Considering Modular Facility - for Research Lab: A Case Study of Modular cGMP Facilities at NIH

Prashant Gongal, Perkins+Will

Access the Recording

Renovation of existing facilities is a strategy that is used most often. The benefit is the presence of existing infrastructure. However, that same existing building sometimes creates challenges like limitation of space and distribution of utilities. This is where modular construction can present a solution that can meet the desired expectation of performance, time, and cost. Modular construction is not a new idea and it has been implemented in other program types; this can also be done for research facilities.

The case studies will investigate two modular cGMP facilities: the first was built on an existing terrace over a parking structure and the second one on a brownfield. One consists of five modules and the other includes 10. Both the projects came with their own set of challenges. Rigorous design and planning resulted in utilizing existing utilities, supporting the modules, determining the most appropriate method of installation, and phasing the construction. In one, the modules were slid into place while the others were craned down. Both projects ran into unforeseen conditions during initial construction.

The quality control of the module construction was higher due to prefabrication in a controlled setting. The ability to perform Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) did help in rectifying any possible drawbacks during Site Acceptance Test (SAT). FAT identified several items that needed to be improved to the models before being shipped off for installation.

We can certainly achieve quality in-situ construction. However, the investment is substantially greater to build a new building. The modular construction does last more than 25 years and, at the end of its lifetime, can be taken apart and recycled. Even better, the facility can be reused by different users or relocated. NIH's requirement for redundancy made sure that the facility can be used uninterrupted from external disruption. An exterior shell encasing the modules helps reduce the stress to the mechanical equipment serving the clean labs. The result is a unique architecture that houses a unique laboratory for the research campus.

Learning Objectives

  • Upon viewing the presentation, attendees will be able to compare different methods they can develop a project to meet the space need for expanding research programs;
  • Upon viewing the presentation, attendees will be able to identify strategies that best suit their need for research facility development;
  • Upon viewing the presentation, attendees will be able to conclude if modular construction is a viable solution for their research facility development; and
  • Upon viewing the presentation, attendees will be able to list ways to make the modular construction sustainable, resilient and economical.


Prashant Gongal is an architect at Perkins and Will, Washington, D.C. He has been working for the past five years on the design and construction of research facilities for the National Institute of Health. He has been involved in design, and construction of various laboratory spaces ranging from renovation, addition, and ground-up building. He is RELi AP, a resiliency program championed by Perkins and Will and now administered by GBCI with a goal to create resilient design for changing world.


Note: Abstracts and biographies are displayed as submitted by the author(s) with the exception of minor edits for style, grammar consistency, and length.