Engineering construction: Details and plans for the coming semester

Bill Seymour sits in his office. A 1,900 page binder of technical specifications towering on the desk in front of him. A large, 165-page construction plan sits on the floor rolled up, leaned against the side of the desk. The building of the new School of Engineering, Computing and Construction Management (SECCM) facility is underway. 

The new $11 million SECCM Lab is a 27,325 square foot experiential learning laboratory, and is set to be finished by mid-November of 2019, according to Seymour, Associate Director of Capital Projects and Planning. He said about one-third of the cost is being paid for with donor dollars. According to Ed Fitzpatrick, Director of Media and Public Relations, $3.8 million of the $5.8 million fundraising goal has been raised so far.

“It is being paid for through the generous support of RWU donors and through issuing a bond,” said Seymour. “There are no RWU operating funds being used for the construction of the new building.” 

It’s impossible to miss the construction site. Positioned right in the middle of the Mario J. Gabelli School of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences and the existing SECCM building, the fenced-in area will soon be home to a high-tech, three-story facility.

The laboratory, designed by Brewster Thornton Group Architects, is being built by Shawmut design and construction and will have state-of-the-art technology and equipment that will greatly enhance students learning experience, according to Seymour. This includes a construction high bay with a crane, a Building Integration Modeling system (BIM) with a virtual reality lab, a fluid mechanics lab and more. The high bay construction fabrication lab will be the full height of the building with an overhead mobile crane to facilitate assembly of structural steel and timber, and other construction materials.

Right now, engineering and construction management (CM) majors who have labs travel off-campus to Hawkworks in Bristol. This facility, according to Seymour, is “ill-equipped” and “undersized.”

“Clearly, one of the intents of the new facility is to move those functions here on campus,” said Seymour.

 Junior Carl Anderson said the current engineering building never really appealed to him, and noted that having labs on campus will be extremely helpful.

 “A lot of the rooms are outdated,” he said. “The new facility will be very useful to CM and engineering students…With new BIM labs and better software usage, I believe our engineers and CMs will benefit tremendously from the new facility.”

 Nate Wilson, senior mechanical and electrical engineering major, said that adding more space and having up-to-date equipment will be huge benefits of the new building.

 Another reason for the new facility comes from competition in the area. Johnson & Wales University, Brown University, the University of Rhode Island and others have recently made upgrades to their engineering and construction management programs.

 In September 2016, JWU opened the John J. Bowen Center for Science, a $42 million, 71,000 square-foot facility. URI is also expanding its engineering program. In 2014, a $125 million bond was approved that will give the green light for a 195,000 square foot engineering complex, which is expected to open in the summer of 2019.

 In an announcement sent about SECCM in December 2017, Robert Potter, Dean and Professor of Engineering, noted that the new facilities will enhance the university’s ability to “deliver quality undergraduate laboratory learning, which is critical if we are to remain competitive.”  

 Junior Lauren Donovan recognizes the growing success of the CM program and believes that having the laboratory resources on campus will help students “grow and learn more within their major.”

 “I think the current building is suiting the current needs of the Construction Management, Engineering and Computer Science students, however, the new facility is more than needed,” said Donovan. “This is due to the overwhelming amount of success of the CM Program and that the program itself is growing greatly.”

 However, not all response to the new facility has been positive. Many students and faculty members have voiced concerns about the location of the building.