PETALUMA — Novato-based genetic research components maker Biosearch Technologies Inc. needed to double the size of its headquarters and labs to accommodate growth over the next decade, and they found the perfect fit in a mostly vacant 120,000-square-foot former high-tech manufacturing plant in south Petaluma that could be retrofitted quickly and relatively inexpensively.
By keeping a number of the office and industrial improvements from Tegal Corp., Biosearch is spending where it counts, according to project consultant Jim Ford of Cotati-based The Fifth Resource and Daren Dick, Biosearch chief operating officer.
“Major building improvements are new, energy-efficient HVAC systems to support chemistry and biological sciences, solvent storage and delivery systems, interior renovation to support laboratory activities, energy-efficient lighting upgrades, security system upgrades,” Mr. Dick said.
Existing 25-year-old carpet tiles in the 30,000 square feet of office area on the first and second floors will be cleaned and reused. Furniture and workstations left behind when Tegal moved out last year will be reused. Most of the office improvements are accessibility upgrades required under the Americans With Disabilities Act, three new private offices, a new conference room, a refreshed lobby and new paint.
“It’s interesting we are able to resuse as much as we can, because Tegal (was) a totally different manufacturing company than Biosearch,” said Danny Garon, manager of the North Bay branch office of project general contractor Devcon Construction. “That we were able to reuse the labs is almost as they were originally designed is amazing.”
On the production side, the workflow layout of the 40,000 square feet of Tegal clean rooms will remain the same as they are converted to chemical-control areas for Biosearch uses.
“The shoe fit, and they’re wearing it,” Mr. Ford said. Biosearch founder Ron Cook spotted the potential for the mostly empty building, one of last financially distressed large buildings in Petaluma, and inquired about it through listing agent and friend Brian Foster of Cassidy Turley.
To evaluate the potential of the building before purchasing it and guide the retrofit for Biosearch, Mr. Dick brought in people long familiar with the structure. Mr. Ford was Tegal’s facility manager when former parent company Motorola built it in 1989. Ken Eide, mechanical work foreman on the job, is a 28-year veteran with design-builder Peterson Mechanical of Sonoma.
Mr. Ford helped craft a plan for a phased move-in to maintain production volume. Mr. Eide helped with value engineering for the production exhaust hoods. The original plan was for 40 such hoods, but the electric bill to run the fans was substantially, so the team came up with a plan for 29 hoods and variable-speed fans that would cycle up and down when the hood chambers opened while moving the same volume of air.
Confident the building could be reworked in time to move from Biosearch’s existing 40,000 square feet of headquarters and labs at 81 Digital Dr. in Novato by the time the lease expires in March, Biosearch purchased the lender-owned building at 2199 S. McDowell Blvd. in Oakmead Northbay Business Park in late July for $7 million.
In addition to putting one of Petaluma’s last distressed commercial buildings back into productive use, Biosearch is bringing 90 production and office employees to Petaluma.
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