Thursday, September 23, 2010

What We've Been Doing

A Peek Into the New Maryland Medical Examiner's Facility

Fair warning - if you are squeamish about subjects related to death and dying, then this post may not be the best one for you to read.

As many of you know this blog highlights my ongoing travels. Much of this travel is the direct result of being a founder of the architectural firm that plans most of the worlds most sophisticated buildings for law enforcement and the forensic sciences.

Occasionally I prepare a post that showcases one of our recent buildings. These one-of-a-kind buildings are usually built with tax dollars. Yet because of the sensitive work they do, and the routine handling of evidence within, once in operation, they are frequently restricted in their availability for tours. Despite that, please believe me, you can be very proud of the work performed in them. They are a tool in the search for truth, and routinely they protect life while preventing further criminal activity by some of societies worst predators.

In the past two weeks we have dedicated two new buildings; police facility (in suburban Chicago) and Maryland's new Forensic Medical Center in Baltimore. 

Here is a mini tour of the Medical Examiner Facility. Or what many of you would simply call "the morgue".

The new $54,000,000 Medical Examiner Facility was built as part of the University of Maryland's BioPark. It will serve as the new home for the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland (the nations oldest statewide Medical Examiner system). The new facility with its two main autopsy suites, spaces for special autopsy (w/special BSL3 bio-safety precautions), will serve not only Maryland's needs, but will undoubtedly be in demand throughout the east (since it houses specialized spaces and equipment found almost nowhere else in North America). 

Designed specifically as a research and teaching facility it will also offer unique training opportunities for forensic pathologists throughout the world.

A Compact Site Resulted in a Space Efficient Vertical Design


Dr. David Fowler Conducts a Tour For Congressman Elijah Cummings

The unique features of the facility include two 3-story autopsy suites flooded with natural light and outfitted with the latest digital camera systems. Each is fitted with full observation decks for the use by students and field investigators. 

The View From the Observation Area

A Full Body CAT Scanner is Located Between Autopsy Suites

The neuro-pathology training lab is positioned to allow for wonderful views of surrounding Baltimore as well as overhead views into each of the two main autopsy suites.

The Neuro-Pathology Lab

If a case arrives that is suspected to pose bioloigcal risk, special facilities are available. The case will be transported in a specially isolated elevator, stored in an isolated cooler, and autopsied in suites designed to meet stringent bio-safety level 3 standards.


Biosafety Level 3 Protection

There are labs for Histology, Toxicology, and Odentology. Each of these labs are surrounded by "clean" office areas for staff to return calls and prepare for court.

Overhead "Snorkels" Will Draw off Heat and Odors From
Scientific Instrumentation in the New Toxicology Lab

Another feature of the facility is its viewing room for the meticulously crafted death scene miniatures referred to as the "Nutshells". The Nutshells were created in the 1940's by Frances Glessner Lee for Harvard's Forensic Pathology program. Everything needed to solve the crime is in each "nutshell" (i..e. "thats it in a nutshell"). According to Bruce Goldfarb (see: Ms. Lee may have been the inspiration for the character Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote. 

After Lee's death in 1962, Maryland's chief medical examiner Dr. Russell Fisher, a former instructor at Harvard, secured a permanent loan of the Nutshells from the Lee family. The Nutshells are still used in homicide investigation seminars, and after a complete restoration last year, now have a wonderful new home.

One of The "Nutshells" Death Scene Miniatures

One feature you won't see is the carefully planned and somewhat incredible mechanical plant that is needed to scrub water and air for the facility which is located in a rooftop penthouses above the facility.

Upblast Exhauster's That "Blast" Air From the Facility

I am so proud of our Virginia staff. They outdid themselves planning this amazing facility!

So next time you curl up with a "Kay Scarpetta" murder mystery or watch CSI, NCIS, or an episode of "Bones", remember Team Roadboy is working hard for you!

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

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