Lab Manager speaks to Chris Benevides, senior director of Taunton operations, Waters Corporation, about the company’s Precision Chemical Manufacturing Facility in Taunton, MA. The 140,000 sq. ft. facility’s project cost is $215 million, and the project team consists of JM Coull (general contractor), IF Design (architect and project manager), and NV5 (industrial consulting firm, including for LEED certification). The brand-new facility is in the qualification testing phase; it is scheduled to be fully operational in 2023.
Q: What was the need for this facility? Is it replacing an outdated existing facility or accommodating new research/a new program?
A: The new precision chemical manufacturing facility in Taunton, MA, was developed to significantly expand Waters’ precision chemistry operations, leveraging new state-of the-art production equipment and manufacturing space to support rising customer demand and ongoing innovations in the industry. It is replacing our existing facility in Taunton, which we expect to be completely retired by the end of 2023.
In Taunton, we manufacture chromatographic particles that are essential to thousands of laboratories to ensure the quality and safety of medicines, food and water for millions of people worldwide. The product components that we make in Taunton helps our pharma customers ensure every medication has the exact same amount and quality of active ingredients; it is also used in testing for PFAS in our water supply, and in the development and quality testing of vaccines and therapies to prevent and treat COVID-19. Our products are heavily relied upon by scientists in quality control and quality assurance laboratories, as well as in research and development. These industries are continually expanding and innovating, and we updated our facility to support their needs. The new facility is almost three times larger than the legacy manufacturing facility, allowing us to expand the business, create opportunities for future growth and hire more people. We have already created 25 new jobs and expect that number to grow over the coming years.
Our overall goals in creating the new facility were to achieve greater levels of operational efficiency and sustainability, modernize the facility, reduce our environmental impact, and increase safety measures.
Q: What kinds of sustainability initiatives have been included in the design plan? Is the facility pursuing LEED certification or something similar?
A: When we envisioned our new facility, we wanted to support our corporate environmental, social, and governance goals. To that end, we aligned to the standards set forth by the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, one of the most robust and prestigious green building frameworks. We knew that by following these guidelines, we would create a facility that would stand out in terms of sustainability. Waters recently announced that the facility was successful in obtaining LEED certification, making it the first and only LEED-certified chemical manufacturing facility in Massachusetts and among a small number of LEED-certified industrial manufacturing projects in the US.
As to what is included, the facility features sustainable design elements that significantly reduce energy consumption, estimated to decrease water use by 20 percent and cut industrial waste volume by 50 percent. We have state-of-the-art, on-site industrial waste containment and treatment technology designed to reduce overall building emissions, resulting in six times less emissions than what the legacy facility produced.
Q: Is there anything particularly unique or groundbreaking about your facility or the design plan?
A: Obtaining LEED certification is no easy task, especially for a chemical manufacturing plant, but it was a priority for us. We built the Taunton facility with sustainability top of mind from the very start, so sustainability measures are integrated into every aspect of the design and workflow of the facility. For example, the facility is equipped with wastewater recycling technology that reclaims and filters wastewater for use in property irrigation, climate control and the building’s restroom facilities. And, the building’s LEED design is optimized for energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Even the construction materials in the building were carefully selected to make sure they had sustainability components within them.
Q: What sorts of challenges did you encounter during the design/build process, and how did you overcome them?
A: Chemical manufacturing plants are not typically considered to be hallmarks of sustainability, given the amount of waste that is produced, and energy used for manufacturing. To overcome this, we had to think creatively about the design and our priorities when developing a new chemical manufacturing facility. We also purchased equipment which offers the latest technological advancements to minimize energy usage. While the building is bigger than the one it is replacing, per square foot there is a significant reduction in energy consumption.
The life sciences industry is all about innovating to make people’s lives better, through drug development, quality control, or environmental testing. At Waters, we believe this mission also necessitates a responsibility to be as environmentally conscious as possible—even when another path might be easier or cheaper. We took on the challenge of designing a sustainable chemical manufacturing facility to ensure a brighter future for Waters, our community, and the industry.
Q: If a similar facility or program were to look at your lab for inspiration, what do you think they would take away as an example of what they should also implement in their own lab?
A: Our new facility in Taunton is a model for how chemical manufacturing plants can embrace environmental sustainability. In addition to our sustainable design features, one major inspiration for others would be the onsite waste treatment facility as we completely changed the way we handle waste. Historically, whatever we used for waste was taken offsite and disposed of, but the new onsite waste treatment facility allows for major reuse on-site. Most notably, the water will be brought back into the facility to be used for irrigation, flushing toilets, running boilers, and even as processed water. Our waste is mainly water-based, so with this technology we can reduce our dependence on city water and have a meaningful impact on our waste output.