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Tampa, Florida – USF is utilizing some of its current construction projects to provide a unique interdisciplinary learning opportunity for students interested in architecture and engineering. The Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) Experience, coordinated by USF Facilities Management, is leading site tours and interactive sessions for the Judy Genshaft Honors College, the Athletics Indoor Performance Facility, and the Student Wellness Center’s future locations.
Additionally, students are learning about the Southeast Chiller Plant, which is being expanded to support the infrastructure of the new buildings.
“What better classroom than the real world,” said Stephen Lafferty, USF Design and Construction director. “We have an unusual situation where we have four significant projects, all at the same time and within a block and a half of each other, so we decided to do some student tours and it snowballed from there.”
Lafferty collaborated with various members of the project team to create a comprehensive learning experience based on the radically different projects after suggesting the tours. Each site is unique in its own way and presents unique challenges.
“We have everything from a cast-in-place structure system to a steel frame to a pre-engineered metal building,” Lafferty explained.
The AEC Experience will present the materials over the course of four semesters, until December 2022, when the projects are expected to be completed. Each semester, students who successfully complete the program requirements will receive a digital badge supported by Credly, a global credentialing program that will enhance their professional profiles.
Nearly 100 students have toured the sites thus far. Students learned about various welding processes, support structures, and footings during the first round of tours.
“I really wanted to see what it was like to be on the job site, get my feet in the mud and check out all the supports, meet some civil engineers and just ask questions,” said Grant Ballard, a mechanical engineering student in the College of Engineering.
Apart from the tours and online sessions, students who enroll in the program have access to the project plans, which allow them to learn about the unique characteristics of each site and meet members of the project management and design teams who work in fields similar to those pursued by the students. Additionally, students will be able to observe everything from the metal studs to the finished drywall via a regularly updated link that provides a virtual reality walk-through experience.
“A lot of things that we are doing in these projects are not only unique in the industry but most students would not get to learn some of this, or even see this first-hand probably until four or five years after graduation. Some of the stuff that we are doing, after practicing for 35 years, I had never seen before,”
The Judy Genshaft Honors College, designed by internationally renowned architectural firm Morphosis in collaboration with local firm FlesichmanGarcia Architects and Planners, will be a five-story, 85,000-square-foot facility with an outdoor amphitheater and numerous flexible spaces equipped with advanced technology to foster interdisciplinary collaboration.
The Athletics Indoor Performance Facility will feature 88,000 square feet of climate-controlled training space, large screens, cutting-edge sound systems, and expansive openings to allow student-athletes easy access to outside fields.
The three-story, 47,000-square-foot Student Wellness Center was designed in collaboration with health care providers to improve how students receive health care.
The building’s design includes specialized air handling units and urgent care suites that prevent air from recirculating, which is critical in assisting in the prevention of COVID-19 spread. Southeast Chiller Plant enhancements will add a fourth bay to accommodate massive new units. Southeast Chiller Plant is one of three major plants on campus that help regulate temperature and humidity in all buildings.
The online sessions will focus on the projects’ key components and challenges. Contractors and other industry professionals have been invited to deliver lectures on structural systems, engineering decisions, project delivery methods, and post-installation electrical and mechanical systems.
Each site exposes students to cutting-edge construction methods, progressive building techniques, and behind-the-scenes decision-making for achieving environmental sustainability goals through the use of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) frameworks, the world’s most widely used green building rating system.
“It’s really been a lot of fun and the students seem incredibly interested and receptive,” Lafferty said.
While the new Research Park Innovation building is not managed by USF Administrative Services, construction is underway.
The three-story, 120,000-square-foot structure will house laboratory space, office and meeting space for innovators and established and startup businesses, as well as retail and dining options.