Future Site of Kansas Bio Lab

ST. LOUIS-The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has just chosen a joint venture between St. Louis-based McCarthy Construction and Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction to develop the $80 million Central Utility Plant for the future National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

“We have a great deal of expertise in this type of program,” McCarthy Senior Vice President Tom Kreher told GlobeSt.com. McCarthy/Mortenson has been providing preconstruction services since 2009 for the same project, including doing design reviews, cost estimates, design mock-ups and site preparation. Since 2000, McCarthy also built a facility for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, among others.

NBAF was planned as a state-of-the-art biocontainment facility for the study of foreign animal diseases that threaten American agriculture and public health. Its employees will conduct research, develop vaccines and other countermeasures, and train veterinarians in preparedness and response against disease.

The funding to finish this main, future facility has not yet been approved by Congress. “It’s highly likely,” Kreher added, that the joint venture will also get the contract for the main facility, “but it’s not been awarded.”    

“There has been a whole lot of evolution in the industry in building these types of buildings,” he said. The first-generation of biocontainment structures, primarily designed for government and university research laboratories, were built in the 1950′s, but since about 2000 a second, more advanced generation has been created. “They need highly-complex mechanical and filtration systems to maintain negative pressure to make sure nothing gets out of or into the research spaces.”

The joint venture will use Virtual Design and Construction technology and first build the product virtually, ensuring they can properly coordinate the airtight containment structure and its complex mechanical systems, Kreher said. “At the end of the day, the government will have an easier to operate and maintain facility.”

In April, President Obama should release his next budget, and Kreher will see if the proposed main facility at NBAF will get funding for the next fiscal year. “That really will be our first indication.”