New commercial construction lab offers unique opportunity

October 6, 2016
Construction site

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – The foundation has been laid and University of Wisconsin-Platteville students will now be building on that foundation. Thanks to collaborative efforts with multiple partners, UW-Platteville is offering a commercial construction laboratory, starting this semester.

The commercial construction lab replaces the residential construction lab. “This is a multi-phased, 100 percent hands-on experience for students in a commercial construction environment,” said Mark Albers, associate professor in the building construction management program at UW-Platteville. He noted that 98 percent of the students in the building construction management program go on to secure jobs in the commercial sector. Skills learned at the lab will translate to both the commercial and residential markets.

The lab is located on land at the former Farm and Fleet site on Highway 80/81, south of Platteville. Use of the land was donated by Joe Jewison with Emerald Earth LLC. Jewison is one of several partners who have come together to make this project possible. Representatives from Hensel Phelps, a commercial construction company, were on site in September to view how their support could be useful and to interact with the students. All three representatives are UW-Platteville alumni, two of which and are currently based in southern California and the other in northern Colorado.

“Being from the Midwest we have a lot of pride, not only in our product, but in our work ethic and our relationships,” said Eric Schildgen, area superintendent with Hensel Phelps and a Lancaster, Wisconsin native. “It’s key for us to continue to develop that with the university. We know what good programs we came from and we want to come back and take students from that same program and put them to work in the field.”

Delta 3 Engineering, a Platteville engineering firm donated the design services for the all-steel structure. The owners of the business are university alumni.

Students will erect the building each semester and then disassemble it and place it into storage to be completed again the following semester.

Starting this semester and for the next four semesters, the students will be laying the foundation, conducting soil analysis, framing the footings, bending rebar, pouring the footings and other tasks, to prepare for the construction of the building in the following semesters. “After the next two years, it will be a giant erector set,” said Albers. “We will get as far as we can each semester and then repackage it and start again the next semester.”

Albers noted there are some constructability issues unique to this facility that no other building has ever had. “You don’t build buildings to tear them down every time,” he said, noting the building will be 28’x28’ when constructed. The design allows for some flexibility. They will be able to add an extra story or can build out, if needed.

“We always had a very strong building construction management program, now we’re taking it to the next level. It is a lot of partnerships working together that makes this happen.”

         –Dr. Wayne Weber
          Dean, College of BILSA

In addition to the commercial shell building, students are also building a fabric tension building, which will be used for storage and fabrication of materials for the main facility.

This project was made possible and will succeed thanks to the corporate partners and their donations. “There really were no resources to do this internally,” said Albers. “We had to go out and solicit our plan and everyone agreed to it. They all see it as a win-win. If they can get students as employees with more experience, they win. If we can get more students going through the program, we win. That relationship is critical, even going forward.”

“Everything has been donated, all the way from the trailer to the skid steer to the scaffolding to the tractor,” said Albers. “It’s all been donated, either in whole or just for its use for a semester. That made this possible, otherwise we are out here with picks and shovels and that wasn’t going to be a realistic experience.”

The university’s safety program is involved with this project as much as the construction program. “Construction and manufacturing folks have been big supporters of safety,” said Mark Miner, program coordinator for Occupational Safety Management and Building Construction Safety Management.

Miner has more than 31 years of experience in the occupational safety field. He is working alongside the students and is thrilled that they will have this lab opportunity. “To have a lab facility like this, to take everything that they learn in my curriculum and can actually come out and demonstrate it is going to be fantastic,” he said. “These students here are the future leaders in the industry, that’s why it’s so exciting.”

“We always had a very strong building construction management program, now we’re taking it to the next level,” said Dr. Wayne Weber, dean of the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture. “It is a lot of partnerships working together that makes this happen.”

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities, and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The commercial construction lab aligns with the priorities of providing an outstanding education, controlling our own destiny, and enriching the tri-states.

Written by: Dan Wackershauser, Communications Specialist, Communications, 608-342-1194, wackersd@uwplatt.edu

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