The Purdue University North Central Construction Club students recently tackled a project for a custom builder. The students prepared a feasibility study for the builder, performing market research, soils analysis, site planning, permit procurement, scheduling, budgeting, staffing, pricing and profit analysis. To cap it off, they created a marketing program complete with sales projections.
Admittedly, this was an ambitious project for a group of students. But it was part of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) International Builder’s Show annual construction management competition.
Five PNC Construction Club members took on this challenge. Each year, the NAHB sponsors a competition for students that asks them to apply their skills to planning an actual construction project. This year’s project involved the construction of a model home complex with administrative offices for Sedgewick Homes, LLC, in North Carolina.
The NAHB and Sedgewick Homes expected professional-level plans and presentations from the students. The judges were construction company executives who expected the same work from the students as they would from any builder or contractor working for them.
When the PNC students received their paperwork from the NAHB, they became a project team. Responsibilities were distributed.
The team members approached the task as would be done in a professional setting, they distributed responsibilities based on their strengths.
“This project became our ‘job,’ ” said Olga Pecanac, a PNC Business major, who joined the team to share her Marketing expertise. “This was a hands-on real-work project. It just didn’t exist on paper, is was real-world experience.”
Veronica Kessler, a Construction Engineering Management major, took on the cost estimates for local contractors and suppliers.
Jason Teets and Nathan Clements, also Construction Engineering Management majors, handled scheduling while Tyler Nader, a Business major, also handled marketing research.
The PNC team was up against more than 52 schools from across the country. Many schools, such as winner California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, are much larger than PNC. Some offer the NAHB competition as a for-credit class, not as an extracurricular activity as does PNC. Plus, three students were new to the competition as first-year as club members.
“We pulled together to do this,” said Kessler. “We rode an emotional roller-coaster. This went way beyond anything we’d find in class.”
Team members did exhaustive research for actual local contractor and supplier pricing for the project. They did soil reports; they included green building components, too.
The marketing students were charged with devising plans to promote the homes to the local market. They researched area schools, commute times, incomes and home values.
“We studied the area’s demographics,” said Nader. “We didn’t have time to ‘learn’ how to do something, we had to get in there and do it.”
Team co-coaches Thomas Dobrowski, assistant professor of Building Construction Management Technology and Lisa Dobrowski, limited-term lecturer, helped guide the students.
The judging experience itself was a learning experience, said Pecanac.
The PNC team watched the judging to listen to the questions and responses from the other teams. In many respects the PNC team was better prepared than many of its counterparts, said Teets.
“The judging itself could be brutal,” said Lisa Dobrowski. “The judges were very honest. They were not soft on the students. We learned a lot.”
The judges did note that the PNC team omitted a cash flow analysis from its submission. “The judges wouldn’t let us forget it,” said Dobrowski.
Because of that, Clements is enrolled in an Accounting class to ensure this vital information is included in next year’s competition.
Kessler will graduate in May and the other students vow they will join the club next year. They are actively recruiting new students to join.
“We’re sure we’ll do well next year. It’s all about team work.” said Teets. “We’re ready.”