Lab Matters Summer 2020 | Page 25

INDUSTRY MATTERS Building a Business Case for Facility Improvements By Michael Mottet, principal planner, HDR • Existing Facility Forensics: An experienced team of architects and engineers should tour the building to assess the building’s overall capabilities. Engineers should speak to the building maintenance team to understand any constraints in mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and determine whether the laboratory fit and finish meet current architectural best practices. The J. Mehsen Joseph Public Health Laboratory in Baltimore, MD. Photo: David Sundberg/Esto In today’s challenging economic environment, state and federal agencies are scrambling to make budget adjustments to maintain operations and laboratory improvements. At the same time, the reality of the pandemic has accelerated conversations about our current state of emergency preparedness. Perhaps a current building was not intentionally designed and engineered as a diagnostic laboratory or has exceeded its intended useful lifespan. Facilities like this often struggle to maintain the rigorous environmental conditions required to provide a safe and productive working environment for staff, as well as safeguard the integrity of testing protocols. Constant disruptions in testing due to inadequate temperature, humidity, airflow, vibration and backup power can make operations a real challenge. In the face of these challenges, it is hard to avoid using the available minimal funds to take a “band-aid” approach to improvements. There is hope that renewed public awareness about the importance of public health might result in more funding. However, the challenge is figuring out how to best gain stakeholder support so that some funding can be allocated towards laboratory improvements. The first step in the process is to establish a credible business case. Laying a Solid Foundation It is critical to document the shortcomings of the physical environment, including engineering infrastructure and gaps in programs. Commissioning a company with expertise in public health laboratory design and engineering can be extremely helpful. Their qualified expertise will help provide guidance in gaining stakeholder support. The following key business case deliverables should be considered: • Executive Summary: This one-page overview should address current benefits and constraints of your program and the building’s physical condition. It should clearly document the “Drivers for Change” that might affect daily operations. The summary should provide a priority list and associated costs to implement. • Space Programming: It is important to document current programs by department, space and function. Existing area tabulations will help benchmark against industry standards for similar facilities. Departmental interviews should be conducted to document current program challenges and identify future needs. A gap analysis with associated improvement costs will further inform decision making processes. • Basis of Design: The consulting team should also produce an existing conditions narrative that outlines the current state of the facility and provides guidance on industry best practices for architectural and engineering design features typical to modern diagnostic laboratory design. • Cost Analysis: A cost analysis should provide detailed cost data and estimates for improvements, as well as considerations for future growth. In addition, the costs associated with deferred maintenance—for example the inevitable failures in critical engineering equipment—as well as with operating an older, inefficient building should be addressed. • Recommendations: The consulting team should meet with stakeholders to develop key recommendations and priorities, associated costs for each and a timeline of implementation. • Concept Design: If desired, the consulting team can provide a conceptual design plan(s) for key recommendations and support out-briefs or presentations to stakeholders. There is no single factor that makes a facility inadequate to support modern public health laboratory functions. A business case will provide a strong foundation and rationale for upgrading or replacing an aging facility and infrastructure, no matter the reason. • HDR is a Platinum Level sustaining member of APHL. PublicHealthLabs @APHL Summer 2020 LAB MATTERS 23