Prof. Tim Wentz with UNL’s Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction connects students with worthwhile community projects. Student teams provide a “drawdel” showing their construction learning applied to project wall and roof sections. At Cornhusker Place, viewed from the west, Durham School students applied their skills. From a student’s course evaluation: “I enjoyed trying to help Cornhusker Place better their building and operations … very important to Lincoln.”
Sure, Lincoln Haymarket development projects’ new arena, offices and residences are exciting for UNL Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction community members to be involved in, but that’s not the only need for construction expertise in the city.
Professor Tim Wentz’s ARCH 333 / CNST 305 class each year helps a local organization with planning for facility needs: renovations that may not be glamorous, but make a big difference in the quality of day-to-day services for local people in need. This hands-on work benefits the selected nonprofits and provides real-world learning that integrates prior courses’ concepts for upper-level Durham students.
Wentz has led student teams for a daycare site, a campus historical building’s return to functional use, and a 1910 church becoming a community center. He chooses worthy organizations where students can “apply the fundamental concepts of mechanical systems to solve an identifiable set of problems.” He has found that, with a half-dozen teams of three or more students, multiple approaches yield varied problem-solving outcomes each term.
The 2012-13 location—Cornhusker Place at 721 K Street—is where “men and women with limited financial resources heal the wounds of substance abuse and become productive, contributing citizens,” according to the CP mission statement.
In a project overview and during site visits, Wentz’s students learned the realities of CP operations: “Our building has been utilized for the past 70 years for a variety of functions, most not aligned with the services that our agency provides today. Additionally, several of the services we provide require specialized operating areas. Some of these have been added within the building as capital funding has been available, some have not. The building’s infrastructure … has been a drawback to its functionality to some extent … and questions about how to improve those infrastructure issues impact decisions about how best to use the building to meet service additions going forward.” Cornhusker Place also stipulated renovation costs should not exceed $100-$130 per square foot.
On the Blackboard course hub, students studied the Request for Proposal about the project and expectations. Crucial in each student’s grade (and the primary deliverable for CP) was the team response, focusing on energy efficiency and sustainability factors to minimize resource consumption in HVAC and plumbing systems, and building envelope modifications that improve the indoor environment. Incorporating appropriate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits was another expectation.
The 12-20 page project papers (with additional bibliographies and spreadsheets on heating and cooling loads and water consumption) were augmented by teams’ 20-minute project interviews with CP representatives. Each team also provided a “drawdel”— half model, half drawing—depicting proposed wall and roof sections.
Several teams pushed beyond the LEED Silver levels to pursue LEED Gold certification, without significant cost increase for the client. Wentz and CP representatives praised one group’s unique approach to the kitchen and dining aspects, co-locating them on the same floor and adding commercial equipment from the project wish list, while keeping the budget parameters and sacrificing only under-utilized space. “The class did a phenomenal job of understanding our needs and the needs of our clients,” said CP Executive Director Phil Tegeler. “We will use the class work to move ahead in our discussions about next steps for our building. The university’s partnership in this project is greatly appreciated and will have lasting impact for our programs.”