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KCRB owner representatives design for the user

As concrete is pumped into steel racks beneath the site of what is to be the Knight Cancer Research Building, almost 70 people ride the aerial tram back and forth between the Oregon Health & Science University campus and the co-working location on the South Waterfront, collaborating on every detail of the build.

Acting owner of the Knight Cancer Research Building (KCRB), OHSU has instated a four-person core team to keep communication flowing during the building’s development.

The core team includes contractor Brian Price, architect Laurie Canup, engineer Ed Trotter and scientist Tiffani Howard. The four of them sit together in the co-working location down at the South Waterfront, accessible to each other and to the contractors and architects on-site.

“As a member of the core team, the four of us are really responsible for maintaining a very big-picture view of the whole project,” Howard said. “We are dependent upon our teams underneath us to keep the details in line, but we need to keep the big picture and make sure that everything remains cohesive.”

JONATHAN HOUSE - Ed Trotter, the engineer on OHSUs core team, watches work at the KCRB site.

Liaison scientist

Howard, as OHSU’s project liaison between the Knight Cancer Institute and the building team, represents the scientists and administration of the Institute’s needs to the architects and contractors.

“I’m responsible for making sure our users are heard, the scientists’ needs are met in the building and that everybody is kept informed of the design and progress of the buildings,” Howard said.

A research scientist with OHSU for 24 years after earning her PhD there, Howard specialized in cell and developmental biology. She came on board with the KCRB at the beginning of 2015, when she began workshops with large groups of scientists — both experimental and computational.

“We spent a lot of time talking about how they do their research and what they need in order to be efficient in their research, and also what kinds of spaces would help them collaborate more easily,” Howard said. “We talked a lot about how many people in a space creates a good, collaborative environment.”

JULES ROGERS - Tiffani Howard

Based on the information from these sessions, the KCRB interior is designed into “neighborhoods,” each with an average of four labs of 32 people.

“A community atmosphere in that neighborhood allows them to really get to know each other, know each other’s research and spend a lot of time talking about ideas,” Howard said. “We also understood from workshops that the amount of support space it took to support the scientist in that neighborhood was actually greater than most scientists are given in a building, so we increased our support space as well — space for them to put equipment and specialized equipment for research and do tissue culture experiments.”

Cancer research involves a lot of cell work, so the lab support space is divided equally between equipment space and work for cell culture. The work happens in bio safety cabinets, or hoods that prevent contaminants from reaching the cells the scientists are growing with specialized air flow.

“Many of the equipment spaces we designed in the building are designed for shared equipment — shared both within a neighborhood and within an entire floor,” Howard said. “This is a little different from how it’s typically been done, where pieces of equipment might be owned by a specific lab.”

She conducts one-on-one meetings with lots of individuals on the project up to entire community meetings of 25 to 30 people.

This collaboration across everyone involved in the development is called integrated project delivery, an up-and-coming process for delivering buildings that involves the owner, architect and contractor from the very beginning of the project through the build.

“This eliminated the need to redesign when projects don’t come in under budget, or when they are designed in a way that’s not easily constructable,” Howard said. “Contractors are intimately involved in helping our designers build the most efficient building, and the architects are involved in helping contractors understand the importance of design — and of course, the owner is involved in that process all the way along.”

Much of Howard’s job includes running workshops with all the right people in the room to have discussions about how the building should be designed.

She’s also responsible for communicating with Knight Institute and OHSU executives and steering committees to keep them informed of the timeline and budget. Even after more than 24 years researching and studying with OHSU, Howard went through 10 interviews for the liaison position.

“Our OHSU facilities people have also contributed a great deal to the design as well, so it’s not only just about creating a building that works for the scientists, but building facilities that can run easily, a high-performance building from a sustainability standpoint, and operations standpoint in the future,” Howard said.

Liaison engineer

Ed Trotter, senior project manager with OHSU, studied chemistry at Oregon State University and then pursued construction management. Much of his experience is in developing correctional institutions, but also includes a resort hotel in Hawaii as well as wastewater treatment facilities.

“We are the first level of upstream decision-making,” Trotter said. “We have Tiffani (Howard) on the scientific task force, heavily focusing on the specific technical parts of the labs. I’m better at knowing what kind of chiller and what kind of hot water heater we want.”

The shared leaderships from four major groups represented by the core team members is an aspect of methodology that has been in use informally over the past decades, but has been formalized in the development of the KCRB.

SUBMITTED: OHSU - The OHSU core team celebrates at the ground breaking earlier this summer.

“Methodology has certainly evolved over the last 30 years in construction,” Trotter said. “I’ve been really fortunate to always work on really collaborative projects, but it’s a little different — I’m in a little less control than normal in this role, even as an owner’s representative I’ve had more control.”

Trotter’s duties vary from paperwork management, contractor payroll, lighting details, architect meetings and reviewing invoices to finding out whose drone is flying around and landing on top of the building next door (it ended up being someone in that building, not on the KCRB project).

“Every little thing that happens on a project of this magnitude impacts it,” Trotter said.

“We’re asking a lot of the questions now that we would’ve asked in the heat of construction, which is not the best time to do it,” Trotter said. “We already bought our generator. It’s being put together, we’ll have it here in a couple of months — that’s unheard of.”

The organization ahead of time is a result of the carefully planned meetings between all the right people. Workers are broken down into functional teams: mechanical, plumbing, structural, etc.

“(We’re) making sure the right people are talking to each other, because as much as everything is tied together, the construction industry hasn’t done a good job of making sure people are talking to each other at the right time,” Trotter said.

For example, planners decided to place light fixtures in concrete slabs — until talking to the structural engineer, who said it wouldn’t happen there. But, with the site still a dirt pit, details like that are being caught long before they’re about to happen.

The new Knight culture

“As part of the Knight culture that we’re developing, this idea of sharing equipment and sharing ideas and sharing enthusiasm has really influences how we’ve designed the building, and we feel strongly that that’s going to influence the ways we behave in the buildings,” Howard said.

There will be almost three times the number of conference spaces of all sizes at the KCRB than at other OHSU buildings on top of the hill.

“Our scientists and our administrators were constantly saying, ‘We don’t have anyplace to meet,’ and we felt that having easy access to a place where they could just drop in and meet would increase the ease of their collaboration,” Howard said.

The KCRB is intentionally designed to be a vertical campus, with an emphasis on the stairs encouraging travel.

“The way the building’s designed, people will automatically meet and have spontaneous interactions,” Howard said. “Along that staircase we have amenities for scientists, places to sit for lunch, to meet people, even to have meetings in the booths.”

There’s also an emphasis on daylight, making window spaces public instead of lining the walls with offices like much of the rest of campus. Inside the KCRB, people will be able to see the entire length of the building including the labs, offices, researchers and open space, all along one sightline.

“You can see your entire lab community at any time, no matter what tasks they’re performing,” Howard said.

“What we kept hearing is on other people’s post-occupancy reports, these are the things we missed: we didn’t put in enough conference rooms, we didn’t put in enough amenities for our scientists and we don’t have enough lab support space,” Howard said. “The risk comes in making sure that our scientists have the tools they need to work, to adapt to the new space before they get there ... other people who have designed these open lab spaces said they have been incredibly successful, but hard to get used to.”

Now that the building has phased into construction, the core team duties are shifting.

“Our three main focuses of the project, and if you read into them, it’s not around the design construction of the building, it’s around the process and the people,” Trotter said. “Our focus is about the people and the process, and the end goal is a good building.”

JONATHAN HOUSE - Contractors drill concrete pilings 80 feet deep into the ground, letting it set inside hollow steel frames. Theyre installing two to four concrete columns a day.

Guiding principles

A group of strong scientists at the Knight Institute set up guiding principles about how the building would be designed to meet the scientists’ needs.

“The guiding principles are ideas like team science, and also that we wanted the building to really be an intellectual and social hub for the Knight Cancer Institute, which is spread across the OHSU campus at this time and we don’t really have a central location,” Howard said. “It’s important everybody from the Knight is welcome in this building whether they do their research there or not, it’s intended to be a place where they can come be the Knight community.”

In Trotter’s past experience working on correctional prisons and jails, there was an end process where the designers walked through the finished building with the user to find out what they like and hate, use or don’t use, or had to fix.

“Often, they don’t get feedback on what did and didn’t work,” Trotter said. “It’s amazing how many times in my career I’ve heard ‘we’ve always done it that way,’ but I say ‘and it’s never worked, you’ve got to do something different,’ — it’s the feedback loop that’s been missing.”

At the KCRB, he saw architects brainstorm and sketch up 20 ideas, and weren’t afraid to see 19 of them go in the garbage — “but they learned something along the way.”

“I’ve enjoyed watching the development of the exterior of the building, mostly watching very talented group of architects and how they work. I’ve never had the opportunity to see into that part of the world,” Trotter said. “Typically, in a more traditional role — even with heavy user involvement — a lot of stuff is swirling in the background that, as an owner, you never see.”

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This is the second installment in an ongoing series of stories about the people who are bringing the Knight Cancer Research Building from conception to reality.

The first article (Business Tribune, July 1, 2016) focused on two of the architects of the project. In this installment, reporter Jules Rogers spoke to the core team members to showcase how their collaboration keeps the various teams working together.

It was only a year ago that OHSU announced they had met the $500 million match required to secure a $500 million donation from Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny.

Now, work has begun on the Knight Cancer Research Building, the construction of which is estimated to create 3,600 direct and another 4,400 indirect jobs.

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