Coordination Key to Constructing Pharmacy & Research Center with Miles of Mechanical Systems

Coordination Key to Constructing Pharmacy & Research Center with Miles of Mechanical Systems

Crain Construction Inc. Project Manager James Williams has met some challenges during his 24 years in the construction industry. Fitting 2.5 miles of mechanical systems in a building with a 7,500-square-foot footprint was his biggest.

That building is Lipscomb University’s Pharmacy and Research Center. The teaching and research facility includes a pharmaceutical research lab with a walk-in cold room, medical gas systems and an acid waste sanitary system, a nuclear storage and waste room, a tissue culture room, teaching labs and integrated biomedical sciences labs. These features required a more involved mechanical system than a typical construction project.

“It was a good challenge, but the most complicated project because mechanical and electrical was 43 percent of the total cost of the building,” said Williams. “It required more extensive and more front-end coordination to project and plan for milestones and make sure we hit all the milestones on time.”

In addition to the complex mechanical systems, project challenges included site access constraints and extensive site prep.

Site Challenges

The site was surrounded on three sides by a campus building, an active parking lot and a road. Additionally, student foot and car traffic was a consistent presence. With only one side available for access to the construction site, and no room for onsite materials staging, 99 percent of the deliveries were scheduled for just-in-time delivery.

Before construction could commence, several months were spent preparing the site. A natural gas line and the main campus communications were relocated. The crew installed new service lines for domestic and fire water, sewer, power and storm drainage with area drains. Additionally, the crew removed asphalt from the site, which previously was a 16,300-square-foot parking lot. They also uncovered and removed the foundation of an old house. This unexpected soil remediation took about 6 weeks.

“Apparently, when they put in the parking lot, they just laid asphalt over the house foundation,” said Williams. “So, we had to excavate the site eight feet below the existing surface and then remediate with shot rock.”

When the architectural concrete stem walls were being poured for the foundation, layout was essential to ensure all 27 outside corners of the building were in the correct locations. Since the site was only accessible from the west side, the building was erected from the footprint and backing out to the west side.

“Once the frame was erected, the second floor was poured so the mechanical and electrical crew could continue working while the extensive underground rough-in for the first floor was underway,” said Williams. “We also erected and sheathed the exterior walls first to allow the masonry veneer to progress during the interior construction.”

Installation of Mechanical and Electrical Systems

The building required enhanced ventilation and exhaust systems which were routed through stainless steel ducts to a rooftop energy recovery unit. The crew also installed research lab fume hoods, chillers and air handlers with special filters for the chemical and biological exhaust. The heating and cooling capacity (120 tons total) was achieved by installing a roof-mounted chiller and high-efficiency boilers. Power is supplied though an 800 amp main panel and a 75 KV a back-up generator.

Substantial roof work took place before two air handler units, a chiller unit and an energy recovery unit could be positioned by crane on the rooftop. This gave the mechanical contractor more work space to set and pipe the units.

Continuous space planning and coordination for above-ceiling and in-wall rough-in were also crucial during the project.

While the building is only 73 feet wide by 135 feet long, there are 2.5 miles of mechanical piping and 1,000 linear feet of duct work concealed above ceiling. This created a few challenges in areas where duct, process pipe, medical gas pipe, natural gas, fire sprinkler and electrical had to fit in a space five feet high by five feet wide.

Late in the construction process, an air compressor was added to service the medical gas needs. This required equipment to be shifted in the crowded mechanical room housing two high-efficiency boilers, three instant heaters and all of the associated pumps and controllers for the mechanical system.

Before steel lab cases and fume hoods were delivered and installed in the research and teaching labs, all duct work, process piping, medical gas, electrical, lights and flooring had to be completed.

“It wasn’t unusual to have as many as 40 people working in a 30×100 room during this phase,” said Williams.

Accolades for the Center

The construction process on the teaching and research facility took nine months, with 6 weeks for soil remediation and one month of lost time due to significant rain and cold weather delays.

Since completion, the Pharmacy and Research Center has received accolades from students, faculty and the construction industry.

Originally, Lipscomb University planned to seek LEED certification from the Green Building Certification Institute for its Pharmacy and Research Center. But, thanks to good design, and careful planning, constant coordination and continued communication throughout the construction process, the project qualified for LEED Silver.

Additionally, Associated Builders and Contractors Mid-Tennessee Chapter awarded highest honors to Crain Construction for its exceptional work on the project, recognizing the quality control, scheduling, value engineering and challenges overcome.