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The Challenges of Providing Bio-Containment Spaces in Existing Facilities

Ed Cordes, AIA and Raymond Beets, AIA, B2HK Architecture


Evolving research protocols (as defined in the CDC/NIH guide for Bio-safety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories) and the increased use of potentially dangerous micro-organisms, has lead many research institutions to consider the addition of bio-containment suites to existing research facilities. Renovation of existing spaces to provide both BSL-3 lab suites and ABSL-2 & ABSL-3 vivariums can be a difficult and extremely complex process. Insertion of these functions into an existing laboratory facility affects more than mechanical systems. Potential changes include additional life-safety systems, decontamination, building circulation and material finishes changes. These spaces require dedicated complex controls and equipment. In addition to BSC's, pass-thru autoclaves and animal cage wash and processing equipment is often included in the scope of work.


By examining a number of current renovation projects, we will present lessons learned, critical details and overall conceptual systems design considerations to guide research institutions in their consideration of adding bio-containment facilities to existing buildings. Cost modeling, trends, minimum square footage and energy usage estimations will help clarify the real costs of such a renovation. Conceptual layouts (architectural/ engineering) will be used to explain the complexity of these types of projects.

Labs21 Connection:

This presentation will:

  • Look at the total impact (cost, energy usage, engineering, architecture) involved in renovating existing laboratory facilities for bio-containment use.
  • Examine the opportunities to utilize energy efficient systems and components in the design of these spaces.
  • Discuss how the addition of these lab types affects occupant safety.


Ed Cordes, AIA, is a principal of B2HK Architecture and has over 14 years experience in complex systems design including civilian aerospace, laboratory and animal facility work. Current work involves a number of higher education research laboratory & animal facility projects. Ed has served as the project manager on animal facilities of all types and species, including transgenic rodent vivariums (ABSL-2, ABSL-3) totaling over 100,000 square feet and primate (great ape, and monkey) holding facilities and sanctuaries. Laboratory design efforts include renovations for BSL-3 suites. Mr. Cordes is involved in the commissioning process for a BSL-4 laboratory nearing completion. Other recent projects of note include, new genetic research labs, pathology labs, a cardiac diagnostic center and a new school of pharmacy for the Texas A&M University System.

Ray Beets, AIA, brings 31 years of experience in the design of complex research facilities. As a Principal of B2HK Architecture, he oversees the firm's work relating to high containment. Ray is the partner in charge for the University of Texas - Medical Branch at Galveston BSL-4 laboratory facility. The firm is also currently completing designs for a new BSL-4 facility to be built by the State of New Mexico Department of Health. Mr. Beets belongs to the International BSL - 4 User Group and has co-authored a study on the design of bio-containment insectaries for the "Anthology of Bio-Safety IV: Issues in Public Health (ABSA). Other projects of note include university research support facilities (ABSL-3, ACL-3 Labs), and design studies for the Planetary Sample Receiving Facility (BSL-4) for the NASA/Johnson Space Center. Mr. Beets' clients include major universities, biomedical/pharmaceutical companies and research hospitals. Ray's comprehensive laboratory design background and involvement with high containment issues on an international level bring a unique perspective.

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