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Inside the Lab Profession, Technology and innovation, Quality assurance and quality control

From Office to Laboratory

The Halo lab is huge and technically demanding. How did you approach planning?

Even within a purpose-built structure, the 20-month project time would have been an ambitious target, given the technical complexity of delivering one of the largest pathology laboratories in Europe, including the largest sample tracking system ever installed in the northern hemisphere. But The Halo Building is in fact a 15-story former 1970s office block in central London, so this added an unprecedented level of complexity to the scheme – the structure was clearly never intended to be such a highly serviced clinical environment.

The key to the successful delivery of the project was identifying the critical elements and processes fundamental to the operation of the building, as well as understanding what existing infrastructure we were working with. Scoping the building’s existing services infrastructure early in the process gave us the confidence to make important decisions quickly, as did the location and the construction implications of the laboratory’s four vertical transportation systems – essentially, intelligent mini-lifts.

Another consideration was the lead in times and immoveable delivery windows for pieces of equipment, such as the Kiestra equipment on Level 3. Flexible programming of key areas of the building enabled us to accept deliveries of equipment that otherwise would have had serious implications for the program. Early identification of key pinch points was crucial to the efficiency of the build sequence and enabled us to lock down areas of the building once they were completed.

What design and logistical considerations did you have to keep in mind?

With strictly limited internal vertical transport options during the construction phase, a large hoist and scaffold gantry system was erected to service all floors, which enabled material and equipment deliveries to keep pace with the challenging construction program.

A separate hoist and scaffold platform was also installed to facilitate the installation of the specialist process equipment. The additional capacity enabled this important element of the works to overlap with the construction program, ultimately reducing the overall program by several months.

In the Containment Level 3 laboratory areas, we worked extensively with HSL and workflow specialists to ensure the design of the space worked for the end-user requirements. The functionality of the space was fundamental and ensuring the equipment and workflow procedures were known and understood at the early design stages was key to success.

Workflow design was key to the automated blood analysis GLP system on the first floor. All the medical process equipment was modelled in Revit and uploaded into the 3D construction model of the project. A series of collaborative workshops with the design team and clinical end users interrogated and planned the clinical work flow in 3D real space, rather than the traditional 2D method.

We have dispelled the myth that a state-of-the-art laboratory cannot be housed within a pre-existing office building.

The sample transport system spans over five floors, so information on where things would be located, down to the millimeter, was needed – planning in 3D made this possible.

What is unique about this project?

We have dispelled the myth that a state-of-the-art laboratory cannot be housed within a pre-existing office building because of incompatible floor-to-ceiling heights. Typical laboratory buildings have a slab to slab height of 4.5–5 meters, whereas a typical office building is in the range of 3.5–4 m. The Halo Building’s floor to ceiling height is 3.46 m and features a 500–600 mm ceiling void space, with laboratory bench services fed from the raised access floor below. So despite not being a custom-built space from the very outset, when fully operational, the Halo will operate 24/7 and process over 20 million samples a year, with the most advanced diagnostic technology in the world – a result to rival any custom-built building.

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About the Author
Paul Sharp

Paul Sharp is Divisional Director at ISG’s Engineering Services business.

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