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Commissioning High Containment (BSL-3, BSL 4) Facilities

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


Commissioning of High Containment facilities, especially suit labs, involve many of the basic concepts of traditional building systems commissioning. These concepts are broadened to encompass architectural materials, installation methods, and detailed testing of system components. Through the use of test-beds, mock-ups and an integrated review process, the commissioning of BSL-3+ and BSL-4 facilities provides validation of both the containment barrier and redundant life support and HVAC systems. In a BSL-4 setting, this validation serves to certify the facility for select agent usage.


The specialized process of high containment commissioning provides tangible baseline operational data, and a level of comfort relating to the integrity of the containment barrier for both researchers and the general public. We will highlight current commissioning efforts on a new BSL-4 laboratory facility. Comparisons will be drawn between traditional and high-containment building commissioning processes and scope. We will demonstrate how a materials/methods mock-up and a mechanical systems test bed can be utilized to enhance and expedite the commissioning process for this highly complex laboratory type.

Labs21 Connection:

This presentation will discuss how:

  • Commissioning aids in protecting occupant safety
  • Commissioning establishes minimum system performance criteria for ongoing systems evaluation and tracking
  • This process Incorporates "lessons learned" and design enhancements from other high containment labs (BSL-4) to provide a superior facility design


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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