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Biosafety Laboratory Design and Construction: What to Know Before You Begin

The task at hand: Your company is building a new research facility, and you need to create a plan and budget to design and build a laboratory that finishes on time, under budget, and meets a specific biosafety level (BSL) laboratory requirement. Sound daunting? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Like any major undertaking, your upcoming project starts with proper planning. In this post I’ll go over the key things you need to be thinking about as you plan for your upcoming BSL construction project.


First, let’s talk budget. Excluding FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment), biology and chemistry labs typically cost roughly $175 to $200 per square foot for hard and soft costs. This excludes the costs of aggressively expediting measures, for example overtime or weekend work; so if you’re in a time crunch then budget accordingly.


Next, what’s your deadline for occupancy? Typically, speed to market is a main driver, so make sure you have a clear understanding from company leadership of your project’s required completion date.

BSL Requirements

What does your laboratory research? Does your research require special secondary barriers or facility design and construction elements in order to adhere to BSL criteria? This is important. Be sure to check with whoever handles Environmental, Health & Safety (EH&S) compliance in your company to understand your laboratory’s BSL requirements.

Not sure what all this BSL stuff means? Complete descriptions of secondary barrier requirements for each biosafety level can be found on the CDC’s website, here. It is important to know this information before you hire your various design and construction project team members, as you will want to select a team that has experience working in the biosafety level applicable to your project.

Project Team

Finally, assemble your team! A qualified construction project manager can help you hire the right architect, hazardous materials consultant, lab planner, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers for your BSL project. Each team member will work with your end users to establish adjacencies and plan for the BSL secondary barriers required for your lab space. Proper management and communication are key to ensuring that no details are overlooked in meeting the necessary BSL requirements.

In closing, a successful laboratory is a safe laboratory. Before you undergo the design process for your upcoming laboratory construction project, be sure to communicate your expectations and necessary safety precautions to your project team to ensure a smooth programming, design, procurement and permitting process. Start programming exercises early with your entire design and construction team. And never be afraid to ask for help. A qualified construction management team can pay for itself by helping you create the design and construction schedule, assemble the project team, avoid costly mistakes and delays, and complete the project on time and on budget.

Hughes Marino’s industry leading Construction Management team has unmatched expertise in every type of commercial building project from tenant improvements to ground-up build-to-suits. With decades of experience in California and beyond, our project managers, engineers and LEED APs offer practical insights for the construction management professional.

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