Who Cut The Ribbon? Opening of New Institute of Forensic Sciences

Most people consider themselves familiar with procedural forensics crime investigations thanks to popular television shows like CSI and Law & Order: SVU so it’s natural the ribbon cutting of the new Harris County (HC) Institute of Forensic Sciences (IFS) would attract the public’s attention. However, many people don’t realize the significance of this facility. Harris County is the third most populous county in the United States and the seat to the fourth largest US city, Houston. Thus, IFS provides services for multiple Texas counties and municipalities that are too small to have their own investigative laboratories. Multiple elected officials and dignitaries were on hand for the ribbon cutting to mark the official opening.

This new 210,000-square foot facility is located on a 3.2-acre site on the campus of the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston, across the street from the existing HC IFS. The Institute offers two distinct forensic services – the Medical Examiner Service and the Crime Laboratory Service. These include laboratories, a morgue, administrative, public and teaching/training spaces with unfinished shell space available for expansion to accommodate the future needs of the Harris County community, as well as the agencies and families served by the Institute.

Page Associate Principal and Project Manager Rob Owens told reporters during a media preview tour the day before, “This facility is opening fully operational.” That is a mark of pride for the entire project team since it was critical to finish the project in time to shift employees and work processes across the street from the old facility to their new nine-story home on schedule. He was one of the subject matter experts who led reporters through the new facility to show the key design features and explain how they advance the IFS mission. 

Notable elements include an auditorium, which is new to IFS. This space will allow it to host educational conferences and seminars that qualify for continuing medical education credits required by the Texas Medical Board in order for physicians to maintain their licensures. Another feature is a markedly larger autopsy suite that still allows staff to communicate with each other from their workstations. The design focus on occupant health and well-being as well as best architectural practices for sustainability are tracking the Institute of Forensic Sciences toward LEED Silver Certification.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett served as Master of Ceremonies and ribbon cutters included Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and Jeff Bricker, Page Principal-In-Charge of the project. Also present were William McKeon, Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer & Chief Operating Officer, Texas Medical Center, and Dr. Richard Wainerdi, who previously held the position of Chief Executive Officer and President of Texas Medical Center. During his tenure at TMC, Dr. Wainerdi was instrumental in progressing the IFS facility project in its early stages. The Institute was represented by Dr. Luis Sanchez, Executive Director & Chief Medical Examiner of Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. 

Page served as design architect and architect of record in collaboration with Crime Lab Design, which served as Forensic Specialists. Page also provided MEP Engineering, Sustainability, Commissioning and Interiors services to the project. Cardno Haynes Whaley served as Structural Engineer and LJA Engineering, Inc. was Civil Engineer. Vaughn Construction was the general contractor. 

The ribbon cutting received widespread media coverage. To view representative news stories, see below: