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NIH Record

'Consolidated Laboratory Facility'
Building 50 To Rise From Parking Lot 13C,
Starting Next Month

What is today a parking lot for some 350 cars at South and Center Drives in front of Bldg. 12 will soon be transformed into a giant hole in the Earth from which will rise in the next 3 years a new 5-story, 250,000-gross-square-foot laboratory building, Bldg. 50, that will provide renewal space formerly provided by Bldgs. 2, 3, 7 and part of 6.

Future site of the new lab facility.

The Consolidated Laboratory Facility, to use its formal name, is proceeding "on schedule and pretty much at budget," reports Architect Frank Kutlak, project officer in the Office of Research Services' Division of Engineering Services, and 6-year NIH veteran, whose last major project prior to this was coordinating occupancy of the Conte Bldg. (Bldg. 49). The practical lessons ORS learned from construction of 49 have aided planning for both 50 and the new Clinical Research Center, he said.

View from above:
The exaggerated "Z" shape of the new lab building can be seen clearly in this architectural rendering, which also shows where space has been planned for bike lockers (top left corner) and racks (top, along South Dr.). Circles at the site perimeter indicate tree placements.

On a recent weekend, the proposed Bldg. 50 outline was painted on the 13C parking lot surface, which provided a reality check as to its size and location on the site and which drew much interest and comments.

From basement to penthouse, the new building incorporates features that may make it the envy of its peers.

Anticipating Tenants' Needs

When it was dedicated in 1994, Bldg. 49 was one of the first modern buildings at NIH for many years; DES carefully planned its design, construction and occupancy with the involvement of its future users. A year after they moved in, occupants were surveyed "to get feedback on what we did right, what we could have done better, and what we did not do so well," Kutlak reports. "Generally, we did pretty well, but some overall needs emerged: the users needed more localized break areas, they really wanted windows in their labs, and needed larger personal workstations and storage. This was a consistent theme and we got the message loud and clear."

So Bldg. 50, whose principal occupants will hail from NIAID, NHLBI, NHGRI, NIDDK and NIAMS, will feature more scattered break rooms with windows located on building corners, personal workstations adjacent to lab benches and plenty of windows in the labs.

The lab modules themselves will be designed on an "open plan" concept with personal workstations at windows on the outside walls. The lab space on each floor will be organized into "neighborhoods," six to a floor, to preserve the feel of the older, smaller buildings where most of the occupants are now, and avoid the Bldg. 10 "megabuilding concept." Each neighborhood will have six lab modules and equipment support spaces. At the end of each lab peninsula bench is an aisle separating the lab bench from the personal workstations, which are located on the exterior walls with large windows; this responds to user requests for adequate workstations, computer space, and daylight in the labs. There will also be two corner offices in each neighborhood for principal investigators.

A drawing of the North face of Building 50.

A main central vending and break room with microwave ovens will be located on each floor, with additional dedicated coffee/break areas at each neighborhood, all with large windows; and each floor will have two small balconies offering access to the outdoors. There will also be some 600 lockers -- "Just like high school," jokes Kutlak -- so each building occupant can securely store personal items.

Planned east side elevation of Building 50

There is an "interstitial" space (intermediate walk on mechanical levels between the primary occupied floors) so DES maintenance workers can access utility systems without entering the labs. What Kutlak dubs "a double decker bus" concept is another lesson learned from Bldg. 49, which provided a mechanical corridor but shared it with the scientists. "However the sharing didn't work out between the two groups as well as envisioned," he said. So in Bldg. 50, scientists will have their circulation and service corridor on the main floor and the maintenance staff will have their own separate corridor in the interstitial space above.

The first floor of the brick and glass building will feature a central lobby, off of which is a large conference suite -- capacity around 200 -- that can be subdivided into 4 rooms. A breakout and vending area is adjacent to this conference suite. "We learned from Bldg. 49 of the need for book return bins, mail boxes, telephones, Fed Ex boxes, newspaper vending machines, trash cans and recycling containers in the lobby," says Kutlak, "and in Bldg. 50 we are providing them in an alcove adjacent to, but visually screened from, the lobby."

Some Special Spaces

Around July 1, when ORS takes the site for construction, passersby will notice that excavation will be deeper than usual -- 26 feet to be exact. This is because the basement will also have a complete interstitial level. It will contain the mechanical and electrical support spaces, a rabbit and rodent facility with an animal biosafety level 3 suite, an isolation area and two transgenic procedure rooms. There is also a specialized high performance electron microscopy suite. Also, not directly beneath the building, but underground adjacent to it, will be a special nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) facility that will house several gigantic NIDDK and NHLBI magnets for NMR spectroscopy; a 1 giga-Hz machine (not even built yet) will be hoisted into place using a removable roof hatch and a special rolling-beam crane built into the ceiling that will enable scientists to move and replace magnets with relative ease in the future. To prevent powerful magnetic fields generated by the NMRs from wreaking havoc on credit cards, pacemakers and metal objects, the NMR lab will be capped by a pyramidal structure that will prevent pedestrians at ground level from straying into the NMR fields.

In response to requests from users, the basement of Bldg. 50 will also include showers and lockers just off the elevator lobby for use by cyclists and joggers.

Much attention is being paid to the ground level appeal of 50 since it lies at a major entrance to the campus just west of the Medical Center Metro stop. The distinct pyramidal planes atop the NMR facility will greet visitors from the Metro stop, while a treed "civic plaza" will form the north face of the site. "There will be an NIH information kiosk, lots of mature trees, seating areas and activity spaces leading up to a grand staircase to the building," Kutlak said. Tucked neatly into the area will be bike racks and boxes, a trellised walkway leading up the hill toward the Clinical Center and perhaps a small water feature.

At the south side, facing Bldg. 12, there will be a trellised terrace with a small amphitheater seating area (sitting atop the animal facility below) that will offer a pleasant outdoor space between Bldgs. 50 and 12.

There will be no cafeterias or R&W gift shops in the new building, noted Kutlak, because the budget and program did not permit them; but there are several such facilities located in nearby buildings.

In addition to a deeper than usual basement, Bldg. 50 will have a higher than usual roof, or penthouse, because of a sophisticated air handling technology called "heat wheels" located there. "This energy recovery system, which relies on Teflon-coated wheels to extract and transfer energy from exhausted air to condition incoming air, will enable Bldg. 50 to save a significant amount of energy," said Kutlak. Further savings are expected from a network of "occupancy sensors" that will turn the lights off in rooms when no one is in them, as well as high-efficiency lighting fixtures, a variable air volume mechanical system and variable speed motors for pumps and fans. "Energy conservation at every opportunity has been an important design consideration in this project," he emphasized. "Laboratory buildings with once-through air and their 24-hour schedules have traditionally been energy hogs and we are trying to do everything reasonable and feasible to minimize this in Bldg. 50."

Order of Construction

Construction of Bldg. 50 will proceed in two phases: Phase 1 begins in July with site preparation work including fencing and demolition of the existing site, and relocation of major existing utilities -- an 8-foot storm sewer bisects the site and must be redirected, as must high voltage electrical lines and a sanitary sewer that crosses the parking lot. Then will come total excavation of the basement and construction of caisson foundations -- the concrete stilts that reach down to bedrock to support the building's weight.

"In the next few weeks we'll be posting signs on all three entrances of lot 13C warning that the site will be taken for construction in early July," said Kutlak. ORS will also provide information on alternative parking recommendations. The roadway in front of 12A will be open throughout construction and afterward, but it will permanently become one-way for all traffic. Phase 1 construction is scheduled to take about 7-8 months and will be completed in February 1998.

Phase 2 design development drawings, which define the concepts of the building including the structural and mechanical/electrical systems, walls, finishes, lab case work and the overall exterior appearance, have just been completed, Kutlak reports.

"The final phase 2 working drawing phase will be finished in late October 1997, and construction of the actual structure will begin around February 1998," he said. The building is slated for completion of construction in June 2000, followed by a few months of coordinated gradual occupancy. By fall of 2000 it should be fully occupied and operational.

"It's a very aggressive design and construction schedule," Kutlak allows, "but we're all pretty well organized. The overlap of phase I construction and phase 2 working drawings saves several months and allows us to build phase 1 now and then start the phase 2 construction in the early spring, which maximizes the year and hopefully allows us to get the building enclosed before winter of 1998. There has been a cohesive effort by all of the various NIH and ORS groups in the planning and design of the project (see sidebar below)."

The 'War Room'

Most of the Bldg. 50 activities are centered in a construction trailer, TR30B, which has a conference room whose walls are covered with drawings, flow charts and schedules. These story boards, or "card tricks," are color-coded to denote responsibility for each task and together yield a schedule to which multiple NIH teams, design consultants, and eventually the construction contractors, must adhere. "The schedule is computerized and we stick to it. We have tried to anticipate every activity in the project. That way, there's no 'Omigosh, my term paper is due tomorrow!'" Kutlak noted. "It is very intense. Each step of the way is calculated and evaluated. Now that we have essentially established it, it's just a matter of monitoring, controlling and maintaining it."

He likens each day of the project to games in a baseball team's season and stresses that if the season comes down to a final game, each previous game, including the first game of the year, was as critical as the final one. "All too often projects start out slow, people are not focused and waste precious time in the beginning, only to be compressed at the end. We are specifically avoiding this by pressing on the front end of the schedule," he said.

Several milestone events have marked the Bldg. 50 journey thus far: a series of "value engineering sessions" held to ensure value in the design has "already saved quite a bit of money and time." Other planning sessions have realized benefits; for instance, by having the NIH electrical shop order the PILC (paper insulated, lead covered) high voltage electrical cable now, before it is actually needed, the project saved the 3-month delay it would have taken the contractor to special order the unique product during the phase 1 construction period.

"We've also had several meetings with the principal investigators, and we meet monthly with ORS upper management, the ICD's, and scientific directors to keep them apprised of our progress," Kutlak said. The design team solicited some 2,000 comments from NIH reviewers on the recent phase 2 design development submission alone.

A "process action team" comprised of reviewers from many disciplines has monitored all phases of planning and design. "This team serves as a two-way communication tool so we can keep everyone at NIH fully informed of the design and keep our design team informed of the needs of the various groups to avoid changes later," Kutlak explained. "We also have a veterinarians committee, composed of the various ICD vets who will be using the animal facility, that has participated in the programming and design of the vivarium."

With the aid of DCRT's Network Systems Branch, Kutlak maintains five different listservs with interested parties, including NIH'ers in neighboring buildings, so that everyone will be aware of activity that might affect their worklife. A Bldg. 50 Web site ( on the ORS home page is a wealth of information and is due for major revision this month. Once construction gets significantly under way, a digital camera will yield real-time photos of the structure on the Web site as it rises.

Kutlak beams with quiet pride at the accomplishments of the entire project team. "Getting to design and build such a major state-of-the-art building happens only once in a career for an architect. In fact, most architects don't ever get that kind of unique opportunity," he said. "It's very rewarding."

A Building, by Any Other Name...

There was a day when Bldg. 50, then in earliest planning stages, went by the name Bldg. 237. That's because it would replace the research lab space provided by Bldgs. 2, 3, and 7.

In general, those are still the source labs for future 50 occupants, but added to their number are NHGRI and, more recently, about one-third of the current occupants of Bldg. 6.

"The relocation of people from Bldg. 6 offers an opportunity for renovation of the original Bldg. 6 in the future," said Frank Kutlak, architect and project officer for Bldg. 50. "Most of the existing older buildings have 30 to 40 percent more people and equipment than their original mechanical systems can handle."

Current plans call for Bldgs. 2 and 3 on either side of Bldg. 1 to be renovated not as labs but as administrative offices, befitting their proximity to top administrators in 1.

Where to Park?

Temporary lots will add about 400 parking spaces to offset those lost by Bldg. 50 construction. Opening in early July, these will be: south of parking lot 41B, east of the Natcher Bldg., near NLM, by the Pepco substation at Bldg. 17 near the Pike, and in front of the Cloisters. More parking plan details will appear in the next Record.

Let's Hear It for the Team Players

A "process action team" composed of representatives of all the ORS support groups (safety, fire prevention, telecommunications, DSFM, MEB, FPP, DCAB, security) as well as the ICD representatives, logistics and contracting, has contributed to and reviewed the Bldg. 50 program and design progress.

A few people who deserve special credit are John Vilgos, chief of the DES Maintenance Engineering Branch, who has taken the time to attend field trips and planning sessions on mechanical issues; Cyrena Simons, the DES science design coordinator, who has led the lab design and programming efforts and served as spokesperson to the ICDs; and Barbara Taylor of Acquisitions Branch C, who as contracting officer has made special efforts to keep all of the contracting issues moving.

The project is being designed by Hansen Lind Meyer Architects with GPR Lab Planners and Ross, Murphy, Finkelstein Mechanical Engineers. CRSS Constructors is the government's construction quality manager, which is assisting Kutlak with the supervision and scheduling of the design and construction.

Drs. Ed Korn (NHLBI), Tom Kindt (NIAID), Jeff Trent (NHGRI), Henry Metzger (NIAMS) and Ira Levin (NIDDK), as well as Dr. Michael Gottesman and Steve Ficca, have also participated in NIH management oversight of the design process to date.

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