We cracked it! Refurbishing a pharma production facility

Urban life 5 May 2017 Nick Bernabe

How do you refurbish a pharma production facility without removing the process equipment? You work around it with surgical precision.

2 min

You can’t really refurbish a production facility without taking the existing process elements out, can you?

Well, you can if you have to. And Ramboll had to when we were asked to design the refurbishment of a Novo Nordisk facility in Bagsværd, north of Copenhagen. The facility carries out the initial recovery of multiple biopharmaceutical fermentation products.

The scope of this refurbishment was very unusual, but quite clear: to cut, carve and adapt existing structures and building services without disturbing or removing the process elements within the facility.

This was a first. And it really took some careful planning by Ramboll, Novo Nordisk and partners like the engineering consultancy Jacobs.

The purpose of the refurbishment was to make the new classified processing areas suitable for manufacturing products under conditions that meet today’s requirements. Time was the key driver, and by adhering to an ultra-tight schedule, the design team was able to keep the shutdown period to a minimum, thereby ensuring that Novo Nordisk could re-start production as soon as possible.

Thus, we had to keep the vessels, centrifuges, homogenisers, pipes and other delicate process equipment in there and cover them while working around them with almost surgical precision in a very small area.

One of the most difficult tasks was making room for new pipes in the existing floor – without damaging the ribs in the slab and risking the floor’s collapsing. So, Ramboll basically X-rayed the floor with ground-penetrating radar, thus identifying the positions where the voids in the slab could be penetrated – without new ones being made in the ribs.

Another big challenge was the new requirements regarding the risk of explosion or toxic gas and cross-contamination between rooms. These called for a new pressure regime and an incorporated control system for the new airlocks separating the different areas. This, in turn, demanded that the ventilation system be upgraded, giving rise to another ‘surgical’ procedure to get the upgraded version to fit precisely within the existing plant room.

Ramboll used its Fast Track Model – a strategy where construction commences before the design is completed and where the number of sequential relationships are reduced and replaced with parallel relationships.

But we couldn’t have delivered on time without constant brainstorming with the client and the other consultants involved or the will to work after hours and at weekends.