Architects See A Future In Science

June 23, 1992|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,Maryland Society of the American Institute of Architects; Johns Hopkins University.Staff Writer

A photo caption in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly located a future life sciences building. The building will be built at the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

* The Sun regrets the error.

Find some architects or engineers bent over a drawing board in Baltimore and there's a good chance they aren't crafting the next shopping mall.

They have given up the hotel atrium and mall for the world of medicine and gene splicing. Today, their pencils are sharpened for hospital expansions, research towers and laboratories.


"That is where our future is," said Charles Myer of Henry Adams Inc., a mechanical engineering firm. About 40 percent of Henry Adams' work involves life sciences projects -- and the firm wishes it were more.

"It is why we are still here. We are happy and healthy because 80 percent of our work is in college- and university-related facilities," said Adam Gross at Ayers Saint Gross Architects, a Baltimore architectural firm.

The recession nearly halted commercial development and put 1,000 of the state's 2,500 architects out of work between 1989 and 1991. Now, some of the remaining engineers and architects have formed a committee to help local business leaders promote the life sciences as an economic vision for Baltimore and a marketing tool for local architects and engineers. They also want persuade state officials to give local firms preferential consideration in awarding contracts.

Maryland architects and engineers say that too often they are passed over for out-of-town firms with national reputations. In the past five years, nearly $13 million in architectural fees from state projects of all types -- about a third of the work -- has left town, according to statistics gathered by the Maryland Society of the American Institute of Architects.

Some of the most important life sciences jobs have gone to out-of-state firms: the Christopher Columbus Marine Biotechnology Center to a Canadian firm, the Maryland Bioprocessing Center to Philadelphia architects, the Medical Biotechnology Center to a New York firm and the University of Maryland Medical System Clinical Tower to a Canadian firm.

Still, architects and state officials acknowledge that many contracts go elsewhere because local architects lack the expertise needed to design a life sciences building.

Designing a laboratory where scientists work with toxic chemicals or high-tech equipment is not the same as designing an office building. Mechanical and electrical engineers need special knowledge, for instance, in designing a ventilation system to contain chemical fumes or ensuring that water is properly treated before it goes into a sewer system. And no one in Maryland has concentrated on the design of pharmaceutical laboratories, said David Beard, a principal at RTKL Associates Inc., one of the city's major architectural firms.

Architects applying for a contract at the University of Maryland -- may need to show they have designed a number of similar facilities in the past five years.

"We rank firms on the basis of technical expertise," said Gregory Handlir, associate dean for resource management at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. After the field is narrowed to two or three firms, the university chooses a contractor based on experience and cost.

Some architects and engineers have been boosting their resumes by forming temporary partnerships with an out-of-town firm in order to get a job.

Engineers hope to attract business by emphasizing the advantage of having a local firm available when something goes wrong or a renovation is needed. But they also would like the state and private institutions to give them a chance to acquire expertise so they can help build Baltimore as a center for the life sciences.

Losing out

Recent life sciences projects granted to out-of-state architectural firms, and estimated engineering and architectural fees. (Local architects or engineers may have had small portions of the projects, but the lead firms were from out of state.)

=3Project.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Fees

* Maryland Bioprocessing Center,

Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus.. .. .. .. .. . $975,000

* Medical Biotechnology Center,

downtown Baltimore (renovation of

old Hutzler's building).. .. .. .. .. .. .. $2,500,000

* Christopher Columbus Center,

Inner Harbor.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..$5,300,000

* Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center,

East Baltimore.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. $9,800,000

NOTE: Figure for Johns Hopkins were estimated based on cost of project and the usual 7 percent architect's fee.

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