BWH Clinical & Research News

The Future of Research: Improvements Planned for Thorn and 221 Longwood

The 16-story George W. Thorn Research Building has housed BWH labs since it opened in 1986. This year, Thorn and 221 Longwood will receive much-needed infrastructure improvements.

Discovery and innovation form one of the key areas of strategic focus for BWH. The Brigham Building for the Future (BBF) is one example of the hospital’s commitment to translational care and the future of research; another is its investment in upgrades to improve Brigham research facilities, including the George W. Thorn Research Building and the research facilities at 221 Longwood Avenue.

“Thorn and 221 Longwood have a 40-plus year distinguished history in service to our research mission, and a lot of great discoveries were made in these facilities,” said Paul J. Anderson, MD, PhD, chief academic officer and senior vice president of Research. “But they are unable to sustain the load of modern research. We now have an opportunity to change that. These buildings are in a critical state, but by addressing the infrastructure needs, we hope to stabilize them and keep them as valuable assets and places to do research for many years to come.”

John Pierro, senior vice president of Facilities and Operations, and his team have completed a detailed engineering facility condition assessment of Thorn and are currently conducting a similar engineering assessment of 221 Longwood. The assessments include an analysis of climate control, air exchanges, electrical power, plumbing and all critical infrastructure.

“These are very precise and detailed infrastructure condition assessments, including major equipment and the operating needs of the user groups in each area,” said Pierro. With this technical engineering data in hand, Pierro and his team are able to develop and implement specific capital improvements to address infrastructure issues in the buildings. The Thorn FCA has been completed and capital improvements are underway. The FCA for 221 Longwood has been commissioned and is currently underway.

Ryan Lavoie, director of Research Facilities Planning and Management, and George Player, director of Engineering Services, highlighted several of the improvements that are being implemented in the Thorn initiative. Walk-in environmental cold rooms will be upgraded and replaced floor by floor in the building. Contractors will also be installing a new wireless alarm system that will allow real-time temperature reads while offering customizable temperature parameters. “With this system, we’ll be aware of problems before the building occupants notice them,” said Player.

Other updates include upgrades to the building’s cosmetics, updating the bathrooms and breakout areas and painting the walls.

Earlier this year, Pierro and Anderson brought their assessment to the BWH Board of Trustees, which approved $24 million for infrastructure improvements. On March 28, Pierro, Anderson and Ron M. Walls, MD, executive vice president and chief operating officer, presented the assessment for Thorn and an overview of the infrastructure upgrades that are planned at a Town Meeting for those who currently work in Thorn and interested members of the BWH community. Since then, Pierro and his team have begun to implement these corrective plans, floor by floor, at Thorn. Pierro’s team has also established channels for communicating updates about upcoming upgrades to the researchers who will be affected. Additionally, an Infrastructure Oversight Committee, made up of investigators, lab managers and administrators, has been established to get feedback and input on plans from the research community. A 221 Longwood Avenue Town Hall meeting to discuss a similar process and the timing for the completion of the Facility Condition Assessment has been scheduled for May 17 at 1 p.m.

”With overwhelming support from senior leadership and the board, our joint teams in facilities and research will return both landmarks to their distinguished place in our research mission,” said Pierro.