By Carla Garnett
On the Front Page...
Compared to the other construction projects going on in every campus quadrant, the improvements being made to Bldg. 37 are relatively quiet and disruption-free. That's because the 6-story building is being redone top to bottom, floor by floor, while its occupants work inside.
"We have been well informed in advance of each phase," said Dr. Claude Klee, chief of NCI's Laboratory of Biochemistry, which is currently located on the 4th floor, but will soon move to the newly renovated 6th floor of Bldg. 37. "Aside from a couple of power outages, we have not had any serious problems. However, the major construction has not really started yet, so it may be too early to say. So far, interruptions have been minimal."
Over the next 8 years, the building will be completely modernized, transforming all of its 30-year-old labs into top-notch research facilities for the National Cancer Institute. Originally completed in 3 years as part of a 3-building construction medley in November 1968, Bldg. 37 -- at about 262,500 square feet -- was the largest of the 35-36-37 triangle-shaped complex to be finished that year. Its price tag was a little more than $9.9 million.
Keeping in mind the nature of research and its fluctuations, current modernization will stress flexibility, according to the project's architect.
"The laboratories will be updated to provide a flexible, modular space that will allow easy alterations based on changes in user requirements and technological advances," explained Paul Grzeszczak of Flad & Associates architectural firm. In addition, all utilities will be updated, and health, safety and security issues will be addressed. "The lab environment will have access to natural light," he noted, "and promote creativity and productivity through increased opportunities for communication."
Estimated cost of the project is expected to top $80 million by its fall 2005 completion date. Although early yet -- the project officially began last December, but really swung into high gear in June -- building planners have already met for general consultations with researchers who occupy Bldg. 37. As individual floors are prepared for construction, lab users on those floors will join discussions on ironing out the details for particular labs.
"We are getting completely renovated labs," said Klee, whose area will be among the first to experience renovations firsthand. "They are going to be open labs, which is supposed to give us a bit more space. We won't really be able to tell until we put all the furniture and things in the rooms whether we will have any additional space. We are interacting well with the architects now, working on the plans."
According to Project Officers Solange Rangel and Maimon Levy of the Division of Engineering Services, Office of Research Services, building planners hope to complete one floor per year. Most of the first few months will be spent updating and relocating the utilities systems. Current utilities systems -- located in the basement -- will continue to serve throughout the renovation, Rangel said, but new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are being installed in a new rooftop mechanical room, as well as an improved electrical system. As each floor is remodeled, it will be disconnected from the basement and integrated into the new mechanical system above.
Replacing offices in the basement of the building will be animal research facilities currently housed on the 6th floor, said Rangel. Construction workers were putting the finishing touches on the animals' new dwelling in the basement -- which will feature 9 holding rooms, 3 procedure rooms and several other support areas including reception and quarantine rooms -- in mid-September.
Bldg. 37 is also gaining a few improvements to its outside, with the addition of two exterior towers to house restroom facilities, stairwells and elevators. Groundbreaking for the phase occurred in August. Rangel is also quick to credit other key players in the modernization: the White-Turner Contracting Co., with Scott McMahon serving as project manager, and Charles E. Smith Management Construction, which has been retained as the development manager, with Project Manager Frank Piatkowski.
The newly redone building will also share with its nascent neighboring project -- the Vaccine Research Center being constructed directly northeast -- a cleverly redesigned driveway and shuttlebus turn.
"This project has elements of both new construction and phased renovation -- each of which has its specific challenges," concluded Grzeszczak. "The new construction challenges have been in coordinating a vast network of existing and new utilities and tying into an existing building aesthetic that is very modern and simple."
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