A learning environment
The primary focus of College Avenue Commons (CAVC) is teaching, and its classrooms are the most sophisticated on campus. Every professor teaches differently, so the classrooms are specialized and flexible.
Most CAVC classrooms are set up in pods, where students can work in teams around suspended screens. The instructor can display a presentation on the main screen, or on all the screens. Or the work on a student’s laptop can be shown on the team’s screen, or on the main screen.
The materials classroom has a sink to mix concrete.
The mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) classroom has high, wooden tables where plans can be unrolled and a digital screen that will lay flat and is big enough to show digital plans. Lectures can be recorded for use in online courses.
BIM labs model industry standards
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is software that helps plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure, and is used by nearly all construction companies.
The BIM lab has a pod set up and a touch-screen display for the instructor. Here students learn to create three-dimensional models of a building’s systems and overlay them to find conflicts.
“It’s the most complicated classroom,” said Allan Chasey, Associate Professor and Program Chair of the Del E. Webb School of Construction. “We wanted to see how far we could push the technology to replicate real working conditions. We can share material instructor to student, student to student. We can even simulate collaborating long distance, like between Los Angeles and New York.”
Chasey said that, at every conference he attends, industry representatives ask how ASU is teaching BIM technology, and when he tells them, they say it is exactly right.
“Students tell me that’s what recruiters are asking about,” Chasey said. “It’s the tool they’re using in the field.”
Working on College Avenue Commons convinced one of Chasey’s former students.
“Ryan Whitt [Assistant Project Manager for Okland Construction] was in my 453 BIM class and was about as obstinate a student as I’ve had,” Chasey said. “He said, ‘I’ll never use this.’ But he worked on this building, and he came back and talked to Chasey’s class and said, ‘I use this every day. It’s the way we build buildings. If you learn one thing, learn this.’ All major companies have BIM departments. It’s the fundamental way they do business.”
Contractors who’ve visited the new building tell Chasey that they’re going to remodel their offices to replicate the classroom design.
Three-story “mixing chamber”
The heart of the CAVC is the three-story “mixing chamber,” a large space with stadium benches and soft seating. The Mixing Chamber provides space for meetings and presentations, and for informal hang-outs and study space. It’s designed so a professor with an office on the fifth floor, and a graduate student working on the third floor can meet in the middle and talk.
“I know the architects and designers wanted the mixing chamber to be a space where faculty, industry and students would come together in impromptu meetings,” said Tim Goyette, alumni and senior project manager at Okland Construction. “I walked in a couple of weeks ago and I couldn’t believe it. Students were sitting on the steps, professors were walking by, people in industry were walking by.
“Sometimes architects are really smart and the spaces they design function just like they wanted them to. This space is just perfect for Del E. Webb.”
The building as a teacher
Built from the ground up as a space for teaching, the CAVC offers lessons of its own.
Interiorly, the heating, cooling and water systems are exposed so students can see how they were installed. Slide-out barn doors reveal “behind-the-wall” models of the framing, wiring and insulation. QR codes (square barcodes) are posted throughout the building and lead to detailed construction information.
Outside, the angle-iron trusses supporting the building’s skin are visible through the windows. Sensors in the skin send real-time data to analyze the building’s environmental performance. And the cast-in-place concrete deck slabs that form the floors are heavily ground and polished, revealing the aggregate in the concrete mix.