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 facilities and 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, funding for renovations has not kept pace with NIST needs. Independent studies recommend increased annual funding for SCMMR equal to three to four percent of the value of the facilities or $70 to $80 million.
Detailed reviews by an independent contractor of the Facility Condition Index (FCI), a number indicating the relative urgency for major repairs and renovations, found that the Gaithersburg site as whole had a FCI of 0.308; the Boulder site as a whole had a FCI of 0.211. An index above 0.10 is considered poor. Most building systems on the NIST Gaithersburg and Boulder sites are well past their expected service life and have one or more systems that need to be repaired or replaced immediately.
Proposed NIST Program
This initiative is part of a comprehensive facilities plan to systematically renovate existing research facilities while reducing the extensive maintenance and repair backlog. The requested 2011 funding will address the most critical SCMMR projects, including:
- repairing and replacing aging mechanical and electrical systems;
- removing hazardous materials and upgrading site alarm systems;
- improving energy conservation, expanding steam and chilled water generation, and replacing or upgrading site utility systems;
- repairing and replacing structural, civil, site environmental, and conveying systems;
- enhancing handicapped accessibility; and
- ensuring the safety of NIST facilities.
Timely repair and maintenance will avoid costly infrastructure failures such as leaks caused by corroded pipes or damage to expensive, precision laboratory equipment from inadequately filtered air or lack of temperature or humidity control.
The critical measurement science and standards research performed at NIST accelerates innovation and improves U.S. industrial competitiveness leading to economic growth that creates or retains jobs. Renovating and repairing NIST's aging facilities will dramatically improve research productivity for both NIST researchers and their collaborators from industrial and academic laboratories producing faster research results and ultimately enhancing the quality of life and economic security for all Americans.