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Interior of empty lab

National Institutes of Health Building 29B Renovation

National Institutes of Health Building 29B Renovation | Bethesda, MD

Adaptive Reuse Project Puts Mothballed NIH Facility Back into Operation for Public Health Benefit

DPR successfully converted a mothballed laboratory building located in the heart of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, MD into a much-needed new life science facility, working closely with the owner to resolve myriad challenges along the path to completion in May 2019.


The adaptive reuse project represented one of DPR’s first projects on the NIH campus, laying the groundwork for several subsequent jobs. Originally constructed in 1993, Building 29B is a five-story, 91,000-sq.-ft. laboratory structure with a basement and penthouse. Each floor has two wings with offices and laboratory and support space, while the upper three floors include capacity for specialty BSL-3 and/or cGMP facilities.

The Challenges

Numerous unforeseen conditions and resulting owner-driven change orders, combined with a more traditional design/bid/build contracting method, amplified an extremely challenging project that delivered various lessons learned for DPR and the entire project team.

Since the building had not been occupied for some time, many of the pieces of equipment needed to bring it back online had fallen into disrepair or had been lost altogether. Because this work was not part of the original scope and was only discovered after construction began, DPR worked closely with NIH for approvals and worked diligently to forge a strong, trust-based partnership designed to move the project forward despite the many hurdles.

A hallway in NIH Building 29B before renovations began.
building exterior
The Solution

After vetting the additional work and reaching concurrence with NIH, DPR prepared proposals for the repairs and upgrades as change orders. NIH approved the change orders and directed DPR to execute the additional work to the overall benefit of the facility and the science intended to be performed in the building.

Although unforeseen conditions significantly extended the contract and work scope, the team was able to mitigate schedule impacts by resequencing and phasing the work, expediting material and equipment fabrication and shipping times, and using selective overtime to complete within the contractually agreed upon time.

DPR’s SPW group was integral to the project’s completion, self-performing multiple scopes of work on the project. Self-perform scopes included the doors, frames and hardware, rough carpentry, interior framing, acoustical ceiling and final clean during the project close-out.

Exterior view of pre-renovated NIH Building 29B
Lab interior.
Lab interior.
The Result

The NIH Building 29B Renovation project provided a litany of lessons learned and contributed to DPR’s knowledge base in performing and partnering on federal projects using the traditional design-bid-build delivery method. DPR worked closely with NIH to maintain the highest level of transparency while ultimately delivering a quality project that not only met their needs, but also improved the long-term performance and usable life for the building.

A lab in NIH Building 29B fully renovated.

DPR delivered a quality project that not only met client needs, but also improved the long-term performance and usable life for the building.

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