Kaiser Permanente builds $14 million COVID-19 testing lab with accelerated construction schedule

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Matt Davis, Kaiser Permanente Northern California Construction Manager of Regional Capital Projects Facilities Construction, walks through a new 7,700 square foot COVID-19 testing laboratory under construction in Berkeley in April. When complete June 1, the lab will be capable of performing 10,000 tests each day. (Photo by Doug Oakley)

Kaiser Permanente (KP) Northern California is building its own state-of-the-art lab in Berkeley capable of performing 10,000 COVID-19 tests a day.

The $14 million, 7,700 sq. ft. lab is currently under construction 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and should be ready for its first test June 1, said Scott Tibbetts, executive director of KP Northern California Service Delivery in a Look InsideKP posting.

This project is separate from a new medical office project on San Pablo Avenue south of Parker Street set to open in 2021, Berkeleyside.com reports.

Berkeley city staff worked through the weekend and approved the building permit in just five days after Kaiser submitted its application March 16. The city’s planning department will provide building inspections around the clock, day or night, to maintain the accelerated timeline and have the facility completed in a month, Timothy Burroughs, director of the city planning and development department, told the website.

“This is a project that has the potential to impact the entire region with critical tools in the midst of an unprecedented time,” Burroughs said. “We’re doing everything we can to help Kaiser move this forward.

The new lab is under construction inside a warehouse owned by Kaiser Permanente that previously was filled with different types of equipment. The design, city approval, and construction of the project in 60 days is unprecedented in recent memory, said Tibbetts. Berkeley is well-known for its long construction approval process, but city leaders jumped right in to help, he said.

The process of designing, permitting, and building would normally take a minimum of 15 months or even several years, he said.

“But we were able to secure a building permit from the city of Berkeley in 5 days,” Tibbetts said. “They have been very good partners.”

Tibbetts said he is proud of his Kaiser Permanente colleagues who all pulled together to bring large-scale COVID-19 testing to members.

“What really stands out for me is the innovation within Kaiser Permanente,” Tibbetts said. “The way everyone stepped up to partner and get this delivered in 60 days is pretty incredible.”

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