Selected Highlights of the Labs21 2010 Annual Conference


Getting Everyone on the Same Page Without the Page

Galen Lif, AIA, LEED AP, PGAV Architects
Gary Micheel, Kansas Bioscience Authority


Currently rising from a 2.12-acre site, in a setting reminiscent of a prairie, and overlooking a limestone edged pond, sits the still under construction Kansas Bioscience Authority Venture Accelerator. Located within the Kansas Bioscience Park in Olathe, Kansas, this will be the first building on the Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA) campus, establishing a progressive, high-tech, innovative architectural context for the entire park.

The KBA was created by the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004 with the sole purpose of advancing the state's leadership in bioscience research, innovation, and industry. This 38,750-square-foot facility will help fulfill that mission by housing the KBA offices, but more importantly, it will provide incubator laboratory and office space for bioscience startup companies. The central focus of this incubator is high-quality tenant office space and flexible laboratories that can be leased individually or in blocks to accommodate a tenant's changing needs.

Integrated MEP systems with fused glass panels

Integrated MEP systems with fused glass panels

Construction began in December 2009 and will continue through February 2011 with occupancy in March 2011. This project was developed with the goal of achieving a Silver rating or better using the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction (LEED®-NC) 2.2 rating system. The construction cost of the project is $10.6 million.

The KBA's stated goals for this project included: setting a progressive, high-tech, innovative tone; providing abundant natural light; and creating a professional, but not luxurious space. In order to meet these goals, the building's design incorporates open structure, limited use of ceilings, and extensive use of glass, all of which translated into a lot of exposed ductwork and piping. With the intensity of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems associated with laboratories, it was determined that the best way to "hide" these elements was to integrate them with the architecture. The use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) was employed to make a very complex laboratory project manageable in several areas: laboratory casework and equipment layout; integration of structure, architectural design, and MEP systems; and construction sequencing and field coordination.

Since the laboratories are designed as incubator space with tenants and research types yet to be determined, using BIM was invaluable. Casework layout and equipment locations could be easily reconfigured in the model until very late in the project, as well as during and after bidding, by documenting alternatives and easily accommodating substitute manufacturers. During the submittal process, because the supplier was able to use the building model, the time to produce and review submittals was reduced by weeks.

Achieving the goal of open space flooded with natural light required clerestories and minimal ceilings with most of the building's elements exposed; therefore, the integration of the architectural systems, structural systems, and MEP systems was paramount to a successful project. The use of BIM allowed the blending of these systems by modeling connections, brace locations, and mechanical system routing to work within the framework of the steel structure and other space limitations. Elements such as ducts, piping, valves, electrical conduits, and fire protection are among a number of systems that were modeled and integrated with the structural and architectural elements. During construction, having a model has helped immensely with field coordination, submittal review, and installation sequencing of integrated systems.

As an example of this integration, a central element of the Venture Accelerator project is a clerestory corridor open to both levels that contains the supply and exhaust ducts and many of the pipes carrying diverse water types serving the laboratories. In order to provide the clean, high-tech aesthetic desired, a panelized system of white fused glass and clerestory vision glass constitutes the interior façade of the laboratory block on the south side of the corridor. The piping, along with supply and exhaust ducts serving the laboratories, penetrates the fused glass panels. Using BIM, all the panel joints and substrate material were modeled as well as the piping and ducts. This permitted the penetrations to be located at elevations contributing to architectural aesthetics, and more importantly, interference avoidance, thus integrating MEP systems with the architecture.

A traditional, two-dimensional method of documenting and coordinating such intense integrated systems would have been daunting, if not impossible. The use of BIM, while not a magic bullet, provided a way to get everyone on the same page without the page.


Galen Lif is a senior project architect with PGAV Architects and specializes in the design and delivery of highly efficient research facilities. Since early 2009, he has been serving as an integral team member on the Kansas Bioscience Park Venture Accelerator; he has been heavily involved in every aspect of the facility's design from skin to laboratories, led the design documentation phase in REVIT, and is now leading the construction administration effort.

Mr. Lif thrives on complex challenges and leading the project team through the design and construction process. His true strength lies in presenting a clear and consistent vision for the project while attending to countless details.

Mr. Lif is a LEED Accredited Professional, a member of AIA and the U.S. Green Building Council, and is currently serving on the AIA Missouri Board. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Kansas and has a total of 21 years of design and construction experience. Prior to becoming an architect, he spent 13 years as a civil engineering designer working on transportation and stormwater management projects.

As facility project manager of the KBA, Gary Micheel makes certain full value is obtained for all building and infrastructure investments and serves as the owner's representative.

With more than 30 years of engineering experience, he has led teams of professionals designing and constructing complex facilities for sites throughout the United States and in several international locations. Prior to joining the KBA team, Mr. Micheel served as a project engineer and construction manager for Black & Veatch.

Mr. Micheel earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Purdue University and a master's degree in civil engineering from the University of Kansas. He is a registered professional engineer and a member of both the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Structural Engineers Association of Kansas and Missouri.