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Vol. LXI, No. 12
June 12, 2009

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Porter II, CC Rehab Top Priorities
How Far Can NIH Stretch $500M in Stimulus Funds?

On the front page...

Four big projects will consume almost $430 million of the $500 million in buildings and facilities funds that NIH received via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) earlier this year.

The largest of all the NIH buildings and facilities (B&F) projects is the second phase of the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center (called “Porter II”) that will be constructed on the east side of Bldg. 35. Building Porter II will cost $266 million, more than half of NIH B&F stimulus money.


  NIH will erect phase two of the Porter neuroscience complex. Above, an artist’s rendering shows the new facility’s eastern perspective.  
  NIH will erect phase two of the Porter neuroscience complex. Above, an artist’s rendering shows the new facility’s eastern perspective.  

Renovation of the F wing in the old portion of the Clinical Center is the second largest. Largely vacant now with many former inhabitants having moved to the Clinical Research Center over the past few years, the outdated labs and inpatient care rooms that comprise Bldg. 10’s F wing will be completely reconstructed from floors 2 through 14. Phase A, the redesign of floors 2 through 5—to be occupied by NCI anatomical pathology and NINDS laboratories—was already under way, funded through the Office of Research Facilities’ repair and improvement program. ARRA funds allow for phase B, redesign of floors 6 through 14, to go forward.

The contract for the design of phase B was awarded on May 13 to LSY (Louviere, Stratton and Yokel), a Silver Spring, Md., architectural firm that specializes in laboratories and clinical, hospital and research support facilities. LSY was already under contract for phase A. That both phases will be designed by the same firm and that the phase B contract was able to be inked so soon represent “a critical milestone for the whole renovation,” said Glen Stonebraker, deputy director of ORF’s Division of Property Management who also serves as ORF deputy director for ARRA. The F wing rehab will cost an estimated $216M—$134 million being ARRA funds—and calls for a cutting-edge energy efficient ventilation system. NIH will be among the first federal facilities in the U.S. to install such a system, which debuted in Europe.

Another large project slated to use ARRA money is renovation of Bldg. 3. Decommissioned in spring 2001, when most scientists, lab and office workers and other inhabitants moved their research mere yards across South Dr. to the brand new Stokes Bldg., Bldg. 3 was set for interior demolition in 2002. The historic structure—home over the years since its completion in 1938 to the labs of dozens of distinguished scientists (including a couple of Nobel laureates) and birthplace of several research advances—was supposed to reemerge as an office facility.

Bldg. 3’s renovation was put on hold indefinitely as more pressing building projects were undertaken and NIH’s construction budget was stretched to accommodate them. Recently, how ever, scaffolding was erected around the facility as the building’s roof underwent repairs. The roof was scheduled to be fixed even before ARRA funds made rehab of the entire building possible. Bldg. 3 will be repurposed into office space for current occupants of Bldg. 10’s E wing, paving the way for yet another major future project in the overall rehabilitation of the old Bldg. 10 facility. The renovation of Bldg. 3 will cost $21 million.

The largest NIH B&F project outside of Bethesda is the renovation of NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories Bldg. 7 in Hamilton, Mont. NIH will spend $7 million to convert former mechanical space in the facility to laboratories.

If you’re keeping a tally sheet, that’s a total of $428 million already claimed by four large projects on NIH’s B&F wish list. Those facilities represent most of the so-called “new space” that ARRA funds will support; 12 other projects account for the remaining $72 million.

Projects to be funded with the balance fall into a category known as “R&I” (repair and improvements), which is a mix of structural, mechanical and other utility upgrades. For example, NIH will spend $50 million—the largest single expense of the stimulus balance—to rehabilitate electrical distribution equipment in various buildings on the Bethesda campus. In addition, renovations costing approximately $1 million will be made to Bldg. 16A, the 2-story clapboard cottage that sits next to Stone House on the hill near the Metro station. Bldg. 16A will be used to foster interdisciplinary work aimed at solving global health issues.
The Porter Neuroscience Research Center Two (Porter II) is shown in artist’s renderings from northeast perspective.
The Porter Neuroscience Research Center Two (Porter II) is shown in artist’s renderings from southeast perspective.
The Porter Neuroscience Research Center Two (Porter II) is shown in artist’s renderings from northeast (l) and southeast perspectives. It will be constructed with ARRA funds that NIH has received.

“There’s always tension or a balancing act between using resources to create new facilities or repair existing facilities,” explained Stonebraker, an engineer at NIH for more than 25 years. “The way we’re using the ARRA funds reflects that ongoing balance.” Before any hope existed that NIH could win stimulus funds, the ORF “must-address” list was already fairly long and seriously short of money. ARRA came in the nick of time.

The F wing project in Bldg. 10, for instance, was only partly funded, Stonebraker said. “We were unsure when we were going to be able to obtain funds for the remaining part. ARRA money presented us the opportunity to proceed with this critical work.”

NIH estimates its use of stimulus funds will create or retain approximately 2,000 jobs. NIH will obligate $81 million in FY 2009, with the rest ($419 million) obligated by the end of next fiscal year. All ARRA money must be awarded by Sept. 30, 2010; all stimulus package dollars are required to be spent by 2015. Electrical vault work begins this month.

When NIH scored the $500 million for B&F (of the $10.4 billion total) in ARRA funds, it may have been tempting to think all of the agency’s concerns about its rapidly aging infrastructure were suddenly fixed. Not hardly, Stonebraker stressed. Large parts of NIH’s infrastructure are in need of refurbishment.

ORF is required to conduct regular audits of the facilities it maintains, assigning each component a score reflecting its condition. On the auditing scale, a building that rates 70 may be habitable, but still needs major improvements. A facility that gets 100 is in essentially new condition. In aggregate, NIH’s owned assets are in the low 70s.

“NIH is aiming to have all of our buildings above a condition index of 90 by 2017,” Stonebraker said. “ARRA is helping but it by no means solves all our problems. We still have a long way to go. This is well understood by NIH leadership.” NIHRecord Icon

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