Galveston National Laboratory

Biocontainment is one of the most challenging science and technology categories WSP USA routinely works on. Every one is different. Each requires keen problem-solving skills and intense collaboration. WSP’s engineering and commissioning teams understand and have unparalleled empirical knowledge in the design, operations and commissioning of BSL-4 high containment facilities.

Research Space for Critical Needs

As one of two national biocontainment laboratories constructed under grants awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/National Institutes of Health (NIAID/NIH), the GNL provides much-needed research space to develop therapies, vaccines and diagnostic tests for naturally occurring emerging diseases such as SARS and West Nile encephalitis, and avian influenza as well as for microbes that might be employed by terrorists.

This new facility totals 186,000 sq. feet and has more than 47,000 sq. feet of laboratory research space that includes BSL-2, BSL-3, BSL-3 Enhanced and BSL-4; and BSL-3, BSL-3 Enhanced and BSL-4 animal holding and research space. The animal research space is designed to accommodate rodents, nonhuman primates and avian species. The total construction cost was $174 million.

Construction of the GNL entailed demolition of an existing administration building, modification of existing campus site utilities, and erection of an eight-story building that included a bridge connection to the existing Dr. Robert E. Shope, M.D., BSL-4 Laboratory. In addition, a connection to the existing Keiller Building was made, which entailed renovation work within the existing building infrastructure.

Complying with NIH Guidelines

The MEP systems serving this facility were designed to comply with the NIH design guidelines and standards, which require N+1 systems redundancy to minimize single points of failure. The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems include redundant supply/exhaust fan systems with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration. The electrical power systems include redundant services, risers and emergency generation. Specialty systems for the BSL-4 area include primary and back-up breathing air systems, solid and liquid waste effluent decontamination systems, chemical shower decontamination systems, and high-level building automation and security systems.

This facility is home to the world’s first high-resolution cryo-electron microscope placed within a high containment BSL-3 lab, allowing detailed analysis of highly pathogenic emerging viruses. Collaborating on demanding engineering projects like the GNL is always a challenge. Coming up with the perfect solution is what makes this job as much an art as it is a science.