Biogen LSM 3X Capacity Upgrades
Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Region ENR Southeast
Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Project Team
Lead Design Firm (Upstream) / Process Engineer/MEP Engineer CRB Consulting Engineers Inc.
Lead Design Firm (Downstream) / Process Engineer IPS-Integrated Project Services LLC
General Contractor DPR Construction
Structural Engineers Fluhrer Reed PA; Mainstay Engineering Group

Looking to boost the output of one of its biomedical manufacturing facilities, project owner Biogen challenged its design-build team to complete a major upgrade of the plant at Research Triangle Park during a 14-week shutdown period. With the clock ticking, teams worked 24/7 in 12-hour shifts to get the Biogen LSM 3X capacity upgrade completed on time. A demanding schedule did not impede a strict safety standard, however, with no lost-time incidents recorded on a project that involved installation and certification of highly sophisticated equipment in often tight spaces.

“We had a fixed window on when manufacturing had to resume,” recalls Shawn Pepple, project manager at DPR Construction. “We started planning it over a year out, but it took regular meetings throughout the process as well as a lot of small team huddles with multiple layers of review.” The capacity upgrade project not only met those deadlines, but approximately 50% of installation areas were completed ahead of schedule. “We were working on the plant while they were resuming operation in other areas, and that continued throughout the project,” he says.

Work on the 100,000-sq-ft facility included installation and replacement of a wide range of complex equipment, including 12 vessels, six prefabricated process equipment skids, 1,000 sanitary diaphragm valves, 3,000 process instruments and 18,500 linear ft of hygienic piping. A design-build approach on this type of job was a bit different for DPR Construction, but it allowed the general contractor to tackle major procurement issues upfront and ensure just-in-time deliveries of many sophisticated prefabricated components. “It’s not usual for general contractors to get involved in acquiring thousands of individual components needed for this sort of work,” says David Ross, project executive with DPR Construction. “But we were able to deliver the instruments and components with less that a 0.5% failure rate from an on-time perspective.” A shared database allowed for project members to track the status of each component, from the supply chain through installation and certification. “Ensuring that level of communication meant we knew what was ready and what could be switched over. The intertwining of all that data was very important,” says Ross. “We had an early understanding of our systems, so if this component is being worked on now, we can commission it by lunch.”

Sequencing the installation and replacement of these components in a facility where equipment was certified and brought on line as soon as it was in place made for a busy schedule, but the team had focused early on in recruiting building trades familiar not only with biomedical manufacturing work but Biogen’s facilities in particular. According to Pepple, this reservoir of knowledge helped keep the team focused. “Craft workers were able to adapt to each other’s schedules rather than wait their turn,” he says. The team built a custom scaffold to allow multiple trades to work in the same cramped space at different levels. “It’s about empowering the experienced craft workers,” says Pepple. “A lot of professionals have the skills and know how to work safely. If you empower them, they can speak up and encourage others to work safely. It helps the project at a higher level.”

Best of the Best judges cited the project’s safety record as a standout feature of the program. In the words of one judge, it was “definitely a vision that was executed. Having done biomedical projects, I know the complexity in all of the systems and having to function in a clean environment, and they managed to do all that with a perfect safety record.”

ENR's Best of the Best Projects 2017