National Institutes of Health (NIH) Satellite Switching Station

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Satellite Switching Station

Powering Research in Health with a Satellite Switching Station

We’re proud to have helped some of the area’s most prestigious health organizations grow and modernize their capabilities. Our work on facilities such as the headquarters for the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and Department of Health and Human Services — among others — have earned us a reputation as a leading contractor for the DC region's health and human services sector. So building the new Bethesda-based West Satellite Switching Station for the National Institutes of Health right in our own backyard, was a natural fit.

The switching station's critical purpose is to power the west NIH Campus — specifically, the new John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center. Because significant testing had to be conducted before the research center could be operational, the timing of this project was paramount. The completion of the switching station had to be concurrent with the completion of the new research center, to ensure both facilities came online successfully.

  • Project type
    Government
  • Architect
    Perkins + Will
  • client
    National Institutes of Health (NIH)

We don’t rely on anyone else to solve problems on a project. As strategic thinkers, we’re all about taking on a challenge and creating a solution ourselves.

Tom Meile, Senior Superintendent, DAVIS

Rolling with the Punches (Not the Boulders)

There are always specific challenges to overcome when building a government facility, and the NIH West Satellite Switching Station was no exception. Each material had to be approved by the federal government to make sure it was in accordance with their strict specifications. And, we faced a unique challenge of gigantic proportions — boulders.

To build a solid protective barrier for the switching station, we had to place boulders in front of the facility. The problem was, the massive stone boulders couldn’t fit onto a trailer. This made transporting them two miles, from one side of the campus to the other (and up a hill to the site), seem almost impossible. Fortunately, we’re used to tackling challenges head-on and coming up with creative solutions. So rather than rolling those boulders uphill Sisyphus style, we moved them one by one — with a forklift, to get the job done right.

Sparking Medical Discoveries

Unlike other facilities on the NIH campus, the sole purpose of this two-story, steel-framed, blast-proof structure is to keep medical research up and running. Over one mile of underground power cabling is connected to various buildings on campus, along with switchgear and feeders, to power the next medical discovery.

LEED Silver® certified, the project features a green roof, lush with plants and trees — the first of its kind on the NIH campus, and the first building on campus to reach this level of environmental sustainability.

At the end of this project, we received accolades from the client for never losing the power of creative problem-solving and for keeping our can-do attitude on high voltage. Which ultimately brought the project to completion on time and on budget, without failures of any kind.

Photos by DAVIS