When Bob Hougard embarks on a construction project, he thinks about more than the concrete, steel and stone that goes into it.
Hougard, who leads J.H. Findorff & Son’s science and technology team, builds projects for clients who are developing products at the forefront of medicine and science. And these facilities are often a crucial component in a company’s ability to make products that could save and improve lives.
For instance, when Hougard completed a project in 2013 for Exact Sciences, a Madison company that makes cancer screening tests, Kevin Conroy, the firm’s CEO, said new capabilities made possible by the building could save 5,000 lives a year.
“If you think about it, there are hospitals that don’t save 5,000 lives a year,” Hougard said.
“The impact that we can have for these clients is huge.”
Likewise, a new building Findorff recently completed for biotechnology firm Illumina will help the company achieve its mission of improving human health.
Illumina is a San Diego-based company that moved into Wisconsin in 2012 after acquiring Madison-based Epicentre Biotechnologies. The firm is the world’s largest manufacturer of DNA sequencing machines, which are used to read DNA. The company’s work broadly focuses on the human genome, or the genetic information in a person, and makes products that could treat illnesses and help investigators solve crimes, among a range of other uses.
The company’s new 132,800-square-foot facility in Madison manufactures enzymes, which are used for research and for the development of drugs. Enzymes are protein molecules in cells capable of inducing chemical reactions in the body, which means it was crucial that the company’s facility keep contaminants out of the production floor. Although the facility may not necessarily contain certified clean rooms, manufacturing spaces in the building are constructed with similar standards in mind and share design and engineering practices, Hougard said.
Findorff was the bridge between two architecture teams on the project, Kahler Slater and Flad Architects, which were faced with designing a structure that could support both the people who worked in the building and the exacting demands of the products produced there.
While the exterior of the building doesn’t differ much from other commercial buildings — its roof still protects against wind, rain and snow, for instance — the building’s interior contains a complex web of piping, electrical systems and other infrastructure needed to support Illumina’s manufacturing process.
To visualize how everything would fit together, Findorff used Building Information Modeling, or BIM, technology to map out the production floor.
Because the new facility operates at the “cutting-edge” of science, some of its specifications started as concepts tailored to fit the company’s demands, Hougard said. It’s a building process that required close collaboration with the company to ensure that the facility would deliver the company’s goals.
“If this were easy, anybody would be doing it,” Hougard said.