WSP USA Provides Expertise for World’s Largest High-Containment Research Lab

A military medical facility designed to provide the world’s largest safe environment for infectious disease research will soon open its doors for critical scientific studies.

Final commissioning is under way at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. The building is targeting occupancy in 2021.

The 835,000-square-foot building will serve as the lead facility for the U.S. Biological Defense Research Program, replacing the current outdated and overcrowded USAMRIID building.

“The current facility is about 40 years old and does not meet modern containment standards,” said Les Gartner, project director for WSP USA. “The new facility is easier to maintain and operate, provides additional space, and is designed to meet current codes and guidelines. It also provides additional capability to fulfill its current and future mission.”

The new building features state-of-the-art high-level biocontainment laboratory space, animal facilities, administrative offices, and operational and administrative support facilities, which facilitates high-containment research on infectious diseases that may affect military personnel in the field.

WSP, as part of a joint venture with HDR, for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, provided containment architectural and engineering expertise for several high-containment components of the project.

“Our firm provided knowledge of current high-containment design from other national and international high-containment projects that we designed,” Gartner said.

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©2019 PHOTO COURTESY OF HDR/DAN SCHWALM

WSP was responsible for the architectural design of biosafety level 4 (BSL4) research space. WSP has designed more than 10 of the world’s BSL4 labs.

World's Largest

The research facility has biosafety level 3 (BSL3E) and biosafety level 4 (BSL4) high containment laboratory spaces. WSP was responsible for the architectural design of BSL4 research space – the highest containment level – which allows scientists to work on deadly diseases in an environment that is safe for the scientists and the community.

“A BSL4 lab is highly technical, with very stringent requirements and no tolerance for deficiencies,” Gartner said. “This facility will have the largest BSL4 space in the world built to acceptable international standards.”

WSP was also responsible for the BSL-3E Imaging and Aerobiology areas providing planning, architecture, and transfer carts. The firm was also responsible for clinic and logistics areas, providing planning, architecture, MEP and BMS engineering services.

The project’s success required successful collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ facilities, scientific, and biosafety teams throughout design and construction of the project.

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©2019 PHOTO COURTESY OF HDR/DAN SCHWALM

WSP was responsible for clinic and logistics areas, providing planning, architecture and other engineering services for the building.

Scientific Understanding

WSP has been involved with the design and construction of numerous high-containment laboratories around the world.

“WSP has designed at least 10 of the world’s BSL4 labs,” Gartner said. “That allows us to bring international perspective to the U.S., and use our knowledge for world facilities that want to collaborate with the U.S.”

He said one of the keys to the firm’s success on laboratory projects like the USAMRIID facility is an understanding of the science taking place inside.“These scientists are world-renowned, which requires us to take a world view of these types of facilities,” Gartner said. “Our people have the experience and an understanding to the level where we are able to discuss the goals and mission with scientific leaders for this type of research.”

“The real story isn’t the size or the cost; it’s what the client will be able to do with this facility,” he added. “It will allow them to continue to develop vaccines and treatments for military personnel that are exposed to dangerous situations while performing their regular duties.”

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©2019 PHOTO COURTESY OF HDR/DAN SCHWALM

The building will serve as the lead facility for the U.S. Biological Defense Research Program, replacing the current outdated and overcrowded building.

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