Building 23 is the tallest on the campus of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When building and installing the building’s HVAC mechanical systems, B&K had to solve an unforeseen problem: The height of the building meant higher pressure would be exerted on the water loop than the Central Energy Plant could handle. We engineered and executed a solution before an immovable deadline – one that, if missed, would require the CDC to pay a lot more in construction costs. The project also demanded that we accommodate Biosafety Level 2 requirements and work around multiple other contractors.
That’s CDC Building 23, the largest lab facility at the Atlanta headquarters of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When Batchelor & Kimball was hired to install the HVAC mechanical systems, we knew the building’s size would be a major factor.
“It was so large that just keeping track of all the workers could be a challenge,” says Bill Doty, project executive. “The team could be spread up and down across five or six floors at once.”
Outside the facility, we faced the opposite problem: no space at all. Rubbing shoulders with sprawling Emory University and bustling Emory Hospital, the CDC’s crowded main campus is already densely built. That meant no staging area to store supplies or organize materials for the next day’s work. Nowhere to route trucks, and no way to bring in big equipment.
“You’re in a little postage-stamp area,” says Trent Strine, project manager. “And the only thing that will fit on the job site is a crane.”
With all of the supplies stored off site, each day’s work depended on a complex choreography of just-in-time deliveries — the right materials, for the right workers, at the right moment. And a day of bad weather, a malfunctioning crane, a misfiled form or any other small mishap could bring a domino effect, requiring the reworking of numerous interlocking schedules.
So we worked hard to stay one step ahead. Each day, we reviewed the schedules, adjusted timelines, proactively contacted vendors, and made lots and lots of phone calls. All to ensure that everyone was perfectly synchronized, keeping that choreography as fluid as possible.
But then a problem surfaced: Unforeseen pressure on the water loop system.
When completed, Building 23 would be the tallest on the CDC campus. Its height meant higher pressure would be exerted on the water loop than the Central Energy Plant could handle.
To replace all flanges and devices inside the plant would be far too costly – not only for added construction, but because of a clause in the overall project contract.
Left: One interior hallway featuring B&K work; Right: the finished central water system room. Each day on site involved a complex choreography.
Built into the CDC’s agreement with contractors was a scheduled start-up date for the building’s cooling system, which was B&K’s responsibility. If we didn’t start up that system by the deadline, the CDC would be required to pay more in construction costs. A lot more, all funded by the taxpayers.
We helped the team develop a solution to the pressure problem: Adding flat plate heat exchangers, pumps, pipe and controls to Building 23, so that water from the loop would stop at the third floor and keep pressure manageable. Then we would build a second – and independent – loop of pipe from the new heat exchangers to serve the upper floors, thus keeping those from adding to the pressure in the system.
If we didn't start up that system by the deadline, the CDC would be required to pay more in construction costs. A lot more.
The thinking was sound, but meeting that construction deadline loomed as a huge challenge. Yet a true team effort prevailed. Our suppliers expedited materials, our fabrication shop worked overtime, and we met the deadline.
Michael Payne, who served as CDC’s project manager, endorsed the effort by saying, “You guys cared about the entire project, not just the mechanical systems. And that’s unique.”
Years later, Michael called us out of the blue one day, just to thank us: “You guys said you would do it. And you did.”
(We appreciated hearing that!)