While in Las Vegas at the ASHRAE conference and AHR Expo, I visited the colossal Hoover Dam built over a remarkably short time of five years (1931 to 1936). The dam was needed to harness the Colorado River and supply hydroelectric power and water to seven Western states.
In the midst of the Great Depression, scorching desert temperatures, volatile river currents, and never-ending rock canyon walls were not enough to discourage men, desperate for paid jobs, from signing on as dam workers. To make this hazardous situation even worse, the construction and engineering team was awarded the job after a competitive bid process during which they agreed to a contract with the stiff penalty of $3,000 per day if behind schedule. The on-site conditions resulting from the confluence of time pressure, workers desperate for jobs, and almost unsurmountable topographical forces were so deadly that the Hoover Dam is known not only as an extraordinary engineering and construction accomplishment, but also as one of the 10 most deadly building projects in U.S. history.