The Cal Poly College of Architecture and Environmental Design, already known for its inroads into the construction industry, is adding one more benefit for its students and their future employers. Construction on a new and unique lab is slated to begin on Oct. 16 next to the Construction Innovations Center.
The Simpson Strong-Tie Materials Demonstration Lab will focus on the materials students will be working with or designing in the industry upon graduation.
“One of the main things we’re looking at in this lab is the assembly, because it’s the stuff in between the different materials where the problems develop,” Allan Hauck, construction management department head, said. “Knowledge of these materials is what’s central to all the majors in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.”
Students agree that experience in the field is important.
“Some students don’t get to work in a hands-on environment,” Dominic Cacciatore, a construction management senior said. “I think that’s crucial for someone working in the industry.”
The building itself is meant to be ‘part of the pedagogy’ and is one of only a handful of these labs across the country, the nearest being at Boise State, Hauck said. The lighting, wiring and connections will all be apparent and exposed so students from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design will be able to study and understand the interaction of the materials.
Some architectural engineering students are taking advantage of the building before and during the process. Kimberly Orth and Joseph Klimczyk are doing their senior project on the construction process behind the new lab. “It’s pretty important to know what goes on in the industry besides just in (architectural engineering),” Orth said. “You have to understand the scheduling and timing beyond the engineering and in the office.”
Orth also mentioned that materials testing is something that students don’t get to do often enough. There is a concrete testing lab, but Orth said that they are “pretty limited on what (they) can test in the lab.”
The framing of the building Orth and Klimczyk are studying is the first of its kind for a public, institutional building, Hauck said. The frame is a “heavy timber brace frame” composed of 6-by-6 timbers and larger. Under national and state building codes, public buildings (including all state university buildings) must adhere to higher safety standards regarding hazards like fires and earthquakes. Before, timber was excluded for these safety issues, while traditionally, other buildings on campus are composed mostly of steel and concrete because of their strength and fire resistance. A new code was put in place about a year and a half ago that allowed the building to be built with a timber frame, which can handle seismic loads and is fire resistant, Hauck said.
The goal of the timber frame is to use more environmentally-conscious materials. “What we’re trying to do with this building as well is the use of a sustainable, recyclable material, which is timber,” Hauck said.
The building, which has been in the planning stages for four to five years, is finally ready to break ground, Hauck said. The contract was given to San Luis Obispo construction management company Newton Construction for $1,675,000, less than the Cal Poly estimate. “The trend over the last year is that all projects have been coming in lower on their estimates,” Perry Judd, project manager under the Facilities Management Department said.
The project will cut off half of the thoroughfare between the Construction Innovations Center and the Engineering West building and will close the road in between the Center and the Graphic Arts building, although the sidewalk will remain open, Judd said.
It is a benchmark in the construction industry, Alan Hanson, Simpson Strong-Tie’s West Coast representative said. Simpson donated $500,000 to have their name on the lab. They have worked closely with Cal Poly for years and have hired 15 to 20 graduates, Hanson said.
“We want to further the relationship that we’ve had for a long time,” Hanson said. “It’s been great for us, because Cal Poly is considered by many people the premier engineering school West of the Rockies.”
The building is scheduled to be finished for the beginning of fall quarter 2010.