Construction Science Students Gain Hands-On Experience, Give Back to Community

During the Spring 2018 semester, over 40 students from the Haskell and Irene Lemon Division of Construction Science helped build two affordable housing duplexes in Norman, Oklahoma. The project was part of their Construction Fundamentals Lab, which included a four-hour weekly work requirement. The course helped students become familiar with the ebbs and flows, complications, and excitement of a real-world construction project–valuable experience for any future construction professional. Instructor Bryan Bloom explains, “Each week we try to tackle a sequence or phase that you would encounter on a typical job site… You learn things in a completely different way when you’re actually out here doing it.” The houses are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will serve as part of the affordable housing assistance programs run by the Norman Housing Authority, the organization that has taken ownership of the units.

Students involved in the project appreciated the hands-on experience. Leslie Avila says that her favorite part of the project was being able to “fully understand and connect the dots” regarding a full-scale construction project. Patrick Strubel similarly cites “experiencing all aspects of a new construction build” as his favorite part, along with engaging with his classmates in a new and unusual environment. Students built one of the project’s duplexes “up to the drywall” while contractors built the other. This arrangement allowed the students to observe the contractors’ techniques and model their approaches off of that example.

The project was made possible through partnerships with designers Torrey and Hans E. Butzer of Butzer Architects and Urbanism, local businessman Austin Hacker, Republic Bank and Trust, and the Norman Housing Authority. Division Director Ben Bigelow also states that Bloom’s own contributions should not be overlooked: “It was simply a phenomenal opportunity to integrate service learning with active learning. I don’t think this type of experience is matched by any program in the country, and all the credit should go to Mr. Bloom for envisioning it and then pulling it off.” Bloom hopes that future projects will continue to provide community- and social design-driven structures around Norman: “It’s a win-win for everybody.”