Case Studies

The Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory: Bringing Cutting-edge Veterinary Technology to Baton Rouge

  • Written by: The Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory: Bringing Cutting-edge Veterinary Technology to Baton Rouge
  • Produced by: The Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory: Bringing Cutting-edge Veterinary Technology to Baton Rouge
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Lifting heavy patients is always a concern at medical facilities. This is even more of a worry when the patients can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. So, when Louisiana State University (LSU) decided to expand and update its animal diagnostic capabilities by building a new and improved disease diagnostic laboratory, it had to take into account such challenges as large-animal lifting, disease control and the unpredictable Mississippi River.

With technically complicated considerations in mind, the school headed straight to construction experts Milton J. Womack Inc. (Womack), one of the premier commercial building contractors in the Southeast, to handle the unique $22 million project. Family owned and operated since 1955, Womack excels at delivering quality buildings at the most economical cost. Be it government, healthcare, state, commercial, hospitality, education, residential or historic, Womack is a trusted builder operating out of Baton Rouge, La., with more than 150 employees that are active all the way down to New Orleans.

Testing, 1 2 3

LSU’s Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (LADDL) is a full-service animal diagnostic lab that has been in operation since 1981. The new LADDL will not only expand and increase capabilities, but also bring all services under one roof. Labs, conference rooms, offices and more will call the new Womack-guided two-story 57,000-square foot structure home. Skylights, covered walkways to LSU’s School of Veterinary Medicine building, and river-facing views are in the works for the new large animal morgue and autopsy center.

The facility takes in large animals with critical diseases such as West Nile, equine herpes virus and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease. Students and professors will be better able to operate on, study and/or dispose of the sick animals in the new facility, sited at the far edge of LSU, near the horse pastures and veterinary college.

Heading up this highly complex, niche project, which began November 2011 and is set to be completed summer 2013, has been the Womack team of Chad Horton, project manager, and Wes Self, superintendent. “Wes and I make a very good team; we work well together,” says Horton. And Horton and Self have had to overcome some site-specific challenges. “Where it’s located is right near the Mississippi River,” says Horton. “We’re in the worst two-mile stretch of water seepage on the whole river.” High river water levels delayed the project by 65 days. “Other than that, the project is really moving well,” assures Horton. “We’re trying to keep things on the original schedule.” Both Horton and Self have been in the construction business for more than a decade, and Horton has been with Womack for the past two years while Self has been with Womack for six years.

Safety First

The facility requires many specific features, such as a specialized resin floor with drains that can be completely washed down and disinfected. “The necropsy area – where they do the actual autopsies – has an epoxy floor, and a BSL 3 cooler,” shares Horton.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), BSL-3 – which stands for biosafety level 3 – labs are the most difficult containment facilities to design and operate. Labs such as LADDL, which deal with highly infectious diseases, must be nationally certified and adhere to various HVAC, plumbing, electric and physical protocols that prevent the spread of biological contaminants, all of which Womack has to take into account. The facility also requires a monorail system that goes from the loading dock to operating table, and a crane system for loading and unloading large animals.

Womack is self-performing the layout of the grade beams and pile caps, roof blocking, interior blocking, and all the paving. For the rest of the work, the company relies on its capable network of subcontractors.

On this project, key players included Airtrol, Inc., which did intricate mechanical specialties; Andress Engineering, which supplied the large animal crane and other technical installations; Bonds & Associates, Inc., which handled the challenging flood-zone foundation and concrete slab work; Dykes Electric, Inc., which managed technical lab specifications; Marino & Son Plumbing and Heating, which installed specialized disease control equipment and drainage; Postel Industries, Inc., which helmed steel/structural work, and Nexlab Design, Inc., which sourced and integrated laboratory equipment. Horton, meanwhile, assures all the pieces come together smoothly.

Diagnosis: Cooperation

“My management style is … I sum it up as you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar,” reveals Horton. “I don’t have the gorilla mentality where you’re screaming and yelling to get your point across. I work with subs every day in my office and keep good relationships with subcontractors and architects. If they need something, we get it resolved. We have a subcontractor meeting every week. I check in with everyone – the key is constant communication.”

The LADDL staff, which is currently spread out around the campus in parts of the veterinary school and modular buildings, is looking forward to having a dedicated new home. “The project is looking good,” says Horton. “There’s nothing about this one that keeps me up at night.”

Thanks to the integrity, accountability and proactive activity of Milton J. Womack Inc. and its well-managed supply chain, Louisiana State University’s Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory will be completed on schedule and within budget, further reinforcing the highest standards of both the contractor and the school.

Published on: April 25, 2013

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