When Monsanto Corporation spun off its core chemical business in late 1997 as Solutia Inc., the new entity needed to find a separate location for its St. Louis research facilities. The solution for Solutia came with a $6-million retrofit of a petro-chemical plant in nearby Webster Groves, Mo. Solutia has relocated a majority of it's St. Louis R&D laboratory equipment and personnel to the upgraded facility.
The challenge was in converting the 20-year-old, 62,000-sf facility constructed to suit the specialized needs of the petroleum industry into an updated general chemistry laboratory. The new facility accommodates six research laboratory groups encompassing a wide variety of industrial, chemical, and technical service operations. Each lab group utilizes a variety of potentially hazardous chemicals and requires specialized utilities including hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, de-ionized water, natural gas, steam, compressed air, and vacuum.
The retrofit required adding fume hoods, modifying bench-top services, modifying HVAC, mechanical, and electrical systems, and upgrading architectural details.
The facility design includes an administrative plan for controlling the types and quantities of the chemicals in each lab, involving designated control areas for chemical storage, use, and disposal. The plan coordinates Solutia's practices and protocols, keeping them consistent with local, state, and federal codes.