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Navigating Logistical Challenges in Occupied Lab Construction

September 2023

Construction in occupied labs poses unique challenges for active lab users and construction teams. Coordinating access and maintaining operations can be challenging, but Northstar’s experienced teams have found strategic solutions that alleviate the impact on both teams.

Early Evaluation and Engagement:  Evaluate the construction scope early and engage all active lab occupants in the logistics development process. Understanding the lab functions and needs paves the way for success.

Smart Containment Strategies: Sharing the same floor? Ensure seamless operations by maintaining egress paths, setting up PPE stations, and enabling material flow between active lab areas. An extra layer of containment may be needed to isolate/protect sensitive equipment or functions while maintaining a safe working environment for the scientific community as well as the project team.

Verify Extent of MEP Scope: Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) systems often reach beyond the construction site. Understanding the potential impacts of shutdowns or utility service fluctuations is absolutely necessary. Think ahead—plumbing work below the slab may impact labs on lower floors.

Effective Communication is Critical: Collaborate with lab stakeholders and begin logistics planning early. Designate Points of Contact (POCs) to convey information and acknowledge constraints like noise, vibrations, GXP/GMP equipment, metal-sensitive equipment/magnets, radioactive spaces, and freight elevator access. Mitigate risks associated with potential MEP impacts through clear communication and careful planning with the affected end users and stakeholders.

Think Beyond Boundaries: Construction’s impact can ripple. Consider adjoining areas and plan for temporary utilities if needed. Alterations to systems within the work area are likely to impact the system distribution upstream and downstream of the work. Pre and post-balancing of mechanical systems are a must!

Creative Problem-Solving: Flexibility is critical. Think creatively for alternate solutions to unexpected challenges.

Diligent Shutdown & LOTO Process: Prevent utility mishaps with a rigorous Lockout-Tagout (LOTO) process vetted with contractors, subs, and facilities teams. Coordinate diligently to avoid accidental shutdowns in active labs. Temporary utilities may be needed; time should be accounted for in the schedule.

Navigating logistical challenges for construction in occupied labs combines strategy, collaboration, and experience.

Working together, we can build while respecting the scientific progress.

Ipsitha Bayapu has over four years of experience in A/E/C industry. She is supporting a multi-phased R&D lab renovation capital project for a major pharmaceutical client. Ipsitha works with project teams through different phases of the project life cycle including planning, design, construction administration, closeout and occupancy.