Case Study: JSR Micro Inc. | Process Piping


In a continuation of our series on the construction of JSR Micro, Inc., we’re exploring more about the process piping and internal elements of the work.

Once the core and shell of the building was in place, it was time to construct the guts of the operation. The initial work included a fairly standard tenant improvement, with offices and restrooms, and all associated fire protection, HVAC and plumbing and electrical systems. Where things got complicated was the extensive amount of process piping required. The manufacturing and installation of the process piping system was an enormously involved process and had to be completed at the highest possible level of accuracy. Any variations from the plan could result in a product defect.

To ensure all bases were covered, the process to plan and construct the process piping was broken down into three steps: designing the piping system, breaking the design down into pieces, then connecting all the pieces.  

Designing the Vision

The project team was given photos of the existing plant in another state and were directed to “copy-exact” that process in this new facility. To achieve this, while the core and shell were being built, the pipes and skids were being designed. No easy feat, it took a year of intense collaboration with all involved parties, discussing and reviewing every inch of the facility to figure out what went where and how to sequence the installation.

Our team had to be proactive and innovative. The team had concerns about copying the design and still meeting the higher building codes that the City of Hillsboro had as compared to the location of the plant we were to copy. Additionally, if the design did meet code, we had to circle back to make sure it still met JSR’s needs. Many variables had to be taken into consideration and thought through.

“We were committed to challenging ideas throughout and working to come up with better solutions to suit the client’s needs.”

Matt Brand, Project Engineer | Perlo Construction

Manageable Pieces

As the facility’s design was completed, our teams had to break the process piping work into pieces for installation. There were, again, three major components to the process:

Vessels for blending fluids or holding filtering fluids

Metal skids to hold the pumps, additional filters and valving to mix or send chemicals down the line

The interconnected piping to get the chemicals from one place to the next

Perlo-JSR Micro Tank Ceiling Install

Therma the MEP designer,  pre-made all the skids and some of the piping at their facility in California, then shipped it up to the site. This process required additional coordination. In the meantime, the longer pipes were being manufactured locally and installed.

Harder Mechanical took charge of installing the pieces Therma manufactured.  They also built all the piping that connected it all, using the plans and designs that Perlo’s team put together.

In parallel to the process piping installation, the onsite teams were setting the vessels. These vessels were quite large and couldn’t simply be carted through the door.  The solution was to have them air dropped through the ceiling – all 16 of them! Along with the 40 filter housings.

Around this same time, the ultra-pure water (UPW) plant was installed. The water used in this facility is as pure as you can get, ultimately comprised of just hydrogen and oxygen once the minerals and impurities were filtered out. This provides the optimal environment for growing silicon crystals.

Connecting the Pieces

After the pieces were completed and set in place, it was a matter of connecting it all. Affectionately referred to as the facility’s “nervous system”, the control mechanisms, actuated valves and pumps needed to all function precisely to keep the system running.

There were many quality control measures unique to this type of facility that the team needed to manage. For instance, none of the piping could get wet until it was all put together. Once fluid began running through the pipe, it has to continue for the entirety of its lifetime. That fluid needs to keep moving to create an environment in which contaminants cannot thrive. Nothing is stagnant at this new JSR facility.

“This was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on. Perlo’s team got everyone involved early on and really worked together as a team throughout”

Stephen Lucia | Harder Mechanical

Clean Rooms

Akin to a hospital environment, maintaining the correct air quality in this facility is paramount and requires a highly sophisticated process. Because all of the vessels and skids had to be located within cleanrooms, the entire building is technically a cleanroom.  Additionally, there are seven smaller, designated cleanroom spaces within. These spaces include four different levels of cleanliness:

  • Class 100,000;
  • Class 1,000;
  • Class 100;
  • and Class 10. 

These classification levels were determined based on the frequency they need to be accessed, and the qualifications are based on the level of particles at 0.5 microns and 0.3 microns. For comparison, a human hair is 80-90 microns on average.

All classifications are determined by air monitoring systems. The first step was to take a count of the micron levels in the building very early in the construction process. This count, at the 0.5 microns level, was all the way up at 35.2 million per cubic meter, a long way from where it needed to be.

The next step was to build the containment vestibules. Building these containments early in construction is key to keeping particle counts low. This makes it easier to clean and ultimately certify the cleanrooms at the levels in which they need to remain.

Throughout construction, it was also critical to keep a clean jobsite with extra measures such as hand wiping, constant cleaning of materials, using antechambers and vestibules, wiping down feet when entering any space and pre-cleaning materials and tools used within these spaces. During this pre-clean process, the solution used was a mixture of water and alcohol on lint-free wipes to ensure no additional particles entered the air.

At this point in the process of construction, the United States was introduced to COVID-19. While this jobsite already had increased cleaning protocols, further measures were put in place to contain the spread of the virus. Our team took this very seriously and were able to not only keep construction moving but maintain the schedule and budget, as well.

Once the vestibules were in place and all cleanliness measures had been implemented for a month, they took another micron level count and found that the microns dropped by two thirds to 7.3 million per cubic meter. A combination of these clean room vestibules, strict wipe-down procedures and close monitoring of air flow allowed the team to keep these sensitive areas at the classification levels needed. This testing and retesting continued until levels were achieved, then permanent meters were installed to ensure the levels remained steady.

Building a Box in a Box

One cleanroom space in particular required some additional consideration. The Class-1000 space spanned the first and second floors with a raised access floor on the second. In order to integrate the sprinkler system within the room, this entire cleanroom was built as a free-standing “box”. Consisting of an independent structure, the team had to come up with a system that would move air up, while still maintaining a seismic joint between the cleanroom and the building’s structures.

 The result was a “low-wall return system”.  This was achieved by placing an HVAC return plenum at the bottom of the wall, which then went up and back through the ceiling.

The cleanroom with highest classification level of Class-10 is also the smallest of the spaces. Used as a lab, samples are inspected here to give the final stamp of approval for assigned purity levels.

Lessons Learned

Looking at the entire process of installing these “guts” into the building, it was clear that our team delivered on everything as promised, but as with any success, there were lessons learned. One such lesson involved the fans, which were an integral part of the air quality process.

The project’s fans came from overseas through a renowned worldwide fan unit supplier. An unforeseen detail, they arrived without “Underwriter Laboratory” (UL) listings, as these were intended to be completed after entering the US and passing their rigorous standards. Having a UL listing is standard practice on all fixtures and is a requirement for passing inspection.

The team hired someone qualified to inspect the fans and apply a UL listing sticker on every single unit in the building. Working closely with the manufacturer and the City of Hillsboro, this ultimately proved a sound solution, and the hurdle was overcome.

Final Thoughts

At this point, the construction process was nearly complete with the building operating as intended. The final piece of this project would take some time, as it required JSR’s teams to start a rigorous qualification process. This entailed a complete review of every part and piece that was installed, with an eagle eye for any possible issues, before completing final testing and preparing the facility to be handed over to JSR.

In our final blog post of the series, we will explore this process in more detail, further showcasing the detail-oriented nature of our team and how we left no stone unturned.