When the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine selected Hines to assume management, accounting and critical facilities engineering services for their South Lake Union Campus, they made it clear that one of the reasons they hired Hines was to help upgrade engineering service delivery and ensure building performance and reliability. The urban campus, comprised of five buildings, two subterranean parking garages, and approximately 750,000 square feet of laboratory, clinic and administrative space, needed a real estate partner that could take the School of Medicine to the next management level.
The first step was to retain the incumbent management firm’s engineering and accounting staff, which had been there for years.
Next, Hines transitioned two managers familiar with critical environments and accounting leadership to the UW account, allowing Hines to develop a collaborative, synergistic relationship with the existing engineering team, whose members provided familiarity with departmental contacts and client-driven processes, institutional knowledge and operational history.
Once staffing was in place, Hines outlined the most important objectives to improve operational performance while enabling greater efficiencies and savings at the property. To do this, we needed to update one of the critical, CDC-designed and regulated Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) containment labs that supports sensitive research and testing, including on the COVID-19 virus. Due to rigorous standards for pressure control and air quality, as well as limited resources to accomplish the staggering amount of necessary maintenance, the lab was being used at just a third of its actual capacity.
We presented them with opportunities to do the right thing and create long-term value while balancing whether they can afford to do it or how to afford how to do it. We want to help them maximize their budget while avoiding the pitfall of enabling short-term savings that create long-term problems. And they appreciate that—they want us to present these solutions, and to work with them to figure out how they can afford to implement them.
Senior Vice President – Property Management Kathy O’Kelley
The BSL-3 lab had the highest certification level on the site but was only partially certified related to limited ability to meet pressure control testing requirements required by the CDC. For the uninitiated, BSL-3 containment labs are highly regulated and require stringent design and operation standards, specifically because of the need for HVAC/ exhaust system components that affect the operating environment of the lab.
In a normal office building, you don’t need to maintain pressure control of the space at the same level. When you’re in a BSL-3 lab, however, pressure control must always remain negative to the outside environment so that if there was a leak, it won’t get into the unregulated lab space or outside of it. To maintain these strict standards, such labs have more than triple the amount of HVAC components for a given buildout, in turn requiring far more maintenance, while also having more rigid regulation for emergency shutdowns, electrical testing, and so on.
As the BSL-3 certification is regulated by the CDC, labs intending to do research at this level must receive the proper certification to proceed; if they cannot, that part of the lab remains unusable. The team ultimately achieved certification by stabilizing operations, implementing service level standards appropriate to the assignment's critical nature, and leveraging trusted service partners.
In addition to providing top level service, Hines is also a trusted advisor, in that we’ve challenged the University of Washington in ways they weren’t challenged before, even when it might have required more layers of approval or additional budget.
In one instance, when the University of Washington needed to replace a control system for one of the buildings on the campus, we presented a business case and requested they consider the situation holistically as opposed to implementing a like-for-like replacement. With disparate control systems in the various buildings, this was an opportunity to connect all the buildings to talk to each other with one system. Our team had to show them that this was a real estate investment decision for long-term value. It’s not, then, about presenting upgrades without concern for cost; it’s about being intentional in what we present, and how we provide our stakeholders with the resources and knowledge they need to take those ideas to the right people to approve their execution.
Our success to date can be attributed to applying best-in-class operating and engineering practices we’ve developed over the past six decades to the UW assignment. This level of integration could never be achieved by a one-size-fits-all facilities services provider—they needed a true real estate partner and advisor, a company willing to shift the narrative from transactional to inspirational and help them support the University of Washington Medicine's cutting-edge research as they pursue their mission, “To improve the health of the public.”