School, industry cooperate to craft savvy students

Walls are coming down in the architecture and construction management professions. Early communication and cooperation are tunneling through traditional barriers between the various disciplines that create our built environment. Designers are forging bridges to builders, contractors to owners, financers to those in charge of continuing building maintenance.

And WSU is offering innovative programs to educate and prepare just these types of forward-thinking professionals.

This was the message delivered recently at the first Integrated Education Symposium sponsored by the WSU School of Architecture and Construction Management (A+CM).

The goal and even the process of the symposium series is all about integration and collaboration. Leaders from the architecture and construction industries are volunteering their time to participate with the school in the symposium. Their mantra is that their industry — and, indeed, our culture as a whole — is less confined by traditional boundaries and must form new alliances and mindsets in order to succeed and thrive.

Building on strength
Happily, A+CM is positioned well to enhance such collaboration.

“Our school is one of the few to have both the disciplines of architecture and construction management,” said Greg Kessler, associate professor and director of A+CM. “We have the unique opportunity to use that as a strength and to build on the interdisciplinary aspects.”

The symposium series is one way the school is building on that strength. Students from all the school’s disciplines participated in a day of presentations from architecture and construction management practitioners.

While the semester’s first symposium focused on an overview of where the industry is headed, subsequent spring gatherings will offer specifics on integrating design and communication and on collaborative delivery systems.

The three-semester symposium will provide hands-on instruction in the integrated approach for students in fall 2006. In spring 2007, students will work with industry leaders who practice such collaboration.

Valuable professionals
The experience is proving insightful. Industry participants at the first symposium shared stories of how cooperation early in the design and building process can help avoid confusion, mistakes and cost overruns. Examples were given of how early coordination between different aspects and parties saved millions of dollars and months of time, not to mention owner frustration and ire.

“It’s no longer about maintaining boundaries between our disciplines,” said one symposium presenter. “It is about making alliances to meet our clients’ needs.”

Besides offering WSU students cutting-edge education and preparing them for professions in a fast-evolving industry, the symposium series also is connecting and reconnecting professionals with the school, Kessler said. This will help with development and fund raising, as well as provide contacts for graduates when they are looking for jobs, he said. Early collaboration is the foundation, after all.

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