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Sense of Place

Global Health Research Building at Duke University Medical Center

University Business, Jun 2007

WIDESPREAD HEALTH CONCERNS CALL FOR COLLABORATIVE RE-search lab buildings like this one at Duke.

- FUNCTION: First of 13 National Institutes of Health-funded Regional Biocontainment Laboratories, available to NIH-funded researchers from Duke and elsewhere.

- CHALLENGES: Avian flu, SARS, and West Nile are viruses and anthrax and smallpox biological agents that could potentially wreck havoc on life in the United States. Facilities are needed to study these threats and provide public help during a crisis, when local diagnostic labs may be overwhelmed. While Duke researchers and others have worked with these agents, animal research testing requires carefully planned and constructed biosafety level 3 labs with specialized equipment, notes Richard Frothingham, MD, building director of a new facility that's up to the task. Winning an NIH grant to build it on the site of a former parking lot within Duke's medical center campus was just the start. As planning began, officials realized that the grant funds wouldn't cover current material costs and the ever evolving security requirements for these types of buildings.

- SOLUTIONS: Luckily, NIH developed a supplemental funding program for grant recipients to help with the budget overruns. And Hillier Architecture designers were able to consider future planned work at Duke to help economize and bring the project within budget, says Eric T. Jaffe, an associate principal at Hillier. The end result is a facility that can do a large number of experiments using biological agents, explains Frothingham.

The 33,145-square-foot building has 17,000 square feet dedicated to research labs (the rest is lab support and office space). Its resources can be used by anyone doing NIHfunded research, so those with labs that can't handle the biosafety aspect of the research will benefit. "People all around the country have these ideas, but they scrap them because they don't want to get all this clearance just for testing. We can take on that last step of testing," Frothingham says. A number of local emergency response groups have participated in training programs at the facility, he adds. Extra security and safety measures include shower facilities, security guard monitoring, and building supports capable of withstanding hurricanes and tornadoes, according to the Medical Center, as well as redundant mechanical systems (if one system goes down, a backup system will be ready to take over, Jaffe explains).

- COST: $22.4 million ($16.4 million from NIH grant)

- TIMELINE: Building dedicated February 2007 and now being used for biosafety level 2 research; biosafety level 3 labs expected to be up and running this summer

- PROJECT TEAM: Design by Hillier Architecture of Princeton, N.J.; construction management by Bovis Lend Lease of New York City -Melissa Ezarik

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