The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Galveston selected WSP USA as high-containment designers and partners to undertake the feasibility study and design of this Biosafety Level 4 (BSL4) containment laboratory housing the Department of Pathology and the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Tropical Diseases.


Modern Laboratory, Historic Building

WSP USA coordinated the feasibility study for the project, which involved the review of existing building systems and site conditions and assistance to UTMB in developing a program defining project objectives and containment parameters. Operational and equipment needs were reviewed, and size and configuration requirements and functional relationships developed. The team also addressed environmental impacts relative to scientific risk; developed alternative design solutions; prepared site plans, floor plans and building sections; and outlined specifications, project cost estimates and project schedule.

A major challenge was to ensure successful integration of the new highly secure lab with the existing historically designated building, dating to 1881. In addition, and of paramount importance, the building must be safe, secure and able to withstand the high-force winds in this coastal hurricane zone.

Developing this top-level containment laboratory demands that “safety first” is the top priority both for lab workers and the neighboring community. No compromises are acceptable. The building program calls for a research laboratory and associated support spaces to house equipment, virus collections storage, specialized fumigation equipment and chemical shower rooms for people and equipment as they move in and out of the lab.