The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines a core facility as a “centralized shared research resource that provides access to instruments, technologies, and services.” Vivariums, a core facility by definition, are often discretely located away from research labs and are separated by floor or by building from other core facilities.
Intentional placement of vivaria, in basements, separate wings, or even separate buildings, away from other resources, is important for biosecurity, animal health and safety, and regulatory compliance. However, this can create a bottleneck for certain types of research where smaller cohort studies are used.
This is sometimes solved by bringing the core facility into the vivarium. For example, when a researcher has an imaging need, if the vivarium is setup with its own MRI, PET or CT, the workflow and data capture cycle can be much more efficient. Because of space and funding challenges, most vivaria do not have dedicated imaging resources so researchers must transport an animal elsewhere, creating inefficiencies in workflow.
Advances in Imaging
In recent decades, advances in in vivo imaging, multi-modal imaging, and data processing have resulted in an increasingly inverse relationship of imaging power to cost. The ability to visualize in more powerful ways in smaller footprints has driven animals out of the vivarium and closer to research labs.
Convergence of innovations in big data, photo-acoustics, bio-interfaces, and optical technologies in ever-smaller instrumentation footprints have made their way out of core facilities and into the labs. Microscopy, spectroscopy, optics, and other imaging tools that would have been located in a core facility a decade ago or weren’t invented yet are now standard in neuroscience, biophysics, bioengineering, and biochemistry labs.
Instead of one expensive imaging resource shared by several researchers, a single PI may have several sophisticated imaging setups supporting their work. To get the most efficient workflow out of the experiments used with these tools animals need to be closer to the labs.
Bringing the Vivarium to the Lab
Three case studies, the University of Arizona’s Phoenix Biomedical Campus, a lab at Caltech and the new UC San Diego Biological and Physical Sciences building, illustrate three different approaches to embedding satellite vivaria into the research environment.
Each planning effort involved different size teams and project delivery methods. Regardless of project size and cost, the guiding team of stakeholders should include at a minimum, campus veterinarian, owner’s project manager, the principal investigator, the PI’s laboratory technician, facilities manager or supervisor, and a research director who can bring a bigger picture overview of the institutions scientific resources and collaborations to the conversation. Last but not least, on the design team, a strong MEP engineer is critical to ensuring a satellite vivaria blends into the facility as seamlessly as possible. Each of the case studies were designed to meet AAALAC requirements.
Case Study: Caltech
At Caltech, one neuroscientist’s research measuring sensory processing demanded two modes of imaging to visualize brain activity at different timescales and resolutions.
The researcher shared a sophisticated multi-photon assembly with temperature control and low-particulate air management and a separate confocal imaging room with one other PI. Immediately adjacent to the imaging rooms were modular, flexible benching and several curtained electrophysiology stations.
Rather than make constant trips to the main vivarium in another part of the building, an animal suite consisting of three rooms (Holding, Microscopy, and Surgery) was planned down to the very last inch and placed in an inconspicuous corner of the lab.
Soon after taking occupancy, the researcher was able to secure several six-figure grants. The 7,000 SF project was a renovation for two research labs, in an existing post-war concrete building. The project delivery method was Design-Build and completed in 13 months from planning to occupancy.
Case Study: University of California, San Diego
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is set in a coastal vista ideally situated near some of the biggest names in private and public biotech. The campus is the second highest in the UC system for patents and research grants pushing teaching and research labs to capacity.
A new ground up building was needed to expand teaching and research within the physical and biological sciences. One of the groups set out to create a laboratory floor that was anchored by a satellite animal facility at one end and eight flexible multi-modal imaging and recording bays at the opposite end with open wet labs and shared lab support in-between.
In order to shuttle animals from the main vivarium in the basement of the old building to the new satellite atop the six-story labs, a skyway connection was created. The satellite includes holding, procedure, feed and bedding storage, and an ABSL-2 surgery and holding room. Additional acoustic treatment was added to the perimeter of the vivarium suite to minimize disturbance to the animals from adjacent work areas. A vestibule with acoustic, gasketed doors, servers as a buffer for odors and sound.
The project is 123,000 GSF and currently under construction with completion in 2018.
Case Study: University of Arizona
The City of Phoenix is quickly becoming a biomedical powerhouse with a new superblock of academic, private and public research, and health care rising up in downtown. The newest building to rise-up is the 10 story University of Arizona Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building (BSPB).
The new research tower will house animal facilities on the basement level and will connect to an existing underground vivarium. The existing vivarium was planned with expansion in mind so the connection was facilitated with pre-constructed knockout panels in the concrete foundation walls.
The satellite increases observation and procedure room capacity and provides shell space, vetted and planned, for a future MRI, CT, or other large imaging core facility. Another additional 3,000 SF of shell space was setup for a scenario of either ABSL-3 holding and procedure or conventional vivarium space. The new satellite relies on the existing vivarium for secure loading dock receiving, autoclaving, and decontamination.
The researchers who ultimately move into the BSPB may engaged in a range of biomedical, biotech, and bioengineering activities, so an adaptable program for the satellite vivaria was essential.
The project is 245,000 GSF and will be ready for occupancy at the January 2017.
Leveraging an existing animal facility by adding on a satellite vivarium requires an integrated planning effort with animal resource managers, facilities, owners, and principal investigators. A satellite must still meet regulatory, biosecurity, AAALAC, and institutional protocols, but with careful planning, it can co-exist in or near the research lab. Paradigm shifts in electronics, informatics, and optics have made new modes of imaging and visualization within the reach of many more scientists than ever. The effect has made it more advantageous to bring the vivarium to the lab, rather than leave the lab to go to the vivarium.
Jennifer Swedell has 15 years of experience in architecture and in laboratory planning and design, and is currently associated with CO Architects in Los Angeles as a senior laboratory planner and programmer. She has planned, programmed and designed major laboratory facilities in 12 states and Australia, Abu Dhabi and Korea.
Antoinette Bunkley is a senior project manager with CO Architects in Los Angeles. She has over 25 years of experience with advanced buildings for university, college and private biotechnology clients in the science & technology and academic sectors.
Jennifer Andrews is a Design and Construction Project Manager for the University of Arizona specializing in high tech medical related facilities. In her current role, Ms. Andrews is responsible for facilitating the programming, design and construction for capital projects for the ongoing expansion of the University’s Phoenix Biomedical Campus. Currently, she is the Project Manager for the Biosciences Partnership Building - a new 245,000 square foot research building 10 story research building with a satellite Vivarium.