Center for Drug Evaluation and Research 

FDA_generalThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently employs over 6,000 people in 40 buildings at 18 locations in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Several years ago, FDA decided to consolidate their headquarters into a single campus to improve operating efficiency and to develop state-of-the-art laboratories, a central research facility, and offices that are flexible enough to adapt to future changes. The completed campus will consist of over 2 million square feet of space in 12 buildings constructed over an eight-year period, with a projected construction cost on the order of $900 million.

The project was awarded by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA/National Capitol Region) and is being designed and constructed under its Design Excellence Program. The GSA Design Excellence Program, which is administered by the Office of the Chief Architect, stresses creativity and is intended to ensure top-quality design and construction for all GSA’s building projects. The project utilizes land at the Naval Laboratory Campus at White Oak, Silver Spring, Maryland, a base realignment and closure site, and includes reuse of several existing historic buildings. GSA is managing the development process for FDA, which will utilize 130 acres of the 670-acre base, maintain existing community facilities, and preserve environmentally sensitive areas.

The first phase of office construction is for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), and consists of a six-story building plus basement encompassing more than 400,000 square feet. The facility houses offices, conference space, storage, and other ancillary functions, and supports adjacent testing and research facilities. The basement level incorporates connections to an underground utility and materials distribution tunnel system linking all campus facilities to a central utility plant and central loading areas. The CDER office building project also includes two enclosed pedestrian bridges that connect adjacent laboratory and office facilities.

FDA_elevationThe CDER office building takes the plan form of a small letter “h”, with four “bar” elements comprising the legs of the “h”-shaped plan. Typical office functions are contained in these relatively narrow “bar” elements, which are three bays in width. Building core areas connect the office “bar” elements, and contain the usual elevator, stair, restroom and mechanical shaft functions. The typical bay size along a bar length is 29 feet 6 inches. Column spacing for the three-bay-wide office areas is 26 feet 9 inches, 19 feet 8 inches, and 26 feet 9 inches; thus, total building width is 73 feet 2 inches.

All FDA buildings are designed to meet the requirements of GSA’s P-100 document (i.e., Facilities Standards for the Public Building Service), which serves as a supplement to basic IBC code requirements. Additionally, all FDA campus facilities, including the CDER office building, are designed to meet GSA’s Progressive Collapse Analysis and Design Guidelines, which specify that the structure be designed to accommodate the removal of any perimeter column at the first story without collapse of the remaining structure. The guidelines prescribe special loading and demand-to-capacity ratio criteria to be utilized for the analyses. These requirements led to the creation of two independent computational models; one for standard gravity and lateral design, and a second for progressive collapse design. Final designs and rebar selection for individual concrete components are a hybrid of the critical aspects of each design requirement.

FDA_detailThe monolithic nature of cast-in-place concrete construction provides inherent benefits in terms of meeting progressive collapse criteria. Typical office areas are constructed with two-way flat slab construction, consisting of 8-inch slabs and 8-inch drop panels at columns. Core areas primarily utilize one-way beam and slab construction. Relatively deep perimeter spandrel beams support the exterior brick facade and provide the necessary strength to accommodate GSA’s progressive collapse guidelines. The standard column size is 24–by-24-inches for the full building height. Building columns and foundation walls are supported by shallow spread footings bearing on existing soils, though at one segment of the facility, existing fill materials were improved and consolidated by deep dynamic compaction methods. The rigid frame action of perimeter spandrel frames, as well as the rigid frames created within core areas, will resist lateral loads due to seismic forces.

Initial structural framing studies during the campus Master Plan phase suggested that structural steel construction would be the most cost-effective. However, budget concerns resulting from the final concept design cost estimate led the design team to review a number of areas for potential cost savings. It was determined that, with several key adjustments, a cast-in-place concrete two-way flat slab scheme would lead to substantial cost savings. The adjustments included the addition of an interior column line at the “bar” elements and a reduction in the floor to floor height. The added column line would lead to efficient bay sizes favorable to a two-way system, and the interior column locations worked well within the standardized office layout. With this modification, the two-way slab system was found to be slightly less expensive than structural steel framing, and the reduction in floor-to-floor height led to significant savings in exterior enclosure costs, as well as the costs of other interior vertical construction components.

FDA_entranceConcrete framing provided the best framing solution for this project. The simple characteristics of a two-way flat slab system led to easier coordination with architectural finishes and ceiling utility space requirements. Concrete construction was also compatible with the building design’s unique exterior architectural elements. For example, there are a number of tall, nearly freestanding, stone-clad wall elements that connect sparingly to the main structural frame. The monolithic nature of concrete construction was well suited to address the multiple design challenges for these elements—robust stiffness for resisting wind load, easy attachment of stone and brick relief angles, and inherent rigidity and continuity needed to meet progressive collapse requirements.


General Services Administration, Washington, DC

Kling in association with RTKL Associates Inc., Washington, DC

Structural Engineer:
Kling in association with RTKL Associates Inc., Washington, DC

General Contractor:
Centex Construction, Washington, DC

Concrete Contractor:
Miller & Long, Washington, DC

Ready Mix Supplier:
Superior Concrete