UWP construction lab gives students valuable experience, provides homeowners cost-effective option

December 2, 2002

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PLATTEVILLE - Beginning with nothing more than the concrete poured, 19 students from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville industrial studies construction lab are building a 1,850 sq. ft., ranch-style home over the span of this semester and next semester.

The home, located off of Highway 151 between Dickeyville and Platteville, is being built for Bill and Jeannie Bussan. The Bussans already live near the site of their new home, but due to the expansion of Highway 151, decided to have a new home built farther away from the road. The Bussans turned to UWP to construct the home for several reasons.

"In 1990, we had a garage built by the construction lab class," Bussan said. "We thought they did an excellent job constructing our garage and we were also very impressed with the craftsmanship of the Burkholder's home, built last year by the lab. So, being very familiar with the department and aware of what it does, we felt we could construct a very cost-effective home that would be the ultimate in craftsmanship and quality."

Responsible for all aspects of building the home, this semester's construction lab class took up the project the first week of September, reviewing designs and determining the materials need to construct the home. This semester, students' project focus is "rough" carpentry, said Brett Buchanan of Janesville, the student project manager.

"This semester, we'll be constructing the floors, the exterior and interior walls and the roof," Buchanan said. "We just finished shingling the roof and putting in the windows and doors. By the end of the week, we should be finished with the siding."

As the project manager, Buchanan is responsible for working with all of the subcontractors involved in the project, finding the lowest bids for materials, making sure materials arrive on time and resolving any other complications that may arise with the project. Aiding Buchanan in a supervisory role on the project is Erik Iverson of Mt. Horeb, the student construction foreperson.

"My job is to direct all the students working on the project," Iverson said. "I help them with what they need to do, or if they don't know how to do something such as wall layouts or putting a window frame into a wall, I show them how. This project really gives students who haven't worked in construction a chance to see how a project like this progresses, and for me, while I have instructed people with less experience at my previous jobs, I've never officially been a foreperson."

While much of the project has moved along smoothly, Buchanan said they have encountered several challenges.

"With any job, there may be delays," Buchanan said. "It's been a challenge getting materials in on time, but overall, this has been an excellent project. I don't think many universities offer a program that takes on projects like this. Building a home is more complicated than building a shed, so we really do get better experience."

The project will continue next semester with students finishing all the interior work, including dry wall, insulation, painting, trim, carpets, tiles and cabinetry. Professor Marc Shelstrom and the Bussans said they were very happy with the construction students had done so far on the home.

"This home is quite a bit larger than the home we built last year, so the students are really putting in a lot of extra time," Shelstrom said.

"We're extremely pleased with the work the students have done so far," Bussan said. "I have some construction experience in my past, so I'm very impressed with the meticulous approach these students have taken."

As a gesture of appreciation and in support of the industrial studies program, the Bussans will be making a donation to the building construction management program's scholarship fund.

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