Grail Laboratory and Research Facility at Park Point

Durham, North Carolina


CONTRACTOR: Brasfield & Gorrie





To develop its first wide-scale production testing facility, biotech company GRAIL wanted to move quickly. It called on contractor Brasfield & Gorrie to deliver the $38-million, 200,000-sq-ft project in 5.5 months. The project called for roughly 90,000 sq ft of new construction as well as a 110,000-sq-ft interior build-out of an existing warehouse with 60,000 sq ft of commercial PCR laboratory space for DNA sequencing operations and reagent manufacturing. The remaining build-out delivered 25,000 sq ft of warehouse and cold storage as well as 25,000 sq ft of open offices and conference spaces.


Photo by Keith Isaacs

Brasfield & Gorrie leveraged design-assist to bring on critical subcontractor partners early in the design process. The team faced potential lead times exceeding 12 weeks for some equipment, so its early engagement efforts helped mitigate those risks as long-lead items could be released before the full construction documents were issued.

The team developed an expedited construction schedule by identifying multiple material suppliers for commodity goods, identifying second-shift opportunities and targeting alternative materials. Among the expedited items, the team was able to deliver 17 rooftop air handlers, two 1.25-megawatt generators, 4,000-amp switchgear, 300,000 lb of ductwork and a 4,000-sq-ft custom negative 80-degree cold storage unit on site within six months of project award.


Photo by Keith Isaacs

The team also employed a detailed approach to procurement tracking and labor management, creating a risk matrix to identify opportunities within the schedule to mitigate labor and material challenges. One risk this approach helped overcome was reducing cost and schedule for roughly 280,000 lb of duct. By switching from rectangular duct to spiral, crews could install work in larger and longer sections. Spiral duct was also more readily available due to local market conditions.

Overall, Brasfield & Gorrie estimates that its early effort reduced the project schedule by four months.


Photo by Keith Isaacs

Although its main offices are in Menlo Park, Calif., GRAIL board members and employees needed real-time construction updates for planning purposes. Brasfield & Gorrie used OpenSpace, which employs a 360-degree camera fastened to a hardhat to track construction progress in real time. Each day, employees at Brasfield & Gorrie created models of construction progress similar to Google street-views. The data was then linked to the architectural floor plans so GRAIL team members could see near real-time progress on site. 

Although faced with significant challenges, the team delivered the project on time in March 2021 with no lost-time accidents and no OSHA recordable incidents.