Purdue University's Disaster Restoration Specialization to Raise the Bar in Education and the Industry
June 30, 2008
Purdue University is a Land Grant institution with 39,000 students. Best known for its engineering, technology, agriculture, business and pharmacy programs, Purdue’s Department of Building Construction Management is also a highly regarded, if somewhat lesser known, segment of the university.
BCM has more than 3,500 alumni working nationwide in the building industry, and currently boasts 500 undergraduate students. The program offers Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science degrees, and is accredited by the American Council for Construction Education.
Over the years the program has positioned itself to meet several focused market needs within the construction industry, offering six areas of specialization – some of which are ‘one-of-a-kind’ – to students. The six areas are:
- Residential Construction Management
- Electrical Construction Management
- Mechanical Construction Management
- Demolition Construction Management
- Healthcare Construction Management
- Disaster Restoration and Reconstruction
In order for the BCM to maintain its ACCE accreditation, students in any BCM specialization must complete their core commercial construction management courses as well as two technical electives and a final “capstone” course focusing on a specialization-related project. Hence, students in the disaster restoration and reconstruction specialty must complete a final project related to disaster response or restoration.
In addition to completing the three required specialization courses, students must obtain a minimum of 400 hours of their work experience in a specialization-related position while obtaining their required 800 hours of work experience. Subsequently, each year the disaster restoration industry will see an influx of college students seeking summer employment.
Key Features of the DR SpecializationJust like any industry-driven initiative, the disaster restoration specialization was conceptualized in response to the growing need for filling future management positions. Given the clear nuisances and diversity of situations faced in the world of disaster restoration, the development of a degree program such as this to a great degree involves industry partners. This unique management specialization should provide a source of management personnel with well-rounded, industry-wide knowledge of the science and technology of disaster response/restoration, as well as the management of people, finances and processes common to post-disaster situations. These graduates will be able to function in responsible contractor, owner, insurance or regulatory career positions. The specialization should also enhance the image of the disaster restoration industry through an accredited college degree offering.
This BSBCM concentration will expose students to the truly dynamic character of disaster restoration by focusing on more reactive management skills vs. the proactive skills of traditional construction management. As the program evolves, it is envisioned that the students’ education will provide combined knowledge of the built environment and disaster restoration challenges and solutions. Students will learn techniques and strategies to respond to multi-scale disasters. The program will address building environmental issues, building safety, demolition and removal of damaged and destroyed buildings, and methods to building repair and renovation.
The Big Picture - Global OpportunitiesThe DR specialization will provide the opportunity for professional and continuing education programs for contractors as well as insurance adjusters, documentation and dissemination of best practices, workshops and seminars. It will also establish a direct conduit for placing students in internships and full-time positions within the restoration sector. This linkage will inevitably reduce the academic-industry gap, and result in many positive outcomes for all parties.
In addition, this concentration enables BCM to develop research and reporting in areas that align neatly with the Demolition specialization. It is envisioned that the two faculty leaders in these specializations will provide BCM the potential to become recognized as expert in the field of building forensics. The two areas would work closely together in post-disaster audits, in which forensic building evaluations would take place, and create research opportunities in areas such as material response; structural response; systems response; infrastructure response; building salvage and demolition, and damage assessment. All these areas could support graduate students and, ultimately, provide a mechanism for annual reports disseminated to industry partners, from insurance companies to building materials manufacturers to other academic institutions. The specialization also has the potential for securing related FEMA and Department of Homeland Security grants.
After more than 10 years gathering support and funding for this unique area of BCM, it took another two years of careful searching to secure a faculty member with expert experience in the disaster restoration industry to lead it. Dr. Randy S. Rapp, a registered professional engineer, brings more than 30 years of construction experience to the position, from his beginnings as a construction platoon leader with the U.S. Army in the early 1970s to his most recent position as deputy program general manager in Iraq and Kuwait for Kellogg, Brown & Root’s Gulf Region Division Oil Program.
As the program continues to develop and mature, there are numerous opportunities for professional disaster restoration contractors to participate and help make the course offerings the best possible. Serving as guest speakers; providing potential course materials; aiding in the development of related textbooks; offering or sponsoring field trip opportunities; and providing support for student activities, such as travel to industry events, are just some of the ways industry professionals can help support and encourage the growth of the program.
The DR specialization of Building Construction Management would not be possible without the support of a number of sponsors. Each of the following companies or individuals has made a commitment of $150,000 over a 10-year period to the program:
- Advantage Marketing
- Claude Blackburn
- Disaster Kleenup International
- Dri-Eaz Products
- Evans Garment Restoration
- Servicemaster Clean
- Bridgepoint Systems
Dr. Rapp is developing the courses with industry advisory council members this fall. The first courses will be offered in the spring semester of 2009.