Higher Education Stays Afloat
Texas A&M University’s Department of Construction Science has teamed up with Skanska USA Building to create a unique learning opportunity for students.
“The Agriculture Headquarters Building in College Station has been a teaching laboratory,” says Matt Daniel, vice president of Skanska in Houston.
Skanska officials guest lectured in a senior capstone class and held the sessions at the $49-million Agriculture Headquarters Building and Visitor Center construction site to observe the workings up close. Skanska gave students an inside view about how the company won the job; created an estimate and schedule; defined the site logistics; and used building information modeling, a standard at TAMU.
“The capstone course is designed to pull everything together that they’ve learned,” says James Smith, the class professor.
At the end of the semester, students broke into teams as mock construction companies and responded to a request for proposals. They made oral and written presentations, after which Skanska officials juried the presentations and “selected” a winning construction management team.
“It happens to be a construction-manager-at-risk contract, which is a best-value selection, so they have to do conceptual cost estimating and put together credentials and an approach to the job that will sell them as the CM-at-risk contractor,” Smith adds. “There’s tremendous learning value out of it.”
In the fall, a different group of students applied the same lessons to Skanska’s $7.2-million Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center project in Weslaco.
“It’s fun to relay what all of us learned in our careers,” Daniel says. “These are kids who will be coming out and some of which we will probably hire in the future. We wanted them to leave A&M with the most knowledge they can have.”
In addition, Skanska is using a “sidewalk superintendent” graphics board on the exterior fence.
“This is a special board that explains what is going on behind the fence and shows what it will look like,” Daniel says. “The idea is to use the project itself as a tool for education and to keep everyone informed of what is to come in the future.”
The agricultural headquarters Skanska began construction in April on the 270,000-sq-ft Agricultural Headquarters Building and a 13,000-sq-ft, two-story visitor’s center intended to highlight the importance of agriculture to Texas and its economy. It is the first phase of a planned, $86-million, four-building agricultural complex, envisioned to bring all agriculture departments at the school together in one location.
“Remember—this is the ‘A’ of A&M and important for the university,” Daniel says.
Sitework required substantial utility relocations and a massive amount of fencing to close it in, Daniel says. The foundations for the concrete-frame buildings are structural slabs on carton forms. More than 600 auger-cast piles support the two buildings.
In addition to the two buildings, Skanska is constructing a large canopy, which provides shade from the afternoon sun and creates an outdoor courtyard, complete with cisterns that serve to collect rainwater in a 40,000-gallon, underground tank for use as landscape irrigation, one of the project’s green features.
“The cistern is an outward expressive green feature,” says Wes Good, managing principal with Kirksey Architecture of Houston, which designed the five-story building to achieve LEED-silver...