Medical Research Council, Gambia

The Himsworth Laboratory in the MRC’s Gambia Unit operates as the Regional Reference Laboratory (RRL) for the World Health Organisation’s Invasive Bacterial Vaccine- Preventable Diseases (IB-VPD) surveillance network. It supports more referring countries than any other RRL in the network and represents the African region.

Due to increasing workloads and multiple scientific  work streams including microbiology, molecular biology and DNA extraction the MRC appointed The Austin Company to provide an urgent solution to enhance their existing facility in the  shortest possible time scale to meet these expanding needs.

Working within the limitations of an existing building the client brief and practical considerations had to achieve several objectives:

  • To improve materials, samples and personnel flow movement between the laboratory spaces.
  • Provide additional space to help the scientists improve their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
  • Introduce additional containment to the existing laboratories to prevent contamination.
  • Enhance the ventilation to the laboratories.
  • The solutions had to be kept simple, resilient and easily maintainable given the geographical location, tropical climate conditions and limited material supply chains.
  • The solution also had  to be implemented in the shortest possible quickly to meet the client’s pressing needs.

The solution proposed an extension onto two sides of the existing laboratory building forming a new circulation corridor and new change lobbies to the various laboratory spaces. New ventilation  air handling units, associated air conditioning and plant enclosures to house the equipment were designed to provide better ventilation and manage correct airflow regimes to the laboratories.

The  new corridor as well as meeting the objectives also acts as a positive pressure air supply plenum to maintain  the correct air flow direction to the laboratories, whilst minimising ingress of hot and humid external air into the building thus minimising supply air distribution ductwork.

The Austin Company provided a multi-disciplinary design including, architecture, structural, mechanical and electrical. The Austin Company also provided project management support working  collaboratively with the local Gambian client management team and building contractors during tender and construction.

The project required flexibility and a collaborative ethos by all parties to overcome unique challenges and was completed in December 2013.

“Many thanks for your hard work on this project. It is somewhat unusual to manage a project remotely, but you have done very well and I am really grateful for yours and your colleagues work. I  had the opportunity to see the work when I was out there and was very impressed!” Susan Simon, Head of Projects, Medical Research Council.

Medical Research Council, Gambia

The MRC have a number of research sites in the Gambia. The principal unit is in Fajara with field sites up country in Keneba, Basse and Walikunda.

The research portfolio spans scientific research, clinical trials, large epidemiological studies and intervention trials.

The field and laboratory-based work draws on excellent research and clinical facilities and attracts international funding. The Unit has an established staff complement of about 200 scientists,  clinicians and senior administrative staff from many parts of the world, as well as hosting many visiting researchers, and has over 500 support staff.

There are requirements for expansion and modification to the facilities for both scientific and support functions.

The requirements on the Fajara site are for support facilities for the scientific community. These include additional on-site housing for all staff and visitors and for a lecture theatre to support the  promotion and communication of science undertaken in the Gambia.

Austin carried out a site inspection and user discussions. From this a site master plan was developed and agreed with the site team. Proposals for new facilities were designed within the site master  plan framework.

Over the years a loose zoning of the site has evolved. A cluster of scientific buildings and a cluster of support functions are located centrally on the site. Housing is dispersed generally towards the  perimeter of the site. The clinic is located on the perimeter in a secure compound with main public access off-site.

Developed strategy: The scientific zone with the new Whittle Building has space  available for additional science buildings.

A new lecture theatre is proposed adjacent to the existing meeting rooms, library and office facilities.

Proposed new housing is located around the perimeter of the site utilising vacant space  between existing houses and land adjacent to boundaries.

The proposed strategy allows for a phased approach to any development.

Lecture Theatre: The MRC in Gambia has increasing global reputation and importance resulting in an increase in visitors, collaborative work and sharing of scientific developments. Fajara is at the centre of this activity in the Gambia and requires new international meeting and conference facilities to support the business.

The proposal is for a new stand-alone facility comprising a large sub-divisible space, which will accommodate approximately 200 people. It will provide a flexible response to the requirement for meeting space.

The new centre utilises a mixed mode system of natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation to reduce energy consumption but respond to large numbers of occupants. The flat roof  accommodates an array of solar panels.

Housing: additional provision is required for new staff, visitors and to accommodate staff currently off site.

23 new houses have been designed ranging from 2 – 4 bedroom units.

The new housing  will be single storey bungalow type in individual fenced compounds some with carports. All properties have external covered verandas, with areas enclosed with insect mesh panels.

Medical Research Council

The Medical Research Council (MRC) requested Austin to undertake an option study report (RIBA stages A & B) to look at the potential for expanding the existing Mary Lyon Centre on their Harwell Campus. The study was to ascertain the most appropriate way of accommodating the users’ identified requirements which included additional research facilities with support laboratories and ancillary facilities.

The study reviewed a number of options, including looking at the refurbishment of an existing building, a new build solution and extending the existing MLC building. On completion of the option  study, Austin was commissioned to undertake a RIBA stage C report to develop the identified preferred option.

The preferred solution was the creation of an extension to the existing MLC to provide the additional accommodation identified as well as incorporating flexible facilities for the future. The new extension, with a footprint area of 2,750m², has been designed to incorporate state of the art energy saving systems.

The extension includes eight separate research suites, as well as a breakout area and change/shower facilities. The support laboratory areas include twelve 6m² ‘flexi-labs’ designed to incorporate  electromagnetic shielding in the form of inbuilt individual faraday cage enclosures.

The extension has been designed with a similar architectural language to the existing MLC. The provision of brise soleil to the elevation adds to the articulation of the façade, humanises the  external scale of the building, and is integral to the energy reduction strategy adopted for the new building.

Included are three flexible wards in the centre of the building. These can be utilised for various research activities. This built in flexibility allows for current and anticipated mid-term business expansion needs.

Structurally, the building is designed with a minimum of 11 metres between column spacings allowing larger free spaces to be created. This allows long term flexibility and the ability to match existing research suite typology if redeployment and additional refurbishment of other areas of the extension is required in the future.

Mechanically, the systems have been designed such that the ventilation for the general well-being of the operatives is considered separately from that of the internal process needs. The
general ventilation incorporates a demand load control system. The process ventilation complies with both Home Office guidance and European directives. This allows for some relaxation in the tolerances applied to the tightness of air control delivered to the general ventilation system, with the ability to vary volume, temperature, and humidity outside of the normal guidance. This leads  o a predicted 50% reduction in energy costs.

As well as the separate process and general ventilation, the project includes solar hot water panels and a biomass boiler feeding back into the existing heating system. This makes use of on-site  waste and makes provision for future grey-water utilisation in proposed landscaping works.

Health Protection Agency – Porton Down – Wiltshire

Health Protection AgencyAustin was commissioned to undertake two projects for the Health Protection Agency at Porton Down – one for biopharmaceutical products (Media Stores) and the other for cell cultures (Cell Storage Centre).

As a GMP licensed manufacturer of biopharmaceutical products, the first project called for investment in a spacious new pharmaceutical stores facility designed to meet the requirements of the MCA in the UK and the FDA in the USA.

The European Collection of Cell Cultures (ECACC), a strategic business unit that provides high quality cell cultures and associated services to industry and the academic community, selected Austin for the design and construction of a new state-of-the-art, ultra low temperature storage facility.

The facility includes a 20,000 litre liquid nitrogen dual-reservoir system, automatic fill for 40 storage vessels, the latest telemetry and oxygen monitoring systems.

This facility is the largest of its kind in Europe.

Cancer Research UK – Biotherapeutics Development Facility (BDU) – South Mimms

crukw1Cancer Research UK – Biotherapeutics Development Facility (BDU) – South MimmsThe BDU in South Mimms, Hertfordshire is designed specifically for the production of early phase clinical to cGMP. Biotherapeutics are at the cutting edge of new cancer treatments, and in order to achieve significant advances, the very best and most advanced facilities are required. This replacement for an existing unit is therefore a hugely exciting development for the charity.

The 2,000m² building contains GMP production (mammalian microbial/years, viral technologies), GMP support, final fill process, assay development, QC laboratories, stores, utilities and offices.

The design incorporates significant improvements in personnel and materials flow, equipment reliability, planned maintenance, process efficiency, scheduling, office space, information flow, roles and responsibilities while being versatile scalable and flexible.

The facility includes classified areas of about 300m² on the main production floor with mezzanines for air handling equipment and a basement area for utilities.

The building air leakage test achieved 3.3m³ / hour / m² @ 50pa which is an excellent result as best practice allows this figure to be below 10.

The carbon emissions calculated indicate the building to be an Energy Efficient Building.

Gillian Lewis, Programme Lead said, “Austin was selected to design and engineer this project after an exhaustive selection process, in part because we felt they could match our requirements with a team we could work with.

The successful delivery of the build on-time and ahead of budget has provided a state of the art facility which allows Cancer Research UK to expand research in the years to come.

Austin delivered the development of this building with savings in excess of £1 million.”

The Austin Company is proud and delighted to have won Cancer Research UK’s Best Supplier Award for 2009.

Institute for Animal Health – Enhanced Category III Laboratory – Compton

Institute for Animal Health - Enhanced Category III Laboratory – ComptonThe challenge on this project was:

  • To provide a new 550m² extension to an existing enhanced Category 3 high security containments facility.
  • To provide a containment facility with a pressure cascade from -20 Pa to -60 Pa.
  • Work closely with The Institute’s scientists and engineers to develop a unique solution that enables The Institute to conduct specific research into the airborne transmission of pathogens.
  • To provide systems that allow the efficient isolation and fumigation of individual rooms.
  • To provide an environment that is conductive to the occupant’s welfare.

Austin’s solution was to ensure containment could be maintained, the facility was constructed from reinforced concrete and all services designed to be automatically isolated and accessed for maintenance from a first floor plant room.

Develop a unique ventilation system that, in conjunction with bespoke air transfer grilles, creates a movement of air between pairs of rooms, but prevents possible cross contamination by other substances.  The ventilation system can be automatically switched between this mode of operation and a normal mode that provides individually ventilated rooms.

Design a ventilation system that allows each room to be remotely isolated so that fumigation of individual rooms can take place.

In line with the Home Office requirements, the facility was designed with tight temperature and humidity control, a bright, well lit environment and finishes that are designed to be easily cleaned.

As the extension increased the total size of the facility, the Institute’s existing Effluent Sterilization facility was also increased to handle the increased facility.  This involved controlled “break-ins” to the existing Category 3 drains.

Austin provided concept design, preliminary engineering, detailed engineering, procurement, project management, construction and commissioning services.  Austin also managed the testing process that enabled the facility to be approved for use by the Home Office.

Central Veterinary Laboratories – Biological Laboratory Upgrade – Weybridge

Central Veterinary Laboratories - Biological Laboratory Upgrade - WeybridgeTo meet the standards of its own Directorate of Veterinary Medicine, as well as those of the European Community, CVL upgraded a laboratory building that functions as a Biological Production Operation.

The renovated building contains facilities for media preparation and sterile processing. It also houses culture and incubation areas, cold rooms and microbiology and chemistry laboratories. Other areas are provided for wash-up, labelling and packaging.

The facility’s clean rooms were designed to achieve Grade B of the EEC Guide to Good Manufacturing Practice for Medicinal products.

Two of the four sterile suites were designed to create aseptic environments to contain Category 3 pathogens by negative pressure. The other two suites, used for media preparation and filling, are maintained under positive pressure.

A pressure cascade functioning throughout adjacent areas attains Grade C and Grade D levels of cleanliness.

The Austin Company of U.K. Ltd. designed, engineered and constructed the entire renovation project. Austin also provided project management services for the validation of both the facility and its production equipment.

In addition, Austin purchased and installed specialty equipment including autoclaves, safety cabinets, centrifuge, filling machine, drying oven, mobile mixing tanks and clean-in-place systems.

  • architecture
  • mechanical
  • electrical
  • structural
  • public health
  • construction
  • management