West Virginia University Medicine Molecular Diagnostics Lab and Morgue

Location: Morgantown,  West Virginia
Completion: 2016
Project Area: 16,060 ft2
Services: Architecture, Laboratory Planning, Interior Design 

West Virginia University Medicine had been experiencing significant growth and recognized an increasing need to update and expand two of their programs, the existing molecular diagnostics labs and morgue. Operating in out-dated facilities adversely impacted the ability to modify the entire laboratory and pathology service line. A decision was made to move the molecular diagnostics lab and morgue off site from the Hospital, into an adjacent hospital-owned facility.  The building the Hospital purchased required a complete renovation to accommodate the new functions and IKM Incorporated, Pittsburgh-based architects were retained for the design.

The program comprises two different laboratory types with shared support components.  First, the molecular diagnostics laboratory offers testing and assists doctors in diagnosing and treating patients for the hospital and the surrounding region.  Second, the morgue and autopsy laboratories provide a full service autopsy suite which serves the entire multi-county region.

“Numerous complexities needed to be resolved in the design and layout of the space in order for this facility to function as planned,” said Steve Watson, AIA, associate and project manager/laboratory design specialist at IKM.  “In the molecular diagnostics laboratory, specialized specimen testing is performed including flow cytometry, cytogenetics, and mass spectrometry functions.  In the adjacent morgue and autopsy suites, there was a need for 24-hour access as well as quarantine and emergency response capabilities which, in the event of an actual mass casualty event, needed to serve in a regional capacity.”

In order to resolve the different functional and human needs that the project presented, workflow diagrams were developed and analyzed. Lean design methodology was employed by IKM architects and the design team to analyze the flow of specimen, doctor, clinician, courier, and critical pathways. The defined goals were to reduce travel distances, improve efficiencies and improve staff retention.  Finishes matching the need of each area were specified including such items as stainless steel casework, resinous flooring, and sealed light fixtures as conditions warranted.  Maximum use of daylighting and bounced daylight is utilized to assure maximum natural daylight exposure.

The resultant facility is one that supports and exceeds the client’s needs in terms of capacity, efficient flow and throughput. The client is pleased with the results.