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HVAC: Lab Results

Massachusetts SMACNA member fabricates, installs duct for bioscience medical facility. 


Adam Lannan enjoys the challenges that come with pharmaceutical work. The Vice President of Operations at United HVAC says such projects offer the opportunity to work on something meaningful. 

“I like that work,” Lannan says. “We’re constantly looking for it.”

And it helps that not every contractor out there can tackle the stringent health and safety protocols that come with medical facilities, he adds. That means less competition, and a better chance at a more profitable project. 

That’s why Lannan was excited when United HVAC won a $6-million design-assist contract to make and install the ductwork at a building owned by National Resilience Inc., a bioscience firm that manufactures medicines around the world. The medical laboratory facility was being built in Marlborough, Massachusetts, about an hour from United’s shop in Rockland, Massachusetts. 

United was hired by SMACNA member H.T. Lyons Inc. of Pennsylvania, one of the project’s mechanical contractors. Also working with United and performing mechanical work on the Resilience project was Fred Williams Inc., an HVAC contractor from Hingham, Massachusetts. United’s contract included designing and installing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) HVAC systems for the building’s clean rooms, laboratories and offices. Work included erecting weather-resistant, insulated round ductwork on the building’s roof. 


Altogether, the project required United HVAC to fabricate and install over 6 miles of rectangular and spiral duct. 

Medical-grade fabrication
United HVAC has extensive experience with pharmaceutical projects, spanning more than 32 years since its founding in 1992. Lannan says it’s working on three spec labs right now. But even when you’re used to them, pharmaceutical projects are not without their challenges, he points out. Timetables are often tight, and there’s not much room for error when estimating the work. And clients are demanding. But if you know how to do it right, the rewards are there, Lannan adds. 

“You’re running a higher risk, but I think that if you can really manage it, that’s where you’re going to get the better margins,” Lannan says. And United HVAC is good at managing those risks.  

United’s work on the Resilience project started in early 2022. The schedule was accelerated, as expected. United officials decided they needed to be proactive to secure the type 316 stainless steel the project needed. While most of the pandemic-related supply chain problems are in the past, prices were elevated and supplies were tighter than the company preferred. So United went looking for it outside the state. 

Overhead supply and exhaust duct is roughed-in for the main laboratory space at National Resilience’s Marlborough, Massachusetts, facility. 

“We ended up getting 9,000 pounds of stainless out of Pennsylvania, because we knew we were going to need it,” Lannan says. 

Duct fabrication took place at United’s 37,000-square-foot sheet metal shop. The shop includes a Lockformer Vulcan Fiber Laser cutting system from Mestek Machinery, which officials say they like for the accurate, clean cuts it provides. Altogether, United used more than 109,000 pounds of sheet metal on the project. Duct was transported via flatbed and semi truck to the construction site. 

Careful coordination
While coordination with other trades can sometimes cause sticking points, Lannan says all the crews worked well together. 

“We spent a lot of time on coordination,” he says. “The engineering team did a really good job drawing it ahead of time.” 

The job site presented another challenge: it was in the middle of a mixed-use area with homes and businesses on all sides, including a large residential development for people aged 55 and up. 

“(We were) making sure we weren’t bothering the neighbors,” he says. “Keep the noise down at certain times (while) setting up our cranes.” Despite the nearby residents, United had crews working by 6:30 a.m. most days. 


As the project neared the end, United HVAC workers were sometimes required to wear protective suits made of DuPont Tyvek, hair nets and gloves to prevent contaminating the clean rooms in the building. 

United’s work on the Resilience project finished in summer 2023. Lannan says the company was good to work for. 

“There were a lot of meetings where everybody was in the room — from owners to engineers and architects — spending a lot of time really going through things and figuring out how we can do it better,” he says. 

It’s the kind environment Lannan says he likes best.

“I like the collaboration,” he says. “It gives us a better opportunity to explain why we want to do something and give them a better product in the end.”