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Business Drivers When Constructing a Bio-Sciences Facility

The life sciences company's construction services partner must understand the firm's present and - more importantly - future business model before work begins on a new facility.

Biotech Location Guide 2008
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Evaluating the space in which the trades will be working is also an important aspect to means and methods review. The contractor evaluates how tight the spaces are in which the trades will work and how this will affect productivity. Will the schedule require 10 pipers to work in an area that can really only accommodate four or five? If so, how will that loss of productivity be addressed so that the schedule is met without paying premiums? The contractor must assess if there is enough room to logically sequence the trades so that schedule and expected productivity are maintained. If not, the contractor develops a plan to mitigate the challenge, such as strategic use of multiple shifts.

Such considerations lead the contractor to examine the equipment and the process to determine what makes sense to "pre-fab" and what should be fabricated and installed in the field. This requires close scrutiny of how the processes will be connected. What utilities or systems can be skid-mounted and which ones should be individual components? These are all decisions that are made during constructability review. The advance planning allows the facility to be properly prepared to accommodate the equipment/process when it arrives, utilizing pre-planned rigging and installation plans to ensure adherence to the schedule.

As part of the constructability review process, the contractor should, ideally, also be part of the Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) team to ensure compliance with the decisions made regarding the means and methods of rigging, verification of dimensions, and installation and connection to the facility's utilities. Also, it is most prudent to be involved with the FAT reviews, as the contractor will also be required to perform the Site Acceptance Testing (SAT) efforts.

Critical Subcontractor Considerations
Prequalification of the right subcontractors is critical to the successful construction of a biotech/life science facility. Understanding the more stringent safety requirements is one thing; understanding the more intense cGMP quality requirements for piping, ductwork, finishes, and clean build protocols is critical, as these are quite different from what nonqualified subcontractors might be accustomed to on general building projects. The level of documentation required to meet commissioning and qualification needs is also something that many subcontractors might not be aware of. Thus, these requirements must be incorporated into the bid documents so that there are no surprises and proper protocols are followed.

This is critically important if the project is performed utilizing an integrated construction, commissioning, and qualification approach, which saves time and money and eliminates many of the redundancies associated with the traditional approach to biotech/life science construction. With this method, more intensive commissioning efforts are required. Services also have to be procured in such a way as to ensure that they are completely understood by all parties, most notably that many systems are commissioned as they come on line, instead of waiting until everything is complete to begin the process. This also allows qualification to be overlapped, reducing the total time needed to get to engineering runs and the all-important start of "real" production.

Your Project, Your Needs
The successful biotech/life science facility construction project requires a unique construction services provider. The basic project concepts are familiar - schedule, budget, VE, constructability review, subcontractor qualification, and procurement, etc. - but as they say, the devil is in the details.
It is essential that your construction services partner understand your business model, not only today but also what your needs will be tomorrow and beyond. In developing that understanding, the construction services provider needs to engage very early on in the project with owner/facility end-users, operators and maintenance staff, the design team, and regulatory personnel. This will ensure that decisions made today facilitate efficient modification tomorrow, without significant facility disruption or inflated costs that could have been avoided with skillful and insightful advance planning.

Jerry Guillorn is vice president of sector business development for Structure Tone and has over 30 years of construction experience, the last 15 specializing in life science facilities.

Stephen Neeson, LEED® AP, is a 22-year construction veteran specializing in life science facilities and vice president of operations for Structure Tone's Lyndhurst, N.J., office.

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