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.

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