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HBC's Laboratory Experience


When people think of Howard Building Corporation (HBC), they’re likely to think of large corporate buildouts or tech-intensive tenant improvements. What some may not realize, however, is that HBC has completed numerous complex laboratory facilities. In fact, our expertise in building intricate, large scale labs has garnered attention from some of the largest companies in healthcare, aerospace, manufacturing, food science, and more. Some of our earliest projects have included laboratory components, and we have been perfecting our laboratory expertise ever since.

Case Study: ConAgra Grocery Products

In November 1999, ConAgra Grocery Products relocated their corporate offices from Fullerton to the Park Place Center in Irvine.  After 55 years at the same location, the strategic move was intended to bring all ConAgra Grocery Products, formerly Hunt-Wesson Foods, associates together in a single 400,000 square foot location. “ConAgra is now located in two buildings with direct interior access instead of multiple buildings spread over several city blocks in Fullerton,” said Kimberly Overton, associate and director of interiors for Leo A Daly, the project architect.

Park Place Center had originally been built to house the Flour Corporation, but the center proved flexible enough to accommodate the unique requirements of the new tenant. “What made the project atypical was the build out of pilot plant, research kitchen, sensory laboratory space, and office space to showcase all its food products,” said Overton. The sensory laboratories are used to test the public’s response to taste, fragrance, color, and presentation of ConAgra products. Several of these laboratories are set up to simulate a home kitchen, while others look like a commercial kitchen.

More than thirty laboratories on the concourse level require complex support equipment that includes compressed air, steam, nitrogen, oxygen, de-ionized water and air that is filtered and exchanged at rates designed around laboratory needs. “There is also a series of environmental boxes that simulate warehouse conditions in virtually every climate imaginable,” said Paul McGunnigle, CEO of HBC.

“The most difficult challenge was fitting a pilot plant and laboratory space into an existing office complex with an existing HVAC system,” said Overton. “A way to emit odors and waste from the pilot plant and laboratories had to be carefully designed on a separate system.” To overcome this challenge, she said, lead times and phasing were carefully monitored in order to achieve the fast-track completion date for the complex facility.

Looking Towards the Future of Labwork

Since then, HBC has completed several successful lab projects.

Laboratory buildouts are a specific niche that requires a particular skillset to do well. According to Jim Scarpinato, Director of Client Services at HBC, there are several challenges building labs and, often, special electrical, mechanical, plumbing, fixtures, and finishes are required. Additionally, lab fit outs may require additional structural work to accommodate large machinery or code compliance. HBC has worked on labs from all sectors and several of our Superintendents and Project Managers are well equipped to handle even the most complex laboratory projects.

HBC's Laboratory Experience