• Best-practiceapproach improves life sciences facility design

Businessman and engineer using computer in factory, facility management software, sustainability consulting.
Project stages and engagement entry points

Building automation is critical to the performance, cost, and regulatory compliance of life sciences facilities. Yet, unless included in the earliest design stages, implementing the building management system (BMS) can delay construction and incur unnecessary costs.

Strict safety and compliance regulations dictate standards for ventilation, temperature, humidity, and air quality in life sciences facilities. If design teams delay planning the BMS, any issues that arise may be costly to correct and can impede commissioning and completion time.

“In the life sciences industry, faster time to market is essential for realizing maximum revenue,” said Fran Selvaggio, global application engineer, Schneider Electric. “The process from discovery to approval of a new drug or device, for instance, often takes more than 10 years and requires millions in funding.”

He explained that the life sciences construction process can be lengthy and is complex due to exacting environmental requirements. Building a functioning facility built to specification, within budget, and on schedule can be a challenge.

To make the facility design process smoother, many life sciences planning experts follow the Building Accelerator Methodology (BAM), a field-proven approach based on industry best practices. This approach delivers benefits such as:

  • improved building performance and efficiency
  • shorter construction timeline
  • smoother turnover to operations staff
  • decreased long-term costs
  • ensured regulatory compliance

Early design involvement
Modern best practice is to include BMS design at the very beginning of the project. When BMS vendors join a design and planning team, building automation can play a greater role in creating a cost-effective building that’s energy-efficient. But even if BAM isn’t introduced until the construction phase, elements of the approach can still accelerate the construction process and owner acceptance.

Three common methods used at early design stages – Design Assist, Early Contractor Involvement, and Integrated Project Delivery – provide effective ways to “design with the operator in mind.” Taking into account how BMS decisions will impact the end user can shorten the time from commissioning completion to owner acceptance and lessen the number of costly, final-stage change orders.

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Post-design techniques
When the design is complete and the project moves to the construction phase, the focus of BAM shifts to BMS implementation issues. Who will be in charge of specific details concerning HVAC, power, security, and IT? Will there be continuity across the different systems? Who will manage the transition from design to construction? The answers to these questions are critical to project success.

Industry best practices
The following best practices align with the typical workflow of BMS design, installation, and implementation for a life sciences facility project:

  • Assign a lead engineer to oversee BMS activities throughout the project.
  • Establish approved specifications (such as flow rates or duct size) before engineering the inline devices.
  • Assure that BMS software and graphics engineers work in close collaboration and secure approval for operational sequences before coding begins.
  • Authorize a full-time BMS project manager to act as the primary customer contact. The manager ensures collaboration between teams, monitors change orders, evaluates staffing and resources, and oversees ongoing audits for safety and quality.
  • Ensure that the BMS subcontractor documents and tags all devices as the installation proceeds in order to better prepare for commissioning and eventual operation.
  • Work with the contractor to conduct a full evaluation of the BMS system to check for problems such as incorrect wiring or software configuration.

What’s the ultimate payoff of taking the BAM approach to designing and constructing a life sciences facility? “Faster construction, quicker owner acceptance, and improved performance and efficiency,” said Selvaggio. “Leveraging the BAM approach enables life science project stakeholders to get it right the first time.”

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