The Integrated Engineering Research Center (IERC) at the Fermilab campus in Batavia, Illinois is nearing final completion. The 80,000 SF, two-story building is Fermilab’s largest purpose-built laboratory and office building since 1974. It is connected at the ground floor and level 1 to the iconic neighboring Wilson Hall by a 25-ft-long enclosed walkway. The IERC is a state-of-the-art building with laboratories prepared to deliver on major initiatives in particle physics and to further Fermilab’s neutrino science program. The Mortenson team worked alongside Perkins & Will (architect), Arup (structural & MEP engineer), and Terra Engineering (civil engineer).
As the first cross-divisional facility on Fermilab’s campus, the focus for the IERC was to relocate engineers and technicians from other buildings on site to a new, centralized, open-concept facility located in the core of the campus with direct access to Wilson Hall and its scientists. The IERC will be home to various detector development projects in support of DUNE (Deep-Underground Neutrino Experiment) and houses a variety of ISO classified cleanroom facilities as well as “clean-ish” project development laboratories.
In order to meet the high design standards for this project, the team coordinated with an assigned science liaison to make sure that the building was translating to the research that would happen in this facility. Designed with adaptability in mind, the IERC project spaces are capable of “up-scaling” in clean-class if research programs require more stringency in the future.
Because of the team’s exceptional performance, Fermilab was able to execute proposed scope enhancement options: the Wilson Hall connector, office of communication and bathrooms, the fit-out of the east offices and the ground floor labs, and a snow melt system.
Ground breaking for the project was in the summer of 2019, which started the first phase of work in preparing the site for the new building. During this phase, the site presented many challenges that had to be overcome. The team first had to remove and reorganize existing underground infrastructure, including Industrial chilled water, electrical and communication infrastructure, and stormwater tunnels. The team then needed to install a road that crosses over an active particle accelerator beam line. Excavation at this area reduced the beam line shielding, consisting of soil, which our team replaced with steel shielding. This work required specific protocols performed in collaboration with Fermilab’s radiological safety team.
“We actually had to take overburden off the tunnel that houses the beam line,” said Project Executive, Carl Kreiter. “In doing that, there is shielding that is specifically required and engineered by Fermilab’s radiation group. So, we had to put in new shielding, which is steel plating that is several inches thick. That way we could safely eliminate overburden, replace it with steel shielding, and then create a new driveway over the tunnel with the active beam line.”
This highly critical work was completed with zero utility strikes during excavation and zero unplanned disruptions to Fermilab infrastructure.
“Mortenson flawlessly identified, coordinated and relocated critical communications and electrical infrastructure that ensured laboratory operations continued without unexpected interruption,” said Randy Ortgiesen, Fermilab project director. “That allowed the building construction to start on schedule and meet the project’s milestones.”
Early on, BIM was used to model the complete enclosure and MEP/FP systems. The use of BIM allowed the project team to “build” the enclosure and building systems virtually and reveal challenges early. This allowed the project team to coordinate all systems and create efficiencies for fabrication and installation. The IERC layout includes a second-floor mechanical space that runs down the core of the building and feeds lab spaces on this floor and the floor below. This created some congested areas that were coordinated through modeling. With maintenance accessibility in mind, the team confirmed there were no conflicts and that everything would precisely fit and was coordinated for maintenance access and future equipment.
Mortenson performed constructability reviews at multiple design milestones. At the 60% Final Design milestone, the building enclosure was thoroughly reviewed and determined to not have enough tolerances between elements such as structural steel, SOMD, GFRC panels, cold-formed metal framing, and curtainwall. Mortenson collaborated with Perkins & Will to build in appropriate tolerances resulting in a constructible design that also met the architectural intent.
Another challenging aspect to this project, was constructing and maintaining a certified clean room space for the laboratory. A construction clean protocol was fully developed and applied by all personnel entering the designated environmentally controlled space. Entrance to the space was only allowed for personnel who had been through training and had acknowledged completion of such training and the associated work instruction. The intent is to minimize microbial contamination and the number of airborne particles throughout the space that could possibly cause contamination.
The team achieved Authorization for Use and Possession (AUP), also known as substantial completion, on October 31, 2022. This exciting project reached the AUP milestone with 462 days worked with zero injuries, which is a phenomenal accomplishment! Congratulations to the entire project team for delivering this state-of-the-art facility in support of Fermilab’s groundbreaking research and truly redefining what’s possible.
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What really happens at Fermilab?
The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment is an international flagship experiment to unlock the mysteries of neutrinos. DUNE will be installed in the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, under construction in the United States. DUNE scientists will paint a clearer picture of the universe and how it works. Their research may even give us the key to understanding why we live in a matter-dominated universe — in other words, why we are here at all.
DUNE will pursue three major science goals: find out whether neutrinos could be the reason the universe is made of matter; look for subatomic phenomena that could help realize Einstein’s dream of the unification of forces; and watch for neutrinos emerging from an exploding star, perhaps witnessing the birth of a neutron star or a black hole.