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Syngenta’s First-of-its-Kind Research Greenhouse Drives Global Agricultural Productivity

Syngenta’s First-of-its-Kind Research Greenhouse Drives Global Agricultural Productivity

Innovation Center and Advanced Crop Lab, Research Triangle Park

Key Takeaways

  • This project was completed on time and within 3% of the proposed budget.
  • For more than a decade, Syngenta and 35 North have collaborated on construction projects
    valued at more than $540 million.
  • The project earned several awards including three green globes (out of four) from Green
    Globes
    , Outstanding Safety Performance from Liberty Mutual (1.1 million-man hours with
    zero loss time accidents), and Excellence in Construction from Associated Builders and
    Contractors.

35 North’s involvement in Syngenta’s advanced crop research laboratory illustrates the firm’s capacity to take on complex, precedent-setting projects with many moving parts.

Company Overview

Syngenta is a global enterprise headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, with a mission to “bring plant potential to life.” Its 27,000 employees work in more than 90 countries. Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to their customers, Syngenta helps increase crop productivity, protect the environment, and improve health and quality of life.

Challenge

Syngenta’s Cornwallis facility, built in the 1980s, was designed and built for crop protection and chemical research. Syngenta needed a facility fit for modern biology and genetic research with precision greenhouses capable of providing the agronomic environments necessary to develop and select the next generation of genomic traits.

For years, Syngenta had conducted their innovative experiments out of a facility in North Carolina. They were doing groundbreaking work, but it required workarounds and extra time to complete because the facilities were not fit for this purpose.

Syngenta wanted to build a new greenhouse incorporating the latest technology and eliminating variability (temperature, light, and humidity control) to ensure efficient genomic trait selection.

The challenge was to combine the required technologies to meet all user requirements. Specific scientific needs added to the complexity of this sophisticated project.

Approach and Solutions

Phase 1, the Advanced Crop Lab

During the design and construction of the Advanced Crop Lab (Phase 1), the following principles drove the design and construction effort:

  • Safety: Create a facility with health, safety, and the environment at the center.
  • Functionality: Facilitate the ability of scientists to perform their work.
  • Efficiency: Minimize waste and help bring products to market in the fastest way possible.
  • Sustainability: Advance environmental and operational sustainability with facilities that have the lowest cost of operation possible.
  • Value of Investment: Enhance their competitive advantage by meeting business needs, minimizing capital expenditures, and maximizing return on investment.
  • On Brand: Create productive, collaborative environments capable of attracting talented people without being wasteful or ostentatious.

Phase 2, the Innovation Center

Once the Advanced Crop Lab was completed and functional, the project pivoted into the design and construction of Phase 2, the Innovation Center, a 200,000 square-foot building comprised of labs and offices capable of consolidating all seeds research and development operations under one roof in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park.

  • Project management: 35 North’s team served as a strategic partner, overseeing quality to keep the project on schedule and on budget. To do so, they established project controls and created an integrated schedule for timely delivery and installation of systems. As the owner’s representative, 35 North also facilitated communication with the various design and build teams and end-user groups.
  • Regulatory compliance: 35 North helped Syngenta develop solutions to meet their specific regulatory needs. For example, the greenhouse design team satisfied the need for always-on emergency lighting without disrupting the need for precise, shadow-free growing environments using natural light dispersion by using green bulbs to emit a light frequency that plants can’t “see.” The 35 North team also ensured documentation compliance and established and monitored commissioning plans.
  • Scientific upgrades: 35 North also oversaw the building of a “fertigation” system in the basement that could be used to create and disperse unique fertilizers for each crop, as needed.
  • Best practices adapted to North Carolina: To gather insights from existing facilities, project participants traveled to the Netherlands to research the latest greenhouse technology. Ultimately, 35 North and designers took these Dutch insights and adapted them to North Carolina’s climate. For example, they fortified the design to withstand category two hurricane-force winds.
  • Sustainability: Sustainability was a key priority. The project used more than 80% recycled construction materials. For energy efficiency, 35 North oversaw the installation of one-inch-thick thermal glass panels that were filled with inert argon gas.

Results

35 North’s involvement in Syngenta’s Advanced Crop Lab and Innovation Center illustrates the firm’s capacity to take on complex, precedent-setting projects with many moving parts. For more than a decade, Syngenta and 35 North have collaborated on additional construction projects valued at more than $540 million.

This particular project was completed on time and within 3% of the proposed budget, a rarity with one-of-a-kind research and development facility projects.

In fact, Green Globes awarded the project three “Green Globes” out of four, an exceptional achievement for an air-conditioned glass structure. Additional awards included Outstanding Safety Performance from Liberty Mutual (1.1 million-man hours with zero loss time accidents), and Excellence in Construction from Associated Builders and Contractors.

Advanced Crop Lab and Innovation Center Overview

Total Project Value

  • Phase 1: $72 M
  • Phase 2: $90 M

Total Project Size

  • Phase 1: 136,000 SF
  • Phase 2: 200,000 SF

35 North Roles

  • Program Management
  • Construction Management
  • Cost Estimating
  • General Contracting

Market Segments

  • Agricultural Technology
  • Laboratory
  • Research and Development
  • Corporate Office

In addition to the construction achievements, Syngenta’s advanced crop research laboratory: 

  • Accurately simulates 46 global growth environments. Each one is individually controlled for temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide. The potential temperature range is 65 to 95 degrees F. Tolerances are +/- 2° F.
  • Features exceptional light dispersion ensuring even lighting for accurate results.
  • Uses prismatic haze glass to disperse light and avoid shade areas. The glass has a perpendicular light transmission greater than 98% and angular light transmission greater than 80%.
  • Includes an automated liquid fertigation system delivering customized fertilizer formulations to each row of plants across the greenhouse.
  • Incorporates an advanced building management system (BMS) to automate the acquisition of massive amounts of research data processed at an in-house data center replete with fiber optics.

Enable Innovation

If you’re looking to construct, renovate, or innovate a life science facility, allow 35 North to help you design and build a modern, high-quality project that meets your unique needs. We specialize in life sciences and provide services for site assessments, design-to-construction management, cost estimating, commissioning, and much more. Email us at info@35n.com to discuss how we can help you achieve your goals.

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