This state-of-the-art complex in Fort Detrick, Maryland, is the first laboratory built for DHS and comprises two centers. The first center is the Biological Threat Characterization Center (BTCC), which conducts research to better understand current and future biological threats.
We were called on to provide mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems engineering and commissioning for the high containment BSL-4 laboratories. We also were involved in developing the liquid effluent decontamination system design and engineering for the entire facility. The NBACC BSL-4 laboratories are capable of supporting work with causative substances that may be listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) as select agents. Two Class III biological safety cabinet spaces are located within the BSL-4 suites as adjunct space for high hazard, specialized aerosolization activities involving animals. The Class III spaces employ a pass through mechanism for accessing material into the laboratory. Activities within the BSL-4 environment include the growing of pathogen stocks, extracting of material (nucleic acids), invitro infectivity studies and challenge studies.
The BSL-4 spaces are subject to the Fort Detrick Environmental Impact Statement and comply with requirements that include high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration of the exhaust air, decontamination of solid waste with pass-through decontamination autoclaves, decontamination of the liquid effluent, personnel showers upon exit of the high containment areas and fire protection systems within containment. The basis of containment of aerosols will be through sustained directional airflow from areas of low hazard to areas of high hazard maintained by active heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system monitoring and controlling to specific differential pressures.
Our team performed the commissioning of specialty systems in the facility which included the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that support the BSL-4 spaces, the primary and backup breathing air systems, the chemical shower decontamination system and the liquid effluent decontamination system. We worked with NBACC facility operator Battelle National Biodefense Institute (BNBI) to develop operations and maintenance (O&M) protocols for the facility. In working with the O&M representatives, our commissioning program was fully incorporated into O&M procedures and inventory management lists, and operational safety protocols that are used at the facility.
We are honored to serve our country in helping engineer and commission highly-specialized science and technology engineering projects like this one, which are critical to national security.