In late 2019, Trinity Consultants acquired WorkingBuildings (WB), a specialty consulting firm that provides commissioning, related engineering, support programming, and operational services for complex facilities. WB's highly experienced and credentialed team of architects, engineers, regulatory compliance specialists, lab technicians, program managers, energy managers, quality assurance inspectors, and operations experts is focused on delivering projects that exceed client expectations while complying with applicable regulatory platforms.
WorkingBuilding's multi-disciplined specialists create solutions that address technically complex processes, building, and regulatory issues. A good example of the expertise provided is seen in WB's project for the University of South Alabama's Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, which is described below.
In 2010, the University of South Alabama received a research grant from the National Institutes of Health for the construction of a stand-alone laboratory for the study of infectious disease. This new lab would replace an existing 35-year-old facility that housed the program's BSL-3 space and would combine what were previously separate BSL-2, BSL-3, and ABSL-3 laboratories. The new 5,000 square foot BSL-3 suite within the new lab would be registered with the CDC for work with Tier 1 Select Agents.
Issue of Concern
Near the end of construction, in 2013, WB was engaged to assist with Standard Operating Procedures development and to perform initial verification testing of the engineering controls in the BSL-3 suite. When the team began its work, it found many systemic issues that needed to be solved.
The design and construction team did not have experience with the applicable regulations of the Select Agent Program, and some construction needed to be re-designed to bring the suite into compliance. WB reported that the BSL-3 ceiling construction was inadequate, as it was a hard ceiling suspended from the structure with wire hangers and these types of ceilings were known to fail frequently during extreme space pressure events. However, WB's recommended modifications to the ceiling structure were declined. Then, during some troubleshooting by the BAS controls contractor, the ceiling collapsed in the BSL-3 suite due to out-of-control pressurization.
Following the ceiling collapse, the client expanded the scope of WB's work to include coordination of an investigation of the incident, redesign of the ceiling system, and putting measures in place to prevent this type of failure in the future. Using fault tree analysis and destructive system testing, WB determined that the worst-case scenario pressures that the BSL-3 suite could be subject to and worked with the design team to re-design and install the new ceiling system.
Following remediation of the failed ceilings, WB began performing tests of the BSL-3 systems and worked through numerous major issues with the laboratory airflow controls and mechanical systems. WB was able to simultaneously lead the design and construction team in resolving engineering issues and guide the users through preparing SOPs and regulatory documentation in preparation for Select Agent registration.
Once all construction issues were resolved, WB took over operations and maintenance of the facility to lead the University through the Select Agent registration process and trained the permanent Operations and Maintenance staff for long-term management.
With Working Buildings' leadership and unique mix of expertise, the program was able to:
- Re-design and re-construct the BSL-3 ceilings to a system that was sufficiently robust
- Resolve all deficiencies related to the building MEP systems;
- Complete a successful initial verification test of the BSL-3 engineering controls for Select Agent registration; and
- Establish proper operations and maintenance programs to achieve and maintain Tier 1 Select Agent registration and AAALAC accreditation for the facility.
In August 2014, the program was granted final approval for Tier 1 Select Agent registration by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the Working Buildings team turned over operations and maintenance to the permanent staff at the University.