Oregon State University is boosting its research efforts in construction and transportation safety with a $1-million industry grant, announced on April 14, that will fund a state-of-the-art laboratory, featuring technology to create virtual jobsites. Making the contribution to the planned lab in the school's College of Engineering are construction-materials firm Knife River Corp. and its sister firm, MDU Construction Services Group. The lab will be named for their parent firm, energy company MDU Resources Group, Bismarck, N.D., which will underwrite its cost over three years.
When complete, the lab will have an interactive, high-definition projection system that will allow multiple users to record work operations and connect to an existing driving simulator. It will evaluate driver and worker actions as vehicles pass through a work zone, says the university. Jeff Thiede, CEO of MDU Construction Services, says the lab will allow interactive research by the firms and OSU as it simulates worker risks—falls from elevated heights and trench cave-ins, for example—and identifies safer methods.
The facility also will advance university efforts to improve worker safety as part of its recent "prevention through design" initiative, says John Gambatese, a civil engineering professor and expert in design and safety. Legal and liability issues have led to "a long history ... of architects and design engineers leaving construction safety up to the builder or contractor," he says. Partly because of its research, OSU says, the U.S. Green Building Council recently added a pilot "prevention through design" credit to its rating system for sustainable buildings.