Aging and deteriorating buildings and infrastructure threaten NIST's ability to meet the needs of the nation's scientific and industrial enterprise. NIST maintains about 50 specialized laboratories, offices, and support buildings at its two major sites in Gaithersburg, Md., and Boulder, Colo., as well as critical infrastructure in Fort Collins, Colo., and Kauai, Hawaii. Most of the Gaithersburg structures were built in the 1960s, and the Boulder facilities are a decade older.
Since 1995, the Construction of Research Facilities (CRF) appropriation has funded building construction and the safety, capacity, maintenance, and major repairs (SCMMR) of NIST's physical plant. Although recent increases to SCMMR have led to improvements in these facilities and infrastructure, the current state of NIST facilities—whether measured in terms of safety, capacity, or state of repair—remains a serious impediment to NIST's mission. Funding for renovations has not kept pace with NIST needs—an independent study recommended increased funding for SCMMR over the amount available in FY 2008. The failure rate of major building systems such as air-handling systems and piping systems has increased dramatically in the last five years. NIST's aging facilities and their extensive backlog of deferred maintenance and repairs have resulted in lost productivity and increased costs.
These problems are not confined to the most advanced research and development projects. For example, the relatively straightforward NIST task of calibrating precision pressure gauges is the critical first step in a national measurement chain that ensures the accuracy of airplane altimeters and supports a wide variety of manufacturing sectors, including semiconductors and pharmaceuticals. However, carrying out this process has been limited by vibration problems, poor temperature control, and a pervasive black grit distributed by a 40-year-old air-conditioning, ventilation, and heating system.
Based on independent architectural and engineering reviews and in conjunction with the need to maintain world-class research facilities, NIST proposes to target the most critical SCMMR projects.
These areas include:
repair and replacement of aging mechanical and electrical systems
removal of hazardous material, including remediation of asbestos;
structural repairs and replacements; and
efforts to ensure accessibility in all NIST facilities.
The beneficial impact on the U.S. economy of renovating NIST's facilities will be long term and significant. Timely repair and maintenance of facilities before additional failures occur will allow NIST to continue providing excellent research results that are critical to the competitiveness of U.S. industry.