Prefabricated modular cleanroom projects: Take no chances

Companies are turning to cleanroom PODs because they are fully fabricated, assembled, and factory-tested against clients' specs before delivery, thereby reducing the likelihood of issues arising at start-up. Dennis Powers, VP Business Development and Sales Engineering at G-CON Manufacturing, explains

When designing and planning for a cleanroom construction project, whether it be a greenfield application or retrofit of an existing building (brownfield), it is important to consider the complexity and risks associated with the traditional construction approach.

These risks associated with the traditional construction include a gamut of variables, some of which are listed below:

  • Long project schedules due to sequential project execution
  • Liability risk due to a high number of onsite personnel
  • Extensive coordination of getting materials to the site and coordinating multiple trades and contractors
  • Additional laydown space needed for storage and staging of construction materials
  • Disruption of personnel and operations (if retrofitting existing space)
  • Permitting delays affecting the schedule
  • Schedule delays due to a domino effect of sequential construction activities
  • Inadequate time to properly commission and qualify the cleanroom

Today, more and more companies who have made the decision to build new cleanrooms are choosing a prefabricated modular method to overcome these challenges and mitigate risk.

A matter of quality

The higher the percentage of prefabrication that can be performed offsite for a project, the lower the level and complexity of onsite construction activities. For example, projects built offsite do not require permitting, and the resulting delays, in advance of construction. Projects built offsite by a single contractor also do not suffer the same issues with scheduling inherent in the typical general contractor and subcontractor model, where the failure to meet schedule by one affects all other trades.

Following the prefabrication approach can also result in higher quality facilities because fabrication is being performed in a well-controlled factory environment. This method also allows for more predictable project schedules and budgets due to the use of standardised designs and fabrication processes by trained personnel.

Prefabrication and modular cleanroom solutions are not new to the industry. Factory-produced modular wall and ceiling panel systems have been used for decades in place of traditional stick-built construction, and provide high-quality architectural finishes.

The prefabricated modular construction allows for more predictable project schedules and budgets due to the use of standardised designs and fabrication processes

However, the traditional construction approach allows for only a small percentage of the construction to be performed offsite since the wall and ceiling panels require installation and assembly onsite and further require structural support from the shell building. As such, almost the same level of integration with the facility infrastructure and utility systems as traditional construction is needed. For these reasons, most (if not all) of the project risks stated above are still present when following the panel-based approach.

Project integration

Fortunately, the changing landscape in manufacturing and the growing need to more effectively address these risks have helped drive innovation in the industry towards more comprehensive prefabricated modular cleanroom solutions.

There are companies today, like G-CON Manufacturing, that are designing and fabricating modular cleanroom systems, and not only provide the architectural finishes but also integrate technical spaces with all the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and automation required to operate the cleanrooms—known as cleanroom PODs.

Dennis Powers

Cleanroom PODs are fully fabricated, assembled, and factory-tested with the client before shipment—just like a piece of process equipment—all of which reduces the likelihood of any issues arising during the cleanroom start-up activities at the customer site.

Rapidly installed, the PODs are assembled and qualified at the site within weeks of delivery with just a small team of skilled personnel. Because the PODs are free-standing structures, they do not require any structural support from the shell building and are easily connected to the facility utility systems through a small number of tie-in connection points.

A cost-effective gain

Using this approach significantly reduces the labour and materials required at the construction site, allows for more predictable project execution, and reduces the cost and schedule risks associated with traditional construction. To date, G-CON has successfully used this approach for its clients—both large and small around the globe—across a broad range of applications and expects that the trend towards prefabricated modular cleanroom construction will continue to grow.

In addition, there are also many suppliers today that can design and prefabricate shell building systems as well as modular utility systems. Utilising these solutions together with prefabricated modular cleanrooms can help provide an even higher level of project execution efficiency and compress overall project schedules further through parallel activities.

For the pharmaceutical industry, these efficiencies will result in therapies being produced faster and more inexpensively and therefore become more readily available for the people who need them. Other industries may also benefit from the prompt availability of the critical production environment.

N.B. This article is featured in the August 2019 issue of Cleanroom Technology. The latest digital edition is available online.

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