The United States is home to some of the world’s most well-respected medical and scientific research facilities. From international pharmaceutical manufacturers to land-grant university laboratories, the country is rich with centers filled with scientists eager to find a solution to some of the world’s most dangerous illnesses or the next scientific breakthrough in nanotech.
What people often overlook, however, is the skill and creativity that constructs these facilities. Laboratories are intricate spaces, and it’s impossible to produce generic ones. The demands of anyone laboratory, in one discipline, in one area of the country, are completely unique. Labs demand varying equipment storage facilities and come with idiosyncratic and byzantine safety requirements.
Given these demands, clients are faced with the challenge of looking for not only the best craftsmen but innovative builders capable of providing unique solutions. This article lists 14 firms which fit that bill. They were chosen based on merit, media presence, experience, and clientele. As you go further down the list, you may notice a good number of these firms are the minds and the muscle behind some of the country’s best facilities.
14) W.E. O’Neil Construction Company
1245 W Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607
W.E. O’Neal offers general contracting and construction management services, using a design-build approach. With nearly a hundred years of experience, the firm is an award-winning family of companies which had its humble beginnings as a small-time firm before growing into one of the industry’s leading companies. It assures its clients that its team uses the latest state-of-the-art technology with each project it handles and has completed facilities with sizes that reach up to a million square feet. In addition to its science and advanced technology facility projects, the firm also builds for higher education, aerospace, entertainment, healthcare, hospitality, and industrial.
Some of the firm’s most notable work includes the University of Chicago’s medical center and MRI suite. W.E. O’Neal also works on full-scale renovations and was the firm behind the refurbishing and remodeling of the Carondelet Cath Lab.
13) Power Construction
8750 W Bryn Mawr Ave. Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60631
With over nine decades of experience, Power Construction provides both full-scale renovation and new construction services and has worked on not only medical and science projects, but also multifamily, healthcare, senior living, commercial, and office work. Modern Healthcare magazine ranks the firm as the seventh best contractor in terms of medical and science facility construction throughout the entire country. It has also been recognized as the largest contractor in Chicago by Crain’s Chicago Business, and its work has been featured on the Engineering News-Record, Building Design + Construction, and The Huffington Post.
Take note of the Shirley Ryan Ability Labs, which is the country’s first ever “translational” research hospital, where scientists work closely together with doctors to apply their research to and physical rehabilitation and ongoing medical practice. Further, the firm is also responsible for the Advocate Lutheran General Center for Advanced Care and St. Alexius Medical Center’s central plant.
12) Suffolk Construction
One Pennsylvania Plaza, Suite 5500, New York, NY 10119
Suffolk Construction builds in a number of different sectors: residential, aviation, general transport, higher education, office, healthcare, entertainment, and sports. The firm provides services across the United States. The firm uses the latest virtual modeling technology—in a coordinated way—to better streamline its projects. With this “build smart” approach, the firm is able to coordinate and create multiple drawings and models into one comprehensive, federal model. That approach allows Suffolk’s team to plan with amazing accuracy, making the firm’s process both seamless and flexible.
The firm’s work has been featured in several national publications. The firm is nationally ranked within a number of different categories; most recently they were named by Building Design+Construction as one of the country’s largest contractors. Some of its press features include The Boston Globe and Construction Dive, and they have been featured several times on NBC and CBS affiliates.
11) SSOE Group
7 Southside Dr. Suite 202, Clifton Park, NY 12065
Established in 1948, SSOE Group is best known for its architecture, engineering, and construction management services. In addition to the medical research field, it has also delved into an extensive array of markets such as the automotive, chemical, commercial, energy, education, healthcare, and manufacturing industry. It’s nationally ranked and has had its work featured numerous times on publications and outlets such as that of the Engineering News-Record and Modern Healthcare. It leads the industrial engineering sector, after being named as one of the best five firms in the said market for the past two years. It has also managed to permeate international lists after having been named as one of the best 15 engineering firms. The firm is currently led by Bob Howell, who has been with the firm since the 1980s. He started out as a draftsman trainee and eventually worked his way up. He introduced the firm to the food sector in 1993 and is the brains behind the firm’s partnerships with several Fortune 500 companies.
The firm’s most notable project comes in the form of the Varian Edge Radiosurgery System, as seen below. Here, the firm was tasked with the complexity of installing a fully-integrated system meant to offer real-time tumor tracking. The firm had to work closely with a physicist, shielding contractor, and construction manager to complete this fully-shielded treatment room, which also happens to be the first of its kind in the country.
10) The Walsh Group
929 West Adams St., Chicago, IL 60607
The Walsh Group has nearly eight decades of experience and an extensive list of markets it has catered to during its tenure in the industry. Now led by its fourth generation of builders, it has established itself as one of the largest builders in North America and offers design, construction, operation, and financing services. With over 18 regional offices spread throughout the United States, the firm is nationally ranked and has been named the fourth largest healthcare builder and ranks 13th among the largest contracting firms in the country. The firm employs over 8,000 craftsmen and has worked on projects amounting to millions of dollars. The firm is family-owned, rich with history, and intent carrying on values and traditions. During a project’s first concrete pour, its team places Miraculous Medals, small oval-shaped medallions with a picture of Mary as a means to inspire its craftsmen to complete a job safely and to remind them of the firm’s strong ties to one another.
The firm worked with the US Department of Energy after constructing a research facility for Argonne National Laboratories specifically meant for interdisciplinary nanoscience and nanotechnology research. It has also collaborated with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore for the construction of the Public Health Command Lab Replacement, which primarily consisted of wet labs, field labs, a vivarium, and a central utility plant.
9) Messer Construction
643 W. Court St., Cincinnati, OH 45203
Messer is a full-service custom commercial construction firm with eight decades of experience. It has delved into a vast spectrum of markets which include aviation, healthcare, higher education, industrial, science and technology, and commercial build-outs. It takes pride in its national rankings and was recently named by Building Design + Construction as the eleventh leading national contractor for science and advanced research facilities. It also leads several lists published by the Engineering News-Record, which named the firm as the 12th best contractor in the midwest, and the 15th largest pharmaceutical builder in the country. The firm ensures its clients use only the latest technology, and even offers virtual design and construction services.
Some of its most important work includes Wright Patterson Air Force Base’s advanced power and thermal research laboratory. Located in the base’s historic district, the building’s antique exterior was maintained even as its interiors were turned into a sophisticated facility composed of wet, dry, and shielded labs. Another noteworthy project is the University of Louisville’s clinical and translational research building. On this project, the firm was tasked with the entire ground-up construction of a 290,000 square foot world-class research center, which houses numerous labs, a vivarium, and four BL-3 labs.
8) Balfour Beatty
2335 Broadway Suite 300, Oakland, CA 94612
Balfour Beatty offers general contracting and at-risk construction management services for both the public and private sector. It uses a design-build approach and has been recognized by several media outlets as one of the nation’s largest building contractors. It has also been ranked by the Engineering News-Record as the fourth biggest commercial builder and remodeler in terms of revenue. A subsidiary of the London-based Balfour Beatty plc, the firm is a proud recipient of a National Award of Merit from the Design-Build Institute of America for its work on the Dallas Horseshoe Project. In addition, it has also been bestowed with an Excellence in Construction Award from the Metro Washington and Virginia chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).
The firm primarily specializes in commercial offices, correctional facilities, higher education buildings, and multi-residential complexes. Some of the firm’s most notable projects include renovation work for Microsoft, Duke University’s Medical Center and the construction of Octapharma Plasma, Inc.
7) DPR Construction
1510 S Winchester Blvd., San Jose, CA 95128
DPR Construction is a leading industry expert in terms of collaborative virtual building and BIM, integrating project delivery, sustainable construction, and pre-construction. It is the recipient of the Golden Trowel Award and has been named by the Engineering News-Record as the 15th best general contractor in the nation. In line with that, it is also a leading firm in the pharmaceutical, data center healthcare, and mixed-use industries. It has also been profiled by other prestigious publications such as that of Building Design + Construction and the Los Angeles Business Journal. Further, the firm’s vast portfolio gives us an inside look into some of its best projects which includes both full-scale renovations and large ground-up construction work.
DPR was the firm behind the construction of the Sanofi-Aventis Tucson Research Center, a 110,350 square foot research facility which houses a mix of chemistry and biology laboratories, offices, and other support facilities. It is also responsible for building the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, along with its chief medical examiner’s office.
6) Structure Tone
330 W 34th St., New York, NY 10001
Established in 1971, Structure Tone taps into an extensive array of markets and provides a full range of services, including site selection and interior renovation, as well as new construction and full-scale remodeling and modernization. The firm has worked on numerous retail, commercial, healthcare, cultural, and educational structures; some of its most important projects include work for Columbia University and Intarcia Therapeutics. Structure Tone has also done work for laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The firm brings in a construction volume worth over $5 billion annually, equating to roughly 1,500 projects in a year; Structure Tone attributes nearly 80% of its incoming business to repeat clients.
The Engineering News-Record ranked the firm as the 15th leading contractor in the nation and the top construction firm in both New Jersey and Philadelphia. The firm was also recognized with several awards from the General Building Contractors Association for its cultural, healthcare, and mixed-use work.
5) Hensel Phelps
420 Sixth Ave., Greeley, CO 80631
Hensel Phelps specializes in construction and development services, in addition to large-scale restoration and renovation work. It incorporates green building practices into its projects and has worked on over 200 LEED-certified facilities throughout its eight decades in the industry. It has secured and established itself as a reliable and leading construction company and has delved into an extensive range of markets. A quick look at its portfolio will reveal work for the aviation, commercial, higher education, healthcare, and hospitality sectors. It has also provided work for the government and of course, for the science and technology market. Most notably it worked on the Love Field Modernization Program, for which it was awarded an Outstanding Renovation accolade. It has also done work for the Pentagon, which again, garnered the firm an Overall Project of the Year distinction.
In terms of science and medical research, the firm worked on the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center which contains numerous collaborative spaces, conference rooms, offices, training rooms, and even a museum. Below you’ll also find the Colorado State University’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory where the firm used a sustainable approach and constructed office spaces, BSL-2 laboratories, BSL-3E laboratories, a BSL-3 and GMP laboratory, and a vivarium and a cage washer. For its excellent work on the project, the firm won an Excellence in Construction from the Associated Builders and Contractors Rocky Mountain Chapter.
300 E Joppa Rd., Baltimore, MD 21286
Led by Timothy Reagan, Whiting-Turner provides construction management and general contracting services, using a design-build approach for each project it undertakes. Since its inception in 1909, the firm has secured its nationwide presence through several office locations on both coasts. It employs over 2,900 skilled professionals and manages a bonding capacity of nearly $4 billion. The firm is an advocate of diversity and inclusivity in the construction industry, and works as an active member of the National Association of Minority Contractors, in addition to several other local and regional organizations that work together to recognize and empower minority and women-led firms.
Whiting-Turner extends its services to a wide range of industries, from retail and mixed-use structures to industrial, office, healthcare, and entertainment facilities. Some of its most noteworthy projects for the science and technology industry include laboratories, nanomanufacturing and research facilities, and pharmaceutical buildings. With over a hundred years of experience, the firm is nationally ranked on the Engineering News-Record and has also been featured on the prestigious Forbes magazine. It is the firm behind the construction of Yale University School of Medicine’s Amistad Building, the Stanford Research Lab, and the expansion of Biotech 8.
Empire State Building 350 Fifth Ave. 32nd Flr., New York, NY 10118
Skanska caters to a wide range of markets and through the years has worked on multiple noteworthy projects. From airports to hospitals to large-scale commercial build-outs to state-of-the-art sports facilities: Skanska is one of the largest, most diverse, most capable firms in the country. With over 11,000 employees locally and nearly 40,000 globally, the firm brings in nearly $7.3 billion annually. Headquartered in New York, the firm has 31 offices in the country’s metro areas and has been recognized by the Engineering News-Record as the eighth largest building manufacturer and third largest heavy contractor in the nation. It employs over 400 LEED-Accredited professionals and has worked on over 125 green building and LEED certified projects.
Its portfolio includes the University of Washington’s Life Sciences Building and Harvard University’s Biological Research Infrastructure, in addition to several other advanced research and biological facilities throughout the country. The firm also works on full-scale renovations and restorations.
1999 Ave. of the Stars Suite 2600, Los Angeles, CA 90067
AECOM is known for iconic skyscrapers, city planning, energy and water conservation, and its global presence. Its name has made it onto Fortune Magazine’s list of “World’s Most Admired Companies” for five consecutive years, and the firm was recently named the number one design firm in the country by Engineering News-Record. The firm also made approximately $20.2 billion in revenue in 2018, making it unsurprising that the Fortune 500 lists the firm as the 164th largest enterprise in America. Providing its services to over 150 countries, AECOM offers a full range of services and has provided work for nearly every major market sector. It is a leading major player in transportation, commercial, mixed-use, environmental, energy, high-rise buildings, and government structures and showcases a craft uniquely its own which visibly manifests itself in several of its work.
The firm has worked on countless important buildings since its establishment in 1990, such as the University of California’s San Francisco Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, which is considered to be one of the largest biomedical research and education campuses. The facility has the capacity of accommodating over 400 scientists and contains over 33 laboratories. Further, it boasts of spaces for clinical research programs, areas for brain tumor research, and numerous wet laboratories, and an MRI imagine suite all contained in a vast 161,757-square-foot lot.
1) Clark Construction Group
7500 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda, MD 20814
Clark Construction Group was established in 1906 as a small local road excavator, before incorporating construction work into its array of services. Although it still considers itself a local builder, the firm has managed to make a name for itself and establish a nationwide presence through several offices spread across the country. The firm employs over 4,200 employees and holds a diverse portfolio, showcasing projects of all sizes and complexities. From intricate interior renovations to complex civil and industrial structures, the firm’s experience in a wide range of sectors proves its capacity to take on any project. The firm is the recipient of over 15 sustainability awards, 19 Design-Build Institute of America Awards, and 8 ABC National Excellence in Construction Eagle Awards. The Engineering News-Record also places it as the 11th leading contractor nationwide and the 2nd best green builder in the country.
Its experience with medical and laboratory contracting includes work involving vivariums, animal imaging suites, biosafety labs, and even cryogen freezer farms. Further, it utilizes the latest BIM coordination technology in all of the projects it takes on and utilizes a highly streamlined design-build approach. Some of its most notable projects include the Advanced Measurement Laboratory for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Argonne Materials Design Laboratory for the Department of Energy’s Strategic Laboratory Initiative, and the Veterans Puget Sound’s very own mental healthcare and research facility.