University of California San Diego (UCSD) Logo

How BetterBuilt Reduced UCSD’s utilities by 49-65% through the Centralized Research Support Facility

UCSD exterior

Strategic Expansion and Centralization

Since 1960, the University of California San Diego has been known for groundbreaking scholarship in the areas of biomedical research and healthcare. To better manage UCSD’s expanding research enterprise and their decentralized vivo facilities, Dr. Phil Richter (head of the UCSD Animal Care Program) had the idea to create a centralized, standalone facility for their vivarium’s sanitation equipment. This helped UCSD expand strategically, optimize their operations and eliminate redundancies. The idea of a standalone sanitation facility eliminating the need for sanitation centres in every vivarium was unique to the industry at the time. Despite the lack of precedent, Dr. Richter was determined to go ahead on the project so that UCSD could reap the significant financial benefits from such a centralized system.

Finding the Right Partner for Process Automation Project

Finding a company that had the multidisciplinary expertise to create a total customized solution proved to a significant challenge. UCSD eventually found BetterBuilt who was best suited to take on the challenge. Despite automation being a common offering among other vendors in the life sciences industry, many of those systems rely on foundry robotics, which was not aligned with the original concept behind the project. According to Dr. Richter, “The concept behind the centralized facility relied heavily on process automation, where the system would be continuously processing, much like how a car wash operates.”

Finding an equipment vendor in the life sciences industry that would incorporate process automation posed a serious challenge according to Dr. Richter. “We were looking all over the place and had completely exhausted the opportunities within the industry. We even started looking outside the industry, calling on food processing plants that were using automation, salad processing factories, those kinds of things.” Although Dr. Richter knew of BetterBuilt as a longstanding equipment provider, he was unaware of the company’s capabilities in this space. However, after being introduced to Harry, BetterBuilt President, and speaking about the project, Dr. Richter felt confident about having the BetterBuilt team take on the job.

Flexibility, Communication, and Commitment Bring Custom Solution to Life

Since Dr. Richter’s idea for a centralized research support facility was a highly unique concept, the project’s success relied heavily on solid communication, a flexible approach, and a centralized team that could do it all, according to Dr. Richter. “Because of the complexity and scope of the project, it was really important that we found someone who could do as much of the work themselves as possible so we didn’t have to integrate multiple groups. And since this had never been done before, it required a lot of back and forth to develop. In terms of communication, BetterBuilt was timely, effective and incredible to work with on that level. They’ve also been an excellent partner in shaping the solution for us from day one. Because with the original concept, it required a lot of iteration and back and forth to develop, so that flexibility was also a critical piece for us. They didn’t automatically shut ideas down, but instead entertained possibilities and gave us continual feedback until we found the right solution. They’ve been an amazing partner and supportive the whole way through: in continuing directions, in new directions and with things that we’ve talked about in the past just being implemented now. It’s been incredible.”

Strategic Expansion Saves UCSD $9.57 Million in Research Space

Once the centralized facility was fully complete and with the laboratories slowly transitioning to the new system, the centralized sanitation centre helped UCSD considerably by helping them to expand strategically, to optimize their operations and to eliminate redundancies. At the new facility, two rack washers are now in use rather than 19; three tunnel washers instead of 10; one conveyor system as opposed to five; and four staff instead of 23. “The whole project has been wildly successful,” according to Dr. Richter. The fiscal savings generated from the project alone have been significant, with over $300,000 in utility savings (with a 49-65% reduction in water, steam, and electricity). However, one of the more surprising results of the project has been increased space for UCSD, allowing them to design more effective research centres. Since the project, the department has been able to up regain up to 300,000 square feet in research facility space (with an estimated value of $9.57 million). This is due to designing new facilities without a sanitation component and reassignment of existing space, allowing Dr. Richter and his team to create more effective research spaces “where we can integrate the animal research and laboratory spaces more closely without these sanitation components. Because of that, we’ve been able to develop more pure research spaces that are highly integrative and effective, providing facilities that allow researchers to do a better job, which was an unexpected benefit for sure.” Designing custom solutions for unique applications can pose significant challenges, especially when cross-disciplinary expertise is needed to think outside the box. But with a highly committed and supportive team by your side like BetterBuilt, ready to do what it takes to find the right solutions for your facility, expect results and support that exceed your expectations.