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Boomtown: New safety approach for workers amid booming UT construction

Construction has begun on multiple new high-rise apartments in West Campus, spurring companies to consider how they can safely build with the increasing congestion.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The video attached to this story refers to the JE Dunn Construction company as JE Construction. The company is JE Dunn Construction.

A popular area to live at the University of Texas is West Campus, which is booming with new developments. 

The growth is attracting more students and construction projects to the area, and that congestion is a safety concern construction companies are taking into consideration as they build new high rises. 

One example is the Waterloo Student Housing Tower, a 30-story high rise off 24th Street. 

When JE Dunn Construction finishes the project in June 2022, it will be the tallest high rise in West Campus, with 241 units, four floors of parking and community spaces.

However, right now, it is in the middle of construction with significant movement happening on that block because of both construction crews and pedestrians.

"It really takes every person on-site to develop a strong safety culture," said Lou Campero, the project executive with JE Dunn.

In order to accomplish this, Campero said it starts with setting up a perimeter protection system, including a fence with netting, cameras, lights and security remotely monitoring the site 24/7. It sends notifications to the project team when someone has entered the site that should not be there.

"That helps at night when we're not here," Campero said. 

When it comes to construction, there are protections in place for both pedestrians and workers as construction goes high into the sky. 

The newest change in recent years is the prefabrication process of the exterior walls. Prefabrication is when parts or pieces of a building are built off-site and then delivered to the project site where it gets installed in its final location, Campero explained. This technique eliminates having workers on the outside of the building to install the exterior walls. All of the work is done from the interior side.

Not only does this improve the safety of the workers, but it also speeds up the timeline of projects. 

"We want to minimize the interruption here in the neighborhood where construction can be can be loud at times," Campero said. "We want to minimize that impact and get in and out as quickly as we can and get the neighborhood back to to how it was before construction started."

JE Dunn Construction has completed six projects on West Campus and has had success with these safety measures on each one. Campero said this technique is also used by construction companies in Downtown Austin. 

As West Campus and the city as a whole becomes more congested, construction companies will have to continue to keep safety at the top of their agenda. 

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