CDC to Develop 160,000 SF Research Lab in Atlanta

The high-containment continuity lab will house 80 workers and is part of the CDC’s 2025 master plan, which was finalized before the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic began.

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will develop a 160,000-square-foot research lab at Roybal Campus, the organization’s main headquarters in Atlanta. The high-containment continuity lab (HCCL) will be a Biosafety Level-4 (BSL-4) facility, a designation reserved for the highest level of biological safety.

The lab is part of the CDC’s 2025 master plan, which was finalized before the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic began. The Atlanta-based organization expects construction to begin in early 2021 and has tapped McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. as general contractor. Flad Architects, Page Southerland Page and WSP designed the HCCL.

McCarthy, a St. Louis-based general contractor, has built 25 percent of the BSL-4 labs in the United States. The company also built the Emerging Infectious Diseases BSL-4 Laboratory on the Roybal Campus in 2005. In early 2018, the CDC petitioned Congress to allow for upgrades to be made at the facility. The development cost was not disclosed, although McCarthy entered into a $233 million contract with the U.S. government to construct the HCCL.

“The facility has done quite well, but it runs constantly — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Inger Damon, director of the division of high-consequence pathogens and pathology at the CDC, told the Atlanta Business Journal in 2018. “It is beginning to age and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find parts that are needed for the facility.”

As a BSL-4 laboratory, the new facility will feature high-efficiency particulate air-filtered supply and exhaust air, air-pressure-resistant doors, pressure cascade zoning, effluent collection and treatment, and pressure-decay-tested coatings and penetrations. It will also feature high-purity breathing air and chemical decontamination showers for research staff. In addition, there will be connections to the existing Roybal Campus utility systems with below-grade utility tunnels and a two-level bridge connection.

Upon completion, the HCCL will be one of three facilities in the world designed and certified to facilitate diagnostic research on specific, select viruses.

The Roybal Campus is located at 1600 Clifton Road on the grounds of Emory University, six miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.

— Alex Tostado

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