Cleanrooms Go “Tudor”
By Susan English
Eden Prairie, MN–ViroMed Laboratories, Inc. has demonstrated a new look for cleanroom and biological testing and containment laboratory space. One of Minnesota`s leaders in the field of viral diagnostics, the company has borrowed from the English Tudor architectural style to help make its work environment more pleasing and, arguably, its 125 employees work more efficiently. Although not as yet what could be called a “trend,” the “ergonomics and design factor” could quite possibly impact how contamination control facilities will look in the next century.
This, at least, is the sentiment shared by ViroMed`s founder and CEO Bonnie Baskin, who, determined not to have the typical, two-story “cookie cutter” warehouse-style plant, worked with Minneapolis-based Symmes, Maini & McKee, an architectural and engineering firm with experience in the building and design of cleanrooms and high containment labs, together with local design/builder Opus, to construct the 48,000 ft2, two-story, sloped-roof masonry-and-stone building at a cost of $3.3 million. Construction began in October 1993, and the company moved into its new headquarters in June 1994.
Adapting the Class 10,000 chase-style cleanroom proved to be no problem, according to Marty Lipshutz, ViroMed`s CFO. “The cleanroom is part of our medical device testing laboratory, and we really didn`t have to do anything out of the ordinary to plan that room other than with the HEPA filter system and the air pressures in the cleanroom (positive pressure) in relation to the outside containment laboratory (negative pressure) rooms.” A “slab-on-grate” design, the cleanroom features seamless welded vinyl flooring with integral bays and a vinyl lay-in ceiling.
A special wing houses 26,000 ft2 of high containment (Biosafety Level 3) laboratories, “negative” air pressure rooms where microbiological testing on uncommon and highly infectious disease agents is conducted. Three specific pathogen-free small-animal laboratories, a Biosafety Level 3 small-animal facility, and a large-scale tissue culture manufacturing facility are also contained in the wing. As an “enhanced performance” feature, both cleanroom and lab windows open out onto a hallway, providing easy visibility to the workers inside, as well as a more “open” feeling to visitors and employees, while minimizing the opening and closing of doors–a real contamination hazard. Also, windows on walls were deliberately lined up with exterior windows to provide as much natural lighting as possible on all sides of the building. n