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Notes from the Lab

Studying the construction process

Since construction is a boom-or-bust industry, builders cannot count on having a dependable demand for their services or supply of skilled workers. To best use the available resources, construction processes should be designed to make the job safer, faster, easier to perform, less expensive and less prone to errors.

To that end, Professor Sarah Slaughter of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is creating dynamic simulation models of construction activities. She is looking at each individual phase and material-specific process, such as structural steel erection. "We go on site and identify the specific resources that are required, such as a crane and a spud wrench. We record times and production rates for every worker performing every task, down to the level of installing a bolt," she said.

The resulting models of different construction processes "can help us assess the potential impacts of innovations -- for each process and the project as a whole -- in terms of cost, duration and worker safety." The work is funded by the NSF.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 11, 1998.

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