When you walk into the Davis Campus at Sanford Underground Research Facility, it’s easy to forget you are nearly a mile underground. Bright lights, white walls, freshly ventilated air and modern technology surround you. The only difference between this lab space and a similar one on the surface? The lack of windows.
Dedicated in 2012, this world-class research facility hosts two leading physics experiments in neutrino and dark matter research. The experiments go deep underground to escape the constant bombardment of cosmic radiation.
In the above left photo, Wendy Zawada Straub, former project engineer, stands on a muck pile in the Davis Cavern. The photo on the right is the same cavern after the lab was completed.
Throughout this page, you'll see numbers that represent deliveries to the 4850 Level during construction of the Davis Campus and quotes from people who were involved in the project.
This is the story of how the Davis Campus came to be.
In what was once an environment in which miners carried pickaxes and shovels to mine for ore, scientists now carry computers and other technology into clean laboratory spaces to perform world-leading research.
Transforming a former gold mine into a world-class research facility located nearly a mile underground, took meticulous planning and organization. Specialized materials and equipment couldn't be found at a hardware store. And if you forgot your tools—or lunch—on the surface, you were just out of luck. At least until the next scheduled cage.
It took a village of engineers, geologists, technicians, construction workers, electricians, administrators, information technologists and scientists to build the Davis Campus.
Here's how we did it.
"I was here when we gained access to the underground and for initial dewatering. I had been fortunate enough to visit Soudan Lab in Minnesota, Gran Sasso in Italy and SNO Lab in Canada, so I had a pretty good picture of what the Davis Campus could become. You could say its like buying a home. You have to look past the flaws—the pink walls and bad carpet. We had to get past the muck and leftovers from when the site was 300 feet underwater and envision what it could be."
—Mike Headley, executive director, South Dakota Science and Technology Authority
It took 2,000 cubic yards of engineered fill to cover the floor (1,529 cubic meters).
The amount of cubic yards (402 cubic meters) of concrete, which came in 300 bags each weighing 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms).
"It was a pretty big team effort. Everybody on the crew takes pride in it. I’m proud of the guys that worked with me. They were highly dedicated and knowledgeable. They are great at what they do."
—Luke Scott, infrastructure technician
"We overcame many challenges and I credit the incredible skill of our staff and contractors. We had a very strong partnership with science, the SDSTA and contractors and that allowed us to achieve this high level of success."
—Mike Headley, executive director
“The proof is in the pudding! The facility is performing to design expectations and beyond. I’m quite proud of the work our crews did.”
—David Vardiman, project engineer
"It was a wonderful experience and a privilege to work together with the Majorana and SURF teams to build the demonstrator. From hoist operations, to the warehouse, to technical support, the staff was always there to provide support. And the dedication to excellence was always apparent."
—John Wilkerson, principal investigator for the Majorana Demonstrator
of steel rebar were lowered 4,000 pounds (1,814 kilograms) at a time.
cement blocks were used to build walls in the facility.
"It feels good to know that it’s been able to operate for science without needing much in the way of maintenance or repair. Now, seeing the science happen is neat.”
—Bryce Pietzyk, underground access director
pounds of rectangular ductwork. (34019 kilograms)
pounds of spiral ductwork. (36287 kilograms)
"It doesn’t get any better than the moment we were standing in the Davis with the LUX detector."
—Wendy Zawada Straub, former project engineer for the Davis Campus
miles of wiring. (48 kilometers)
miles of electrical conduit. (11 kilometers)
"This was far-sighted planning by Sanford Lab and something I wish we had been able to do with previous underground experiments as it ensured we had many engineering details worked out before going underground."
—Rick Gaitskell, LUX spokesperson
The success of the Davis Campus project comes down to teamwork and partnership. The entire project was a success in terms of safety, as evidenced by only one recordable injury occurring throughout the work. Safety continues to be a priority at the facility. Addressing safety in a long-term underground facility is very different from how you approach it in mining. “It’s a much higher bar,” said Headley.
Continued safety checks and maintenance prove that the site is holding that bar up above standards. “When I’m doing inspections of the Davis Campus,” said Vardiman, “I’m looking at the shotcrete, I’m looking for cracks, I’m looking for failures in the stressed environment and the system of the design. I’ve seen none yet. It is performing to design expectations and beyond. I’m quite proud of the work that our crews did.”
“This dedication to safety and quality production is evidenced by the fact that team members can focus on other construction and projects at the facility without the hassle of constant repairs and maintenance. The Davis Campus is able to operate and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance,” said Pietzyk.