St. Louis Construction News & Review (CNR)

News | by Peter Downs, Editor | 04/24/2009

Pfizer Unveils New Bio-Research Building

Functionality and teamwork – those two simple ideas drove the design and construction of a new $200 million research building for Pfizer on its corporate campus in Chesterfield, MO.

The Pfizer St. Louis story began in April 2003 when Pfizer Inc. completed its acquisition of Pharmacia Corp. and took control of the latter’s St. Louis operations. Pharmacia’s researchers were scattered on three sites: the main Chesterfield campus, leased space on Monsanto’s campus in Creve Coeur, and leased space on Newstead Avenue in St. Louis. Since then, Pfizer has leased additional space for scientists in the Maryville office park. Today Pfizer has over 1,100 research and development scientists working in metropolitan St. Louis.

Pfizer decided to build a new research building on Chesterfield campus in order to bring all of its St. Louis researchers together on one site. “Science is a team sport,” said Edward Crader, Pfizer’s design manager for the new research building, and early work in drug development “benefits from cross-disciplinary interactions,” he explained.

The new 322,000-square-foot research building opened in April 2009 with a capacity for 96 laboratories on four levels and a four-story glass connector to an existing research building, Building BB. Two hundred and fifty scientists moved from the three leased sites into the new building, which became known as Building CC, said Pfizer spokesman Edward Bryant.

“The importance of this building is that it will integrate four more research groups into the campus,” Crader said.

Before the building could integrate scientists into the campus, however, the campus had to have the capacity to integrate the building. A $20 million Chesterfield Village Site Utility Master Plan to expand and modernize the electrical and mechanical infrastructure of the campus to accommodate the new research building and two other building projects proceeded simultaneously with early stages of construction of the building. Since 2003, Pfizer has invested $350 million in the Chesterfield campus, $200 million of it in the new research building.

Team Building

Since a prime goal of the building was to integrate scientists into the research community of Pfizer’s Chesterfield campus, “the social aspect of research was important in the design of the building,” Crader explained. “We built in a gradient of spaces from public to private,” he said. There are private offices and cubicles, “and we integrated the offices with the cubicles,” Crader said. There are team level meeting areas – private areas for each research team – and campus level conference rooms. Social hubs were created near the connector with Building BB to encourage informal meetings between scientists from both buildings, and, new for Pfizer St. Louis, workstations were clustered together outside the labs in areas with natural light instead if sitting isolated from each other inside laboratories.

“A major objective in the layout was to create places to exchange of information, to create a number of congregating spaces, and a number of collaborative space,” said Gregg Coffman was project manager for Gilbane, the prime contractor in the joint venture of Gilbane and Tarlton Corp. that was the project general contractor.

Scott Daniels, head of the Pharmacokinetics and Dynamics Metabolism Unit, is excited about the social aspects of the new space. “This will be the first time we’re all on one floor and co-located and that will provide us a better flow of communication,” he said.

Team building also was an essential part of getting the job done right. Coffman called Pfizer’s new research building, “a very high end research center,” but added that building such facilities is not unusual for Gilbane, but is actually one of its core practices.

“For us, what was unique was the teamwork with Tarlton and local trade contractors,” he said. “There are a lot of very complicated systems in the building – in the plumbing, the HVAC, and the electrical service. The more complex the systems, the more problems you tend to run into. So, it was extremely important to solve those problems so that we didn’t have serious delays.

“Consolidations from remote sites are understandably constrained by leases,” he added. “So, the demands were for extremely high-quality, precision work performed rapidly, and that takes a lot of cooperation from a lot of people. But everyone came together to meet the challenges,” he said.

The team gelled in ways that went beyond the scope of the job, Coffman said. “We formed a Stream Team and cleaned up about 3/4 of a mile of stream that ran through Pfizer’s campus. We pulled 2-3 tons of garbage out of the stream. We had two very successful United Way campaigns, and we also partnered with the Construction Careers Center. Those are the kinds of things that make projects special,” he said.


Don Frail, site director for Pfizer’s St. Louis labs and head of the Indications Discovery Unit, said, the building “also is designed more functionally to maintain safe practices in the lab and separate the lab from offices.” Places where “paperwork” is done – offices and workstations – are separated from lab benches, support space is separated from bench space, “so there is less chance of contamination,” he said.

Safety was a major design concern, Daniels added, which was one reason that offices and labs were separated. Immediately outside the entrance to each lab a large section of wall hosts a bank of safety equipment.

“We have three vertical layers of functional spaces,” Crader said. “Offices are on the end near Building BB, interior labs are in the middle of the building, and open labs are at the other end,” he said.

Keeping in mind that “science evolves faster than buildings,” as Frail said, the labs were designed for flexibility and use a flexible casework system. The casework is not bolted to for floor, but instead consists of a mix of mobile carts and stationary casework. The stationary casework hangs in six-foot or 12-foot sections from a 12-inch core. Power and data wiring drops down from vertical raceways in the core. 

The electrical service, airflow, and exhaust flow  “all are streamlined and improved,” Daniels said, and lab benches are reinforced to hold more weight. “A lot of state-of-the-art equipment is heavy, but these benches are designed to hold it so we don’t need a separate instrument room,” he said.

Murphy Company fabricated the sheet metal that went into the building. “It was one of the largest sheet metal jobs in the St. Louis area using 860,000 pounds of sheet metal,” said Mark Bengard, senior vice president, Murphy Co. “We had to do a lot of preplanning and 3-D modeling (of all the ductwork, biosafety cabinets, devices, valves, etc.) in order to meet the schedule, otherwise no two fab shops together could have kept up with the work,” he said. Over 16 months, Murphy sent 900 tractor loads of modules to the job site “just in time” for installation.

“This building is night and day from where we are in Creve Coeur or Newstead in terms of functionality; and the social aspect is tremendous,” Frail said.


Natural light from very energy efficient windows floods the open lab rooms at the new research building, and that wasn’t the only new, “green” detail for Pfizer St. Louis.

To further reduce energy use, the mechanical systems in the labs cycle down after hours. If someone is going to be working late, he or she pushes a button on the wall to get two more hours of service.

Despite such sustainable features, don’t look for a U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating. “We don’t do LEED, but Pfizer has its own system called the Pfizer Green Building Program that is equivalent to LEED,” Crader said. “We did incorporate a lot of green features. We have heat recovery on the mechanical system; we used low VOC paints and sealants; we used construction materials with a high recycled content; and we used a natural material – linoleum – on the floors,” he said.

“Pfizer used LEED Silver as the base line,” Coffman said. “They installed a very sophisticated energy heat recovery system,” he added. “The mechanical system exhausts a lot of air as part of keeping researchers safe. The energy recovery system captures a lot of the heat in the exhaust air.  They also used proportional lighting and the domestic water system has a sophisticated system to keep energy use as low as possible,” he said.

The new research building won a Pfizer Building Award in 2008 and was Gilbane’s Midwest Building of the Year, “and that is a wonderful honor,” Coffman said. And the partnership was so successful that Gilbane and Tarlton are sustaining their teamwork to compete for a major research facility for Monsanto