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BES develops side-flow booth solution for biopharm production facility

Published: 14 August 2018 - Rachael Morling

Phil Ramshead from BES, the specialist in design and construction of clean rooms and aseptic facilities, discusses the fit out of a cancer drug preparation facility.

As our understanding of cancer develops and treatments become increasingly sophisticated there is a need to custom-prepare medication to meet the specific needs of the patient and their condition.  This, in turn, demands increasingly sophisticated production facilities.

A leading biopharmaceutical company has invested in ensuring it keeps pace with cancer treatment innovation and demand and one of its most recent asset development projects has involved the upgrade of an existing production plant to a clean room and the addition of extra production capacity with the fit out of an adjacent redundant building.  This project, designed and delivered by BES, has increased specialist processing capability in the manufacture of tailored cancer drugs.

The challenge was to design and fit out an environment that could offer consistently high standards of production while introducing innovative design and engineering touches to enhance efficiency, support the client’s focus on health and safety and minimise energy consumption.

Design Considerations

As an open book alliance partner for the biopharmaceutical company, BES has a remit to interrogate the brief on projects of this kind to ascertain where innovative ideas can add value to core concepts. A user requirement specification (URS) can then be developed and this informs both the architectural and building services design, all of which is developed by BES’ multi-disciplinary team.

BES carried out a survey of the existing facility, which revealed that fume cupboards were used at several points in the production process. The existing facility featured two down-flow booths for a purification process that is business-critical to the quality of the finished preparations, each containing purification flasks and ovens. The BES team noted that operator breathing zones were located close to fume generation points within these down-flow booths and saw an opportunity to reduce production hazards associated with filling the flasks with methanol, fitting stirrers and venting tubes to the flask and loading the oven by re-engineering the fume management system as side-flow booths.

Working closely with the client, BES considered the challenges of improving fume control and reducing manual handling of the methanol required in the production process. The initial design intention was to separate the operator from the process as much as possible, however, this had to be achieved without compromising workflows or access to equipment.  After considering several design options and comparing the benefits and shortfalls of each, it was clear that adopting a side-flow booth strategy would answer both the operational and safety elements of the brief.

Expertly Engineered

Consideration of the interface between the operator and the process was vital to ensure unforeseen fume exposure did not take place. The side-flow booth acts like a walk-in wind tunnel, promoting horizontal laminar flow of air by inducing air from the face of the booth to the rear. Each of the three booths was designed as a corridor, with the purification equipment on one side and the oven and preparation table on the other and every design detail was considered to minimise disturbance of the downward air flow. The centre of the booth provides a breathing zone for the operator, with a dedicated flow of uncontaminated air. To minimise the airflow rate, the air is directed to where it is required with expertly engineered design detail, such as a half-height door fitted to the booth entrance and a corner cut off to remove unused cross-sectional area, optimising the airflow.

A full scale mock-up of a side-flow booth was constructed to validate air flow patterns and end-user consultation as an integral elements of the design process prior to fit out of the facility. To address manual handling concerns, the design also incorporated a centralised methanol delivery system, enabling methanol to be hand dispensed within the facility but stored securely outside.

Energy efficiency was also built into the design, with the three side-flow booths connected to a single variable volume extract system and presence detectors fitted to reduce the extract flow rate of each booth when it is unoccupied. Heating and cooling recovery has also been built into the extract system to pre-warm or pre-cool the incoming air and the air discharge to atmosphere has been designed with a variable area twin discharge stack, maintaining discharge velocity while maximising the fan energy recovered during reduced extract flow rate.

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