Devcon transforms empty shell to high-tech production facility in 17 months

Location: 2200 S. McDowell Blvd. Extension, Petaluma; www.thermofisher.com

Owner: Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. of Massachusetts

Description: Former warehouse for plastic injection molding operation

Completion: November 2010

General contractor: Devcon Construction, Petaluma

[caption id="attachment_28005" align="alignleft" width="150"] During construction (click to enlarge)[/caption]

PETALUMA -- Perhaps the most complex building project of the year in the North Bay took place in Petaluma, where Devcon Construction turned a 185,000-square-foot shell into a plastic injection molding manufacturing facility for Thermo Fisher.

The Massachusetts-based medical supply giant consolidated operations in four separate buildings into one large space formerly leased by Tellabs and once a manufacturing site for Telecom Valley’s AFC.

According to Devcon project superintendent Doug Noren, the most challenging aspect of the multi-tiered, $3.5 million project was understanding the functionality of about 300 machines of various generations.

Most were German-made, some state-of-the-art Japanese and some original to the founder, whose “gusher” is still vital to the proprietary manufacturing process.

“During the design phase we had to assemble a team just to gather and assess data on the machines,” said Mr. Noren.

It was Devcon’s responsibility to supply electricity for the operation far in excess of what was there.

“They needed 4,000 amps. I believe they’re the largest user of power in Petaluma,” he said. “Once the machines are up and running, they run and run.”

[caption id="attachment_28004" align="alignleft" width="150"] The finished production floors (click to enlarge)[/caption]

Power cables and water lines to chill machines had to be located overhead in structural steel racks. Devcon designed the network and contracted with Indoor Environmental Services for mechanical work, Northern Electric for electrical and MKM & Associates for structural engineering.

A separate chiller plant was constructed outside the building to supply the water to the overhead network.

“Then during the course of the project we found that the original fire system was inadequate to meet the classified hazard level of the operation. There wasn’t enough water pressure, for one thing,” said Mr. Noren.

Devcon hired The Fire Consultant to engineer a new fire protection system and InCom Mechanical to build it.

In addition to the factory floor, Thermo Fisher required administrative offices, conference rooms, a show room and laboratory.

Design work began in June 2009, and Thermo Fisher began moving its machines into the building in December, a phase that took longer than expected, stretching through May and into June of 2010.

Devcon also contracted with a dozen Northern California companies for landscaping, interior finish work, communications networking and alarm systems.

About 100 tradespeople worked on the project all together, with up to 35 present on a single day, said Mr. Noren..

“We moved AFC out of that building years ago. Then it sat vacant all this time. Turning it into a high-powered manufacturing operation was a very involved, complex process with many parts and pieces,” he said.