule. Then, the GC installed a steel structure second floor and reinforcements for rooftop mechanical infrastructure and mechanical rooms. As this new deck was safe for our work, we slid into place 92,000 pounds of prefabricated ductwork, 21,000 pounds of structural support systems and our multi-trade prefabricated steel corridor rack system with mounted HVAC boxes, controls, ductwork, laboratory gas, heating, chilled water and plumbing systems. The prefabrication helped us keep pace with the tight deadlines.

Our next steps were building out the first-floor office and laboratory spaces. Prefabricated skids and ductwork deliveries between our Norfolk fabrication shop and jobsite were meticulously planned to protect systems and limit site laydown space. Our new computer guided “5 Axis” pipe orbital welder cut elliptical angular holes ten times faster than previous layout methods. On the plumbing side, potable and non-potable systems were installed. There were 19 different plumbing and hydronic piped services totaling 19,000 LF. Additionally, five laboratory gas systems were installed by pipefitters totaling 6,288 LF of pipe.

Over the next 101 days we built multiple state-of-the-art labs utilizing compressed air, vacuum, oxygen, argon, nitrogen, liquid nitrogen, RODI water, clean steam, lab hot and cold water, domestic hot and cold water, welded galvanized ductwork, welded stainless ductwork, and processed chilled water systems. Constructed in parallel with the laboratory, the offices for staff supporting the labs were built-out to the client’s high space standards.

At MacDonald-Miller, we embrace innovation at every turn. We are increasingly using an integrated approach from design, construction clash coordination, all the way to production shop drawings. The project was initially designed and drawn in Revit, then exported to AutoCAD to fab production and spool documents. This greatly automates the processes and shortens the time that our designers and modelers need to manage the information flow.

Our mechanical engineers worked with our client to develop a sub-zero degree Fahrenheit process-chilled-water distribution system for laboratory procedures. This system required a primary loop and a secondary loop to achieve the zero degree water temps. Unusual design considerations included thermal contraction issues and airtight insulation on all pipe and valves, and heat trace on all exposed valve stems all to avoid ice build-up. The control sequence looked at the needs of the user depending on procedures. Initial startup was interesting as the 50%-50% propylene water mixture dropped in temperature past through its “Slurpee” state. This is the first time MacMiller has tackled a sub-zero system and a new one to add to our ever-growing resume.

Another challenging aspect of the project was addressing laboratory pressures. There were over forty cascading air pressure gradients across doors needing to ensure proper positive-to-negative air movement towards critical laboratory equipment.

We also took steps to improve on the schedule to allow early MEP system start-ups. Coordination meetings, with Nelson Electric and MacMiller’s control teams reviewed critical power panels and walls needing installations to meet power-up dates. Therefore, several office and laboratory wall-framing dates were brought forward to allow power and controls for pre-start-up activities. To serve hydronic systems, we temporarily routed flexible PVC piping through the trusses, and between water sources and hydronic mechanical spaces. This allowed us to fill through backflow preventers the heating hot water, chilled water and heat reclaim pump systems, and prove-out equipment point-to-point earlier than the general contractor’s project schedule indicated was even possible.

For this Seattle Genetics project, open communication with the client was key to understanding the needs of their complex custom systems, as well their special third party laboratory certification testing protocols. MacMiller is synonymous with teamwork and collaboration, and this project is a shining example of that.

See the project here.

For more industry news like this, check out our Perspective newsletter!

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