Project Highlight: Matica Biotechnologies

Project Highlight: Matica Biotechnologies

After many years sitting dormant, the 1982 Westinghouse Electronics Assembly Plant in College Station was purchased in 2008 by Lynntech, an early-stage scientific research and technology development company. The company engaged The Arkitex Studio to plan the renovation. The project included lab spaces for electrochemical plating, analytical chemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, tissue culture and optics labs, and a machine shop. Lynntech occupied approximately 66,000 square feet (SF) of the 180,000 SF building, with the intent of leasing out the remaining floor area to similar science-based companies in the hopes of fostering collaborative synergy. Many such companies joined this vision, but ten years later, roughly 10% of the space was still available. Matica Biotechnology, a contract development and manufacturing organization specializing in clinical and commercial production of cell and gene therapy, was looking for 18,000 SF for their new production facility. They found the Westinghouse facility’s remaining space ideal for their needs. They broke ground on the interior renovation project in February 2021. 

Aware of the knowledge and relationships established through the original project, Matica recruited the original design team for the work on their new facility. The facility will contain a product development lab, analytical and micro lab, raw material storage room, locker rooms, and cleanrooms. The cleanrooms will be prefabricated units manufactured and installed by G-CON Manufacturing, a College Station company. The G-CON “pods” solved several project concerns. In addition to providing flexibility, the fact that the units are built in a controlled environment allows for more rigorous quality control in their assembly than would be possible with conventional construction practices. The mechanical equipment being located directly on the pods also reduced the vertical clearance required and allowed us to decrease the size of the 2nd-floor equipment platform by 80%. 

Though we have worked on laboratory projects, projects with cleanrooms, and production facilities, we had never designed cleanroom laboratories for production processes. With the support of specialized team members, we were able to tackle the new challenge and deepen our knowledge of how these different spaces’ needs intersect for an entity like Matica. As part of this process, we worked with Matica to prepare flow diagrams for several vital methods. We studied the flow of personnel from wearing street clothes in “dirty spaces” to lab coverings as they enter “clean spaces.” We analyzed the waste and equipment flow, from dirty to clean spaces through sterilization, then back out. We looked at the raw material flow, from incoming to quarantine as well as the product flow from in-process, finished bulk to finished filled, and the final product. We also carefully considered airflows to ensure air quality and pressure differentials aligned with the needs of each space.

This process will decrease contamination and loss of product and time once the client occupies the space.

Our project for Matica Biotechnology is still underway and scheduled for completion in the 3rd quarter of 2021. This project is a success story for The Arkitex Studio for many reasons. We have had the opportunity to work with a new client on a new project type that is exciting and challenging. This relationship and experience will provide us access to this industry for future projects. Also, by working with the building owner, we continue a 13-year committed and trusting relationship with very diverse project types. This project emphasizes that The Arkitex Studio is a specialist in varied and challenging projects. We are specialists in problem-solving.

Written by Mike Record,  AIA