UA Little Rock Seniors Weigh Pros and Cons of Designing Medical Facilities in Guam, Puerto Rico

During their senior design project, eight students from the Civil and Construction Engineering and Architectural and Construction Engineering programs were tasked with providing the structural design, construction cost estimate, and building schedule for hypothetical new medical facilities in the remote locations of Guam and Puerto Rico.

Graduating seniors from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock learned the challenges of undertaking international construction projects as part of their year-long capstone project.

During their senior design project, eight students from the Civil and Construction Engineering and Architectural and Construction Engineering programs were tasked with providing the structural design, construction cost estimate, and building schedule for hypothetical new medical facilities in the remote locations of Guam and Puerto Rico.

Team Eiffel (Guam) consisted of Taylor Finley, Lizbeth Ortiz, Alexander Silva, and Benjamin Whiting. Meanwhile, Team Watt (Puerto Rico) included Parker Addison, Christopher Heredia, Mark St. Pierre, and Garrett Wallace.

Industry sponsors from Cromwell Architects Engineers and CDI Contractors created the design challenge for the seniors. Participating Cromwell members included Mike Callahan, director of structures, and Paul Timko, structural engineer. Daniel Bowen, director of preconstruction, and David Cooan, senior project manager, joined the team from CDI Contractors.

“The industry sponsors typically choose a building that one of them has designed or done the construction on in the past,” said Anne Turner, assistant professor and coordinator of the Civil and Construction Engineering Program. “Previously, we’ve varied by building use, such as a school in Memphis or a police station in Florida. This time, the students had the same building in different locations. It’s always interesting to see how the location affects the environment and building costs.”

A senior design project is a requirement for accreditation by the ABET, a nonprofit, non-governmental agency that accredits programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. UA Little Rock’s senior design project is unique in that its industry partners from Cromwell Architects Engineers and CDI Contracting have been involved ever since the Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering was created, showing just how dedicated industry partners are to making sure the students have a successful education.

“It’s a unique partnership where the students meet with industry sponsors 16 times in their senior year,” Turner said. “It’s a great experience for our students to learn from experts who are in the industry themselves.”

Team Eiffel (Guam) came in with a final bid of $20,321,057 for their hospital, while Team Watt (Puerto Rico) came in with a final bid of $20,996,354. The teams noted that one of the major differences in the final bid was the fact that Guam had a tax of 2 percent while Puerto Rico had a tax of more than 10 percent.

“I enjoyed it because it was a real-world application rather than just sitting in a classroom,” said Taylor Finley, who works as a project engineer at Nabholz Construction. “It gave us a glimpse into our futures as engineers. I would say the hardest part was taking issues related to our locations, as far as Guam and Puerto Rico. We learned we needed to account for taxes, travel, seismic design, earthquakes, and hurricanes, which affected our construction schedule, estimate, and complete design.”

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