The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Puritan Medical COVID –Building Expansion (P2)

Each year, the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) recognizes some of the state’s most “noteworthy and significant” real estate projects, completed in the previous year. The exemplary projects from across the state, completed in 2020, not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible real estate development, but also exemplify best practices in the industry, contributing to Maine’s economic growth by significant investment of resources and job creation statewide.

This year, MEREDA honored projects from Portland to Pittsfield to Bangor, with each receiving special recognition at MEREDA’s 2021 Virtual Spring Conference on May 20th.

In a multi-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.

MEREDA’s 2020 Top 6 recipients include:

Rock Row Phase 1 Retail Center, Waterstone Properties Group (Westbrook)
82 Hanover Street, Port Property Management (Portland)
Hospice of Southern Maine, Zachau Construction / SMRT (Scarborough)
Solterra, Portland Housing Authority (Portland)
One Merchants Plaza, Sky Villa Properties (Bangor)
Puritan Medical COVID –Building Expansion (P2), Puritan Medical Products (Pittsfield)

Please join us this week in celebrating Puritan Medical COVID – Building Expansion (P2).

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Puritan Medical Products:  As we approached April 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to escalate in the United States, and it became clear that there was a massive demand for more testing swabs.

Our goal was to double the production of foam-tipped COVID-19 testing swabs, so we reached out to Cianbro, who quickly developed a proposal for us. They provided fast-track, design-build services to convert a portion of a vacant mill building in Pittsfield, Maine, into a state-of-the-art medical device manufacturing facility in less than 10 weeks. Construction teams worked around the clock, seven days a week, to execute the delivery of the facility and meet the aggressive timelines.

However, as the project progressed, demands for testing swabs grew tremendously with no end in sight. After the start of production, we reached out to Cianbro for additional production space to meet demand. As a result, an additional 6,000-square-foot production expansion was completed in combination with customizing the previously completed expansion. This allowed us to install six additional automated machines, increasing our production capacity to 90 million foam-tipped swabs per month.

Project elements included:
• An ISO-8 cleanroom production space
• Office areas
• Locker room facilities
• Quality control laboratories
• Replacement of all HVAC, electrical and fire systems
• Low voltage wiring
• Site improvements

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project? 

Puritan Medical Products: Being one of only two major manufacturers of COVID-19 testing swabs in the United States, in April, we were tasked to develop a plan to double production to 20 million swabs per month by July 1. That was an aggressive timeline that required a significant expansion, and we knew how important it was that we meet that goal to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Puritan Medical Products: Because of the quick turnaround time, we had to move through the planning stages swiftly. We initially reached out to Cianbro on April 19, 2020, and work began on the project on May 1. However, as the project grew, we had to revisit plans throughout the stages of the expansion to accommodate new goals as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to climb.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Puritan Medical Products:  Beyond the tight timeline, the COVID-19 pandemic presented both the mission for the project and one of the biggest challenges. First, as the COVID-19 pandemic grew across the United States, new precautions and guidelines were developing daily. The project needed to continue to move forward to meet the production schedule, and we also had to ensure that the project’s team members remained healthy both on the job and at home.

Advancing the facility’s construction also required tremendous coordination, including sectioning off the building into work zones. As teams completed their work in one zone, they moved on to the next, enabling other teams to follow behind them. This sequential process allowed different work phases to be completed simultaneously in various zones throughout the building.

Though it was an expected variable as COVID-19 numbers rapidly increased, the increasing demand for swab production and corresponding scope growth forced us to stay flexible and adjust the plan to meet new demands.

The Cianbro team did an excellent job of overcoming all of these challenges, and we are continuing our partnership with Cianbro as we renovate a new manufacturing facility in Tennessee.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

Puritan Medical Products: That it’s essential to be able to adapt. It’s something that businesses and organizations across the globe have learned throughout the pandemic, but manufacturing a product that has such a direct impact on healthcare during one of the most significant events in our lifetime has made adapting even more necessary for us at Puritan.

Also, while it wasn’t unexpected, something that undoubtedly exceeded all expectations was just how much this team accomplished in such a short amount of time. Their dedication and commitment to meeting the timeline while maintaining the highest level of quality were truly exceptional.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Puritan Medical Products: While the modernized manufacturing space is top-of-the-line, and we couldn’t meet our goals without it, the most notable feature of the project is the result itself. Nothing compares to producing 90 million swabs every month to help save lives during a global pandemic. It reinforces the importance of the work that we’re doing, and it feels good to be part of the solution to help our country – our world – get back to normal.

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