Students Further Cement College's Reputation at Builders Show

Published 04.24.2007

Building Construction
Student News

A team of two-year construction students recently reinforced Pennsylvania College of Technology's historic presence at the International Builders Show in Orlando, Fla., placing third and keeping alive a streak of top-three finishes that goes back to 1999.

"All the teams, especially the new ones, were told that the main competition to watch out for was Brigham Young (University) and us," said Bernard A. "Barney" Kahn IV, instructor of building construction technology and one of the students' coaches. The advice was prescient: Brigham Young ultimately took first and second in the two-year competition, the only institution in the 11-team division to place higher than Penn College.

The college finished 14th among 33 teams in the four-year category. In that division, Middle Tennessee State University placed first; Colorado State University, second; Brigham Young, third; Texas A&M University, fourth; and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, fifth.

The teams comprising members of the student chapter of the National Association of Home Builders and aided financially by the West Branch Susquehanna Builders Association competed during the event at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

The two-year team's assignment was to develop for Centex Homes a complete set of working drawings, a detailed materials estimate and a complete construction schedule for a home to be built in Atlanta. The group quickly divided responsibilities adding Jason S. Detwiler, an architectural technology student from Liberty, to its specialized pool of talent, for instance and contacted vendors in Georgia to obtain more accurate estimates.

"The area I estimated was the framing of the home," explained Seth L. Culbert, a building construction technology major from Quakake. "I first figured out how many trusses would be needed and contacted several truss companies from that area. I (also) went over the prints that Jason had given us many times to figure out how many studs, plates, joists, etc., I would need."

Culbert also was in charge of the requisite change order that last-minute curveball that invariably occurs on a real-life building project. In this case, the team was notified of a new zoning requirement: Because the home was near an airport, accommodations had to be made to temper the sound of planes flying overhead. The change was set to take place after the home had been "dried in," Culbert said; in other words, windows, doors and roof were on, and framing was complete.

"My teammates elected me to project manager, but, for the most part, decisions were made by committee," he said. "One of us would throw out an idea, it would be discussed maybe a better idea came up and a final decision was made. I really was honored when they chose me for that position."

Culbert researched Sound Transmission Class levels (the industry standard for decibel reduction) and the most common ways to achieve higher ratings. He weighed the cost and effectiveness of all methods one of which added more than $10,000 to the cost of the home and ultimately recommended a sound-deadening glue and insulation between layers of drywall. "Overall, I thought that I learned a lot doing this project, not only about estimating and scheduling, but also about what I'm made of," he said. "It was very stressful for me between school, the competition and working, but I think it was a very positive experience."

The presentation was, by far, the most exciting part, Culbert added, because team members had no idea what might be thrown at them during the question-and-answer period with judges.

"I thought that we had a very good chance at winning, and, even though I tried not to expect it, in a way I think I did, so it was a bit of a letdown when we were announced for third," he said. "But now that I have had time to think about it, it's definitely exciting when you consider the schools we were up against. I get a sense of pride when I look at the plaque that they gave us "¦ next to the eight or nine others that are in our trophy case. Now I can say that I helped extend our streak."

In addition to Culbert and Detwiler, the two-year team comprises building construction technology majors Joseph P. Hillyard, Gillett; and Brian S. Ferguson, Conneaut Lake; and Andrew A. DeGregorio, residential construction management, North White Plains, N.Y.

The two-year team brought home first-place honors at the 2005 show and second prize in last year's competition. DeGregorio was among the students who accompanied the team to last year's builders show, and he knew he wanted to compete this year.

"So, when the fall came and we were deciding on the teams, I was sure I was going to do it," he said. "I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I also knew it was going to be a good learning experience, because one part was creating an estimate and I had not had an estimating class yet. After finishing the packet and handing it in, I knew that we put a lot of hard work into the competition, and I felt that I got a lot of knowledge from doing this."

DeGregorio said it did make students' schedules "really crazy and very hectic," with late-night sessions at the library and more work back at their rooms after closing time. "I think this competition is a great experience; I learned a lot from being a part of it," he added. "I now realize looking back at what we did that it was a lot of work, but I think it was worth it."

On the four-year team were Hilary J. Allegretto, Williamsport; Benjamin W. Copenhaver, Reinholds; Trevor T. Krize, Birdsboro; and Thomas J. Wisse, Hackettstown, N.J. all residential construction management majors Derek J. Rinaldo, civil engineering technology, Minersville; and Matthew Divok, residential construction technology/management, Quakertown.

Joining Kahn as team advisers were Garret L. Graff and Richard L. Druckenmiller, instructors of building construction technology. For more information about the School of Construction and Design Technologies, call (570) 327-4518, send e-mail .