United Therapeutics Corporation
United Therapeutics Corporation’s New Facility in Raleigh-Durham’s Research Triangle Park Uniquely Integrates Manufacturing and Office Environments
From the first glance, it is clear that United Therapeutics Corporation (UT) envisioned creating something far beyond the “ordinary” when it engaged DPR to construct its new 203,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing, research and office facility in Raleigh-Durham’s prestigious Research Triangle Park.
The project included:
- Curved metal panels that wrap around the entire structure.
- Extensive natural daylight that is transported into what are typically enclosed manufacturing spaces through use of interior floor-to-ceiling glass curtainwalls, skylights and a two-story atrium.
- A glass-encased entry lobby including a saltwater aquarium feature.
Project: Solid Dose Manufacturing Facility
Client: United Therapeutics
Architect: O’Neal, Inc.
The facility also has a purposeful intent behind its soaring design. The goal was “to make sure we did something unique and fundamentally different, not just externally or architecturally, but also internally by integrating the manufacturing with the office environment,” comments David Zaccardelli, Executive Vice President of Pharmaceutical Development and Operations for UT. “Too many times, manufacturing gets done behind solid walls. We wanted to build a place where we could integrate all the activities our employees do and enable them to see what happens from a manufacturing standpoint, as well as create a space that can serve the public and promote education and training.”
The new facility is ultimately intended to manufacture the oral form of treprostinil that is now in clinical trials, a new form of treatment for pulmonary hypertension. In addition to serving scientific and manufacturing functions, the facility is also office space for employees who carry out UT’s administrative, business, marketing and management functions.
UT’s new facility represents a major expansion for the Maryland biotechnology company into Research Triangle Park in Durham County, NC, one of the country’s largest science parks and an area where neither UT nor DPR had a presence when the project got underway approximately two years ago. Although the project was DPR’s first in this marketplace, its technical expertise and experience in pharmaceutical facility construction, focus on quality, proven ability to meet aggressive schedule constraints and problem-solving abilities made DPR well suited for the job.
Some of the facility’s unique elements include a 150-seat circular auditorium with full-dome ceiling and two horseshoe-shaped office areas featuring glass curtainwalls that look out onto a landscaped courtyard. The facility also incorporates significant green design elements, including 258 rooftop solar panels that will help generate a portion of its power supply.
Project Executive Randy Preston joined DPR at project startup and helped build the team that would take the project to its successful completion.
“Our team was made up of veterans to this market, most of whom were new to DPR, and some folks from DPR’s Mid-Atlantic office,” said Preston. “Being a little over four hours away from an office presented a bit of a challenge early on, but the team collectively had strong experience and was determined to give DPR an excellent start in North Carolina.”
The team utilized the lean construction weekly project planner to help meet an aggressive 22.5-month schedule and deliver the project in January—some three weeks ahead of the contractual completion date—on budget and with more than 650,000 safe worker hours logged.
“This was a challenging building by design. DPR took that challenge on and at the end of the day delivered the building on time, per the schedule, and managed the budget along the way,” UT’s Zaccardelli said. “I think DPR demonstrated great persistence and dedication. While inevitably there were challenges, we had a very respectful relationship and understanding that we were all, both from an owner’s and a contractor’s perspective, trying to do the same thing: complete an amazing facility.”
Building on the success of this project, DPR opened a permanent office in the Research Triangle Park area last year. The Raleigh-Durham area supports many of DPR’s core markets, including life sciences, healthcare and advanced technology, as well as higher education. Among other projects, DPR is currently constructing its second project for the American Red Cross in Durham, the renovation of a blood processing facility.