Spotlight on: Scripps Research Institute Gnotobiotic Laboratory

It’s been a busy year for Cannon Building! As we move along at a steady clip, our project teams are working between San Diego and Los Angeles to deliver excellence across a few key client portfolios. 

One of these is the Scripps Research facility—and this month, we want to focus on Cannon Building’s recent work on the Gnotobiotic Laboratory. To date, this is the largest project Cannon Building has done for Scripps Institute and showcases the high capability levels and value that Cannon Building delivers to clients.  

“Cannon Building is honored to be supporting the world-class life-saving research that Scripps Research continues to perform,” said Tim Cannon, president of Cannon Building. “It gives us purpose in our mission of critical-environment construction.” 

When complete, Scripps’ Gnotobiotic Lab will be a key testing site to help advance research in the fields of immunology and cancer studies. The gnotobiotic element, the study of organisms within a carefully controlled germ environment, helps researchers understand more about the nature of bacteria and viruses that typically live both externally and internally for both mice and humans (as well as the surrounding environments where germs/viruses grow). 

This unique type of controlled research requires a certain laboratory set-up with exact specifications.  

“This project from a logistical and constructability standpoint was challenging but it’s also what made the project unique,” said Kellar Harrell, project manager at Cannon Building. “We had a great team that worked collaboratively to overcome the challenges. This cohesion contributed to the overall success of the project.” 

Project details 

Cannon Building was asked to take what started as 2,287 square feet of a parking structure and convert it into a laboratory space. The scope of work included demolition of existing tenant space and the construction of a gowning room, workroom, gnotobiotic lab, and autoclave room. The job also included installing all new mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems, as well as water heaters, an air handler unit, sump pump, lighting systems, autoclaves, decontamination chamber, exhaust fans, and variable frequency drives.  
The Cannon Building team began pre-construction in August 2021, a phase that featured a design-assist approach with the Cannon Building project lead, architect, engineers, client, and subcontractors. By September 2021, construction was underway.  

Team challenges 

Over the last year, this ground-crew encountered a few challenges that required some creative problem-solving. These are a few hurdles that the team faced over this past year, as noted by Harrell and Patrick Kennedy, general field superintendent for Cannon Building. 
“During the city’s review of the fire sprinkler design, they determined that the design was not up to fire-rating code—even though the plans were approved by the city’s building department before work began,” said Harrell. “Our team (Cannon Building leads, the architect, the client, engineers, and subcontractors) spent a month determining what corrective actions we should take that would not have a significant cost and schedule impact.” 
There also was a delay with the owner’s equipment due to shipping challenges, supply chain issues, and COVID-19 related impacts. Kennedy added: “One of the other challenges we had to deal with was working in a very small, confined physical space within an existing parking garage area on the Scripps campus.” The team transformed this space into a laboratory—no small feat!  

Key takeaways 

There were plenty of lessons learned from this Gnotobiotic Laboratory project to ensure success in future similar work.  

Kennedy noted: “Be aware that new equipment delivery is challenging, so make sure that whoever is procuring the equipment has a realistic understanding of lead-times.” Harrell agreed and emphasized how important it is to confirm that the owners have ordered their equipment, so it arrives prior to the established construction schedule in order for work to progress efficiently.  
A great project, an awesome team, and a job well done! 

Read more about Gnotobiotics Lab work.