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Wednesday, August 24, 2005 Issue 9   VOLUME 1 ISSUE 9  
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How Sweet It Is – Sugar Makes Way to Biotech
by Kumkum M. Dilwali, Senior Scientist

“Microbes!” That is what EH&E scientists were asked to examine in the former New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. EH&E’s client was the building owner, who was converting the 75 year old candy-manufacturing site to a state-of-the-art biotech laboratory research facility for use by Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. Novartis required that any microbial contamination not typically found in clean commercial space, as well as conditions that had fostered the microbial growth, be removed from the premises prior to beginning the conversion of the facility to an advanced research center. Before this dramatic conversion of commercial property could move forward, EH&E was asked to provide the environmental due diligence evaluation – specifically, EH&E had to determine how much fungal and bacterial contamination was present in the core and shell of the building, how deep it had penetrated the walls, floors, ceilings, and columns, and how it could be removed cost-effectively so that the building could be delivered in a “microbially clean condition” to Novartis.

Defining "microbially clean"
Due to the critical nature of the incoming business, EH&E decided that working closely with Novartis stakeholders was the most expeditious way to move this project forward.  EH&E and Novartis scientists jointly developed microbial testing methods and protocols for a comprehensive pre-remediation assessment. EH&E collected nearly 100 concrete core samples across seven floors in three contiguous, solid concrete buildings, and developed a unique procedure for analyzing contamination at different depths. The results showed that microbial contamination was not extensive nor did it consist of unusual species. Also, sugar analyses of concrete core samples showed that the amount of sugar immediately below the surfaces of the walls was generally not enough to support microbial growth. Based on this information, EH&E’s assessment was that the buildings’ interior surfaces could be aggressively cleaned using commercially available technologies to provide fresh surfaces for new construction. After carefully analyzing the extensive amount of data collected, EH&E and Novartis scientists were also able to hammer out a very detailed agreement as to what metrics would ultimately define “microbially clean” for the clearance testing process, clearing the way for the remediation project to proceed.

Designing the remediation procedure
EH&E developed a remediation program that was customized to address differing conditions in each area of the facility. We reviewed several dry abrasive techniques and high-pressure wet methods, and settled on a combination of techniques that efficiently removed various types of surface contamination. These treatments were followed by the application of a commercially available biocide. The least contaminated areas of the facility were treated with a single pass, while other areas were treated with multiple applications. Acceptability was confirmed through visual inspection and microbial testing using the criteria developed by the EH&E/Novartis team.

Addressing special areas
Over the course of the project, EH&E staff conducted dozens of visual inspections and collected over 900 samples to verify and document the efficacy of the methods. The treatment regimen described above proved to be effective in removing surface contamination from almost all areas. However, a few localized areas in the basement did not pass the clearance tests after repeated treatments, and after reviewing the proposed usage of the space a biocide-containing sealant was applied in these areas. In addition to the habitable floor space in the buildings, remediation activities were also conducted in stairwells, elevator shafts, and an adjacent power plant building. All areas were subjected to the same microbial and visual quality assurance testing.

Sweet success
In July 2004, EH&E delivered a documentation package demonstrating that all areas of the building were satisfactorily treated, and Novartis signed off on the building as microbially clean and ready for the extensive conversion to a state of the art research facility. Today, with EH&E’s help, New England’s beloved NECCO factory continues on its mission of bringing happiness to the world. But instead of giving us candy to sweeten a day, it may soon give us treatments leading to longer and healthier lives.

EH&E’s scientists and engineers can provide successful and cost-effective solutions for adapting existing commercial properties to new uses. We work closely with both the developer and the new tenant to ensure that our remedial strategies result in business success for both parties. For additional information on this project or on EH&E’s real estate due diligence services, please contact Kumkum Dilwali, Senior Scientist, at (800) 825-5343 in our Newton offices or via email at .


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