MU bridge finds a new haven at peace center

An MU engineering team built the bridge for a national contest.
Thursday, July 21, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:54 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Robin Remington knew she needed a new bridge to complete the renovation of Peace Haven International in Columbia, so she was delighted when she was able to buy one from an MU surplus auction; her landscaper stumbled upon it when looking for a truck.

The pine bridge — 12 ½ feet long and weighing 850 pounds — was built for a national wooden bridge building competition by the Mizzou Timber Bridge Team. It represents more than six months of design and three months of construction work, said Caleb Philipps, an MU civil engineering major and president of the team.

The team sold the bridge for $475 to bankroll next year’s competition.

Now, it will be used to connect a garden where trees are planted to honor the dead at the haven’s site at University Avenue and Taylor Street, said Remington, an MU professor emeritus of political science.

The center hosts seminars and activities to promote peace.

“It (Peace Haven International) is for people who think peace is more than the absence of war,” Remington said.

The bridge, she said, moved her because of its beauty and because it was obvious to her that a lot of effort went into the making of the bridge.

The project to build a bridge started last year. Hani Salim, the team’s advisor and an associate professor of civil engineering, had participated in the competition as a student at West Virginia University and told his structural analysis class about it.

The club grew through word of mouth as interested students recruited volunteers.

About $830 worth of materials was used to construct the bridge. The team raised about $200, and MU’s Engineering School and others donated the rest. Then they began the long design and construction process, Salim said.

Philipps and the team worked on the bridge about eight to 20 hours a week, depending on how busy their class schedules were. Philipps said he worked 40 hours one week and devoted his spring break to completing the project.

Judges of the April contest looked at a variety of drawings, figures and photographs of bridges from 12 universities and awarded prize money to the top three schools in six categories. San Francisco State University took home the most money, $1,700, by placing first in four categories and third in the other two.

MU did not place in the top three of any category, although the team took home a $150 participation award.

This is the first time that MU has built a bridge for the national competition, which is hosted by Southwest Mississippi Resource Conservation and Development. The competition was started in 1993 to encourage innovation and interest in wood as a bridge building material.

Bennie Hutchins, the event’s coordinator, said wood is worth promoting as a bridge material because it doesn’t deteriorate from salt used to melt ice, unlike concrete or steel — the material used to build most of the bridges in the United States today — and its cost is competitive with concrete and steel. Wood when treated properly is as durable as steel or concrete as well. Wood is also a renewable resource.

Remington said Peace Haven International has had a wooden bridge before; wood suits the peaceful ambience of the place – “a safe haven for those suffering from the tragedies of war, relocation or the collapse of their country,” she said.

Right now, the bridge is in pieces as renovation on the garden continues. Plans also call for a butterfly and rain garden. When the bridge is installed, Remington plans to invite the engineering students over for a party to honor their efforts.

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