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Advancing construction education through real-world projects

December 21, 2018

ASU's online master's in construction management designed to meet growing need for professionals with advanced skills

Editor’s note: Two Arizona State University online master’s programs are helping construction and engineering professionals advance their careers by bringing them up to speed on the latest developments in their industries. Part 1, below, covers the online Master of Science in construction management. Read Part 2 to learn about the online Master of Science in Engineering in sustainable engineering.

Selecting the lowest bidder isn’t always going to be the best option when it comes to construction, though it was how business was run for decades. Considering the experience, reputation and safety records of potential builders — the methodology of alternative delivery — can lead to a better end product and satisfaction.

Understanding the ins and outs of alternative delivery and other construction management practices are necessary to staying relevant in today’s construction industry, and among the major tenets stressed in construction management.

Arizona State University’s online master’s program in construction management helps bring industry professionals up to speed on the principles needed to efficiently and effectively build tomorrow’s infrastructure today.

“In recent years, the construction industry has been observing a major paradigm shift to adopt new and emerging technologies that drastically improve performance,” said Steven Ayer, assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.

The School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment offers an online Master of Science in construction management through its Del E. Webb School of Construction for individuals seeking opportunity in upper management. The construction management program has more than 50 years of history at ASU, with established ties to industry, alumni, internship opportunities and professional organizations to help students get ahead.

“Many of our students are coming to us for master’s degrees because they are discovering they need them to progress further in their careers,” said Tony Lamanna, construction management program chair.

Cisco Hobbs, president of Texas-based general contractor Rogers-O’Brien Construction Austin-San Antonio region, began the 10-course online master’s degree in construction management program in January 2017. So far, the courses and working with fellow students from diverse industries and locations have been rewarding.

“Each class gives me a different perspective on what I do or in areas of business I don’t personally work in,” Hobbs said. “The other students also brought different perspectives that I benefited from and I hope they benefited from mine.”

The ASU online master’s degree in construction management courses are taught by faculty members who have previously worked in industry or for government, such as Wylie Bearup, and are research leaders in their fields, like Mounir El Asmar. El Asmar is an associate professor and co-directs the National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations.

“Diverse faculty with diverse sets of expertise allow students to select courses based on their own interests, job requirements or career outlook,” said El Asmar, who teaches in both the construction management and sustainable engineering online master's degree programs.

Hobbs agrees the faculty experience, course content and delivery make it an impactful program.

“ASU has the right combination of faculty with industry experience, material delivery that’s accessible and organized for the online student and content that’s relevant,” Hobbs said.

The company president also notes how taking classes with a diverse group of students representing different industries and job roles helped him apply concepts to his own role and business.

For example, Hobbs is taking a facilities management course, learning about the perspective of people who own, operate and maintain the types of buildings his company constructs.

“They’re normally my clients, so it gives me the opportunity to see the development, concept, funding, execution and delivery through their eyes,” Hobbs said. “I never would have been exposed to their business perspective otherwise.”

Students also learn how emerging and cross-disciplinary technologies can be applied to the field of construction, gaining valuable perspectives from ASU faculty while studying from anywhere in the world.

For example, Ayer’s work with augmented reality technologies can have major benefits to the construction industry by increasing productivity while decreasing errors. Associate Professor Pingbo Tang’s research in remote sensing methods, field data analysis and computational simulations can also benefit construction professionals. These tools can allow professionals to predictively manage the United States’ aging civil infrastructure by quickly assessing structurally deficient bridges and identifying safe or inefficient operation and maintenance processes of airports and nuclear power plants.

While earning their degrees, online construction management students also have the option to choose a three-credit independent project where faculty mentors guide them to apply what they’ve learned to solve a particular problem they are passionate about — all on their own schedules and timelines. It’s one of the many advantages of the online program.

“The online format is intended to appeal especially to professionals and students who may not be local, but who appreciate ASU’s reputation and capability in engineering and online education,” Allenby said, adding that it also helps students with professional, family and financial obligations to pursue a degree as their schedules permit.

What differentiates ASU’s construction management program from others is its hands-on approach to education, with students working together with both faculty and industry leaders to explore actual challenges and real-time problems within the industry.

“Graduates from our best-in-class program will have enhanced management and technology skills, including those necessary for being successful in sustainable construction, technology in the built environment and innovative project-delivery methods,” said Kenneth Sullivan, associate professor of construction management.

Learning how to utilize these methods as the construction industry transitions to focus on sustainability and alternative delivery — any method of building that isn’t the traditional design-bid-build approach — will result in higher-quality infrastructure.

Construction managers have a large impact on people’s daily lives and thus a responsibility to think and build sustainably — one of many aspects of the online master’s degree in construction.

Top photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

Monique Clement

Communications specialist , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-727-1958

 
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Mastering a sustainable future for the built environment

December 21, 2018

ASU's online master’s in sustainable engineering keeps professionals on top of the latest in sustainable tech and practices

Editor’s note: Two Arizona State University online master’s programs are helping construction and engineering professionals advance their careers by bringing them up to speed on the latest developments in their industries. Part 2 covers the online Master of Science in Engineering in sustainable engineering. Read part 1 to learn about the online Master of Science in construction management.

The goal of sustainable engineering is to enable long-lasting improvement of the human condition. It transcends traditional engineering education by integrating considerations of complex social, environmental, political and economic factors into engineering theory and practice in order to achieve more economically, technically, environmentally, institutionally and socially efficient and robust solutions.

The School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, offers a multidisciplinary professional online Master of Science degree in sustainable engineering. The degree is ideal for professionals and graduate-level students with engineering and physical science backgrounds who wish to advance their careers or move toward incorporating sustainable engineering solutions and practices.

Courses in the degree program cover a range of topics, including areas such as earth systems engineering, industrial ecology, design for sustainability, life cycle assessment, environmental technologies, energy systems and conservation, green construction practices, water systems, transportation systems and sustainable technology systems.

Approved in 2014, the degree program is one of the newest in the Fulton Schools with its first student graduating from the program in fall 2018.

While earning their degrees, students have the option to choose a three-credit independent project where faculty mentors guide them to apply their classroom knowledge to solve a particular problem about which they are passionate, and which frequently involves real-world problems and challenges. In sustainable engineering, the possibilities are plentiful.

“A degree in sustainable engineering helps educate practitioners on how to solve problems, not just create cookie-cutter designs,” said ASU President’s Professor Brad Allenby, who authored the first textbook in sustainable engineering and teaches courses in the online program, “and thus makes them more useful as professionals, and more employable.”

As sustainability is far more than only engineering environmentally friendly building materials and energy sources, a cross-disciplinary approach is key to an effective education, Allenby said. Students of this program are exposed to sustainable engineering case studies that include the redesign of the Panama Canal, mining in Indonesia, making meat in factories instead of growing chickens and cattle and even the weaponization of information systems in American politics — which affects the viability and sustainability of democratic and pluralistic political systems.

“Emerging technologies pose unique ethical and institutional questions across all fields of engineering,” Allenby noted, “and the world needs professionals with the capability to provide sophisticated responses to such challenges.”

“[The Fulton Schools] draws on many different disciplines in creating a sophisticated and comprehensive sustainable engineering program,” Allenby said. “That’s one reason we renamed the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. We are the thought leaders in this space.”

The ASU online master’s degree in sustainable engineering courses are taught by faculty members who have previously worked in industry or who are research leaders in their fields.

T. Agami Reddy, SRP Professor of Energy and Environment with joint appointments in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and The Design School, is actively involved in this program. He has written textbooks on forward and inverse modeling and data analysis as applied to energy systems, on solar energy systems and on the heating and cooling of buildings. His current research areas in sustainability are in understanding how the basic concepts underlying sustainability science and resiliency of energy systems and other engineered infrastructures can be operationalized into pragmatic system design and operational decisions.

Mikhail Chester, an associate professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering and senior sustainability scientist, also teaches in the program. Chester was recently invited as one of about 100 nationwide faculty considered leaders in research to participate in the National Academy of Engineering’s 24th annual U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium. The event focused on fostering effective, substantive and inspirational engineering education.

Chester shared his own research of how infrastructure could break down in the face of extreme climate events and ways engineers can build more resilient and reliable infrastructure. He also conducts research to understand how infrastructure affects human behaviors and how engineers of all specialties can design for a more productive, efficient, environmentally and socially responsible future.

As director of the Metis Center, Chester is coordinating research to answer questions of whether our species can shape the world responsibly, rationally and ethically. He and other researchers at ASU are providing the basis for understanding, designing and managing the complex systems humans build alongside natural systems — and how to build them sustainably — through a combination of research, teaching, outreach and public service. The Metis Center’s Resilient Infrastructure Laboratory develops insights and solutions to ensure infrastructure delivers services, protects people and adapts into the future.

A particular strength of the sustainable engineering online master’s program is that it offers students resources beyond the Fulton Schools, such as classes and opportunities for research in the School of Sustainability and research initiatives such as Healthy Urban Environment.

Matthew Fraser, a professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering and senior sustainability scientist, is also a co-director of ASU’s newly launched HUE initiative.

“HUE is seeking to develop, test and deploy novel technologies to help mitigate urban heat and air quality," Fraser said. "We seek to partner with local governments and companies to see the innovative solutions developed at ASU to help mitigate urban heat and air quality — two of the most pressing concerns in urban Maricopa County.”

From sustainable engineering issues affecting ASU’s hometown to infrastructure and process challenges around the world, learning the latest strategies in sustainable engineering can help create a positive future for humanity.

Top photo: The Panama Canal Expansion providers shippers, retailers, manufacturers and consumers more shipping options and service in addition to using less water due to water-savings basins that recycle 60 percent of the water used per transit. Photo courtesy of ACP

Monique Clement

Communications specialist , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-727-1958