Missouri University of Science and Technology is partnering with the University of Missouri system to fully support a key research initiative at Missouri S&T, the Advanced Construction and Materials Laboratory (ACML). The laboratory is expected to position Missouri S&T as a national leader in the development of innovative materials and approaches to address public infrastructure challenges.

The ACML was Missouri S&T’s top-priority capital project for matching funds from the state of Missouri through the state’s 50-50 program. Under that program, the Missouri legislature would appropriate equivalent funds to match private donations for capital projects on UM System campuses that would benefit Missouri and Missourians. No 50-50 projects received state support this year. But Missouri S&T and UM System leaders decided that the ACML project was too important to delay, so they chose to designate university funds to complete it.

“This project is very important to the needs of our state, our nation and our world for us to let it languish,” says Dr. Christopher G. Maples, interim chancellor of Missouri S&T. “It is time to take matters into our own hands to make the Advanced Construction and Materials Laboratory a reality.”

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A strategic investment

Missouri S&T has raised more than $3 million in private donations toward the $6.5 million project, including a $3 million gift from the estate of James A. Heidman, a 1965 civil engineering graduate of the university, and a $100,000 gift from the Sunderland Foundation, the charitable arm of Ash Grove Cement Co. UM System President Mun Y. Choi has agreed to commit half of the remaining funds from the system while Missouri S&T will continue fundraising efforts to cover the remaining project costs.

The ACML was identified as a strategic investment by the UM System during Choi’s budget address on Friday, June 2. Strategic investments are designed to strengthen programs of excellence for the UM System and its campuses.

“I’m very grateful to President Choi for his commitment to this important initiative, and to our donors for their support of our vision to make Missouri S&T a global leader in developing new and innovative approaches to address pressing issues with our nation’s infrastructure,” says Maples.

Dr. Robert J. Marley, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, was instrumental in securing support for the project, Maples adds. “Provost Marley’s work, in particular, will help our incoming vice provost and dean for the College of Engineering and Computing, Dr. Richard W. Wlezien, build on our strengths in infrastructure research to further promote research, scholarship and teaching.”

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About the ACML

The ACML will expand the High-bay Structures Laboratory in Butler-Carlton Civil Engineering Hall to provide 16,000 square feet of research space for developing and testing new construction materials and methods. These innovations will offer faster, longer-lasting, more cost-effective and greener solutions to building and infrastructure challenges.

“The addition of this premier facility will position Missouri S&T as a global leader in infrastructure research and will help us realize our long-term vision of making civil infrastructure safer, more durable and longer lasting,” says Dr. Joel Burken, Curators’ Distinguished Professor and chair of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri S&T. As an expansion of the High-bay Structures Laboratory, the ACML will combine S&T’s infrastructure testing and analysis – a specialty of the high-bay lab – with the development of new materials in the ACML. The result will be greater collaboration among researchers who specialize in developing materials and those who specialize in testing them.

Once completed, the ACML will consolidate more than 35 pieces of testing equipment currently scattered in buildings across campus and at the Hy Point Industrial Park east of Rolla.

The ACML also will support Missouri S&T’s Advanced Materials for Sustainable Infrastructure signature area. This signature area focuses on the rehabilitation of urban mass-transportation centers, including highways, bridges, tunnels, rail, airports, port and water navigation channels, and utility infrastructure. It encompasses four S&T research centers and six academic departments.

“Infrastructure is the foundation that connects the nation’s businesses, communities and people, driving our economy and improving our quality of life,” says Dr. Kamal H. Khayat, lab director and the Vernon and Maralee Jones Professor of Civil Engineering at Missouri S&T. “Missouri S&T has existing strengths in this area and with further emphasis, we can become a best-in-class leader.”

The university plans to present the project to the UM System Board of Curators for approval at the board’s September meeting. The project is expected to take two years to complete.

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(This article was published by Concrete Producer Magazine June 5, 2017.)