The 'Hole' Class
On a sunny, fall day, Kent State graduate student Korey Patterson, of Pittsburgh, was wearing a hard hat and safety glasses as he and other students stood near the edge of a large, open hole on the east side of the Aeronautics and Engineering building on the Kent Campus.
Safety's important when class is conducted in the field, which in this case means traveling to the other side of campus.
The excavation is for the expansion of Kent State’s College of Aeronautics and Engineering (CAE) building. The project broke ground on Oct. 1, 2021. A livestream of construction progress, in real time, can be viewed here.
“Realtime Tracking, Aeronautics & Engineering Building" is taught by Jay Graham, university architect and executive director of Facilities Planning and Design.
There are both undergraduate and graduate students in the class, from the architecture and construction management programs.
During a typical class, students begin with an instructional session in the job trailer on-site and then move out to the construction site, exploring every aspect of the building process.
“It’s the real-time tracking of a project on campus, and you get the experience and observations of the owner, which is the university architect’s office, the architect and engineer and the construction management team," Graham said. "So, these three entities that are delivering the project are intentionally here so students can hear from all of them and how we all work together on a daily basis in the job trailer and on-site. Our successes, our failures, our challenges and how we work together as a team.”
“It’s a really unique experience and we’re lucky to have it,” said Patterson, who also completed his undergraduate degree in architecture, with a minor in construction management.
Inside the trailer
The topic for today’s session in the trailer was the design-build model, which combines a design team and a builder, which are traditionally separate entities, in one company. In addition to Graham, the class session was also attended by several other industry professionals, including Michael Wasowski, assistant director, architecture and engineering, from the Office of the University Architect; Luke Kraft, studio lead, DSA Architecture; and Greg Consolo, vice president, Independence Construction.
During the class session, Graham explained how a design-build firm works and the pros and cons of working with this operational model. Consolo and the other industry professionals in attendance added their input and answered questions from students, based on their experiences with design-build firms.
Consolo, Kraft and Wasowski also provided updates and insights about the progress on the construction of the CAE building addition, and some of the challenges they have faced. Samples of building materials, including a brick and welded pieces of rebar, were passed around the class for students to examine.
Becky Broghammer is a graduate student, pursuing her master’s degree in construction management. She is also a compliance investigator and deputy Title IX coordinator in Kent State’s Division of Student Affairs. “I do love this experience," she said. "I took classes last year and as soon as I heard this was an opportunity, I was excited to get on-site and have true, real-time conversations about what’s happening and how things have been impacted by situations outside of the site.
"We’ve talked about concrete not being able to be delivered and how the pandemic supply-chain issues and everything else has impacted everything," Broghammer said. "So, it really has brought to life all the classes I’ve had so far, like estimating and scheduling. Seeing this in real time has solidified the knowledge I had gained beforehand.”
For Patterson, the benefit was being able to see drawings, blueprints and specifications come to life. “In the classroom, we don’t get to see the details, especially in architecture,” he said. “I see it on the computer, and in the final product, but I don’t get to see things like the rebar and all the pylons and columns being put in. It’s a really good experience to get to see that and I think it’s going to help me in the future, in being able to understand how these systems work and come together. I hope it can propel my career even faster.”
How the class came to be
This class was created by Mark Mistur, Dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, based on a model he had created at another R1 research university. The idea was to capitalize on campus construction projects to offer students rare, behind-the-scenes access to the people involved in the projects to see how they work together. The concept also provides on-the-ground access to the complexity of the building projects and the processes involved in design and construction.
This experience is rare and uniquely Kent State, Mistur said. “For several years, under my leadership, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offered a similar class that brought together architecture and engineering students. However, to my knowledge, it is no longer offered. There are universities who offer one-off visits of construction sites, but to my knowledge, none give students a similarly sustained, behind-the-scenes, real-time access to the day-to-day processes, players and challenges that demand collaborative consideration and problem solving along the way.”
Graham, who is an alumnus of Kent State’s architecture program, agrees. “It’s a great opportunity. When I was a student here, we were taking field trips and it was much more limited,” he said. “It was a field trip, not a weekly, 16 times of being able to see from week-to-week, the progress and the differences.”
The next evolution
The next edition of this class, in the spring semester, will include real-time tracking and on-site instruction on the construction of Crawford Hall, the new home of the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship, on Main Street, near White Hall. “While the CAE expansion begins its enclosure in the spring, the steel will be emerging from the foundations of the business school,” Mistur said.
“The stage of construction impacts which consultants will have a more significant role, and it may also impact who takes the cross-disciplinary course,” Mistur said. “In future semesters, there will be excellent opportunity to include interior design students, as fixtures, furnishings, finishes and equipment are installed.”