SUU Students Provide Architectural Design as Service Learning

Published: September 23, 2010 | Read Time: 4 minutes

Students in Southern Utah University’s Department of Engineering Technology & Construction Management are getting hands-on experience through the fledgling Architectural Design Concept Service, which brings students’ designs to southern Utah entities planning new buildings.

The service exists for two reasons, said John Sargent, an adjunct instructor who heads the project.

First, it provides “real-world” design opportunities for SUU students interested in architectural design through SUU’s CAD/CAM Engineering Technology program.

Second, it provides basic architectural design services for southern Utah communities and organizations that may lack resources or may not have developed their design concepts.

“We wanted to get the students involved in projects with real clients that would challenge them,” Sargent said.

The service combines students from SUU classes, as well as independent-study students interested in extra work and applicable professional experience.
The project began during the Fall 2008 semester, when Sargent and his students worked with SUU’s School of Business.

“We were approached by Dean Carl Templin to develop some ideas for a new building,” Sargent said.

A year later, SUU students worked under Sargent’s direction with Town Manager Bryce Haderlie and other staff from the Town of Brian Head to design a new public safety building.

When that project was complete, Sargent spoke to Wes Curtis, SUU vice president for Government Relations and Regional Services, and the discussion led to more community contacts across southwest Utah for the ADCS program.

Sargent said the collaboration with Government Relations & Regional Service has been productive for the design concept service.

“The Regional Services folks have both been very supportive and have gotten us in contact with a wider range of people than we would have had the opportunity to meet,” he said.

Sargent said he is exploring the possibility of taking SUU students to southern Utah high schools and making presentations of their work. Another possibility is having his students actually build winning designs.

“Across the country, there are architecture programs that do similar projects and have been very successful,” he said.

One of the contacts provided through Government Relations and Regional Services is Dean Cox, public information officer for Washington County.

Cox said he learned about ADCS when Brian Cottam, associate director of Regional Services, mentioned the service during a presentation to the Five County Association of Governments’ Steering Committee.

Through Cottam, Cox contacted Sargent in December 2009 and began discussing the design of Washington County’s new Justice Center.

“Sargent did an outstanding job getting students together to work on this,” Cox said.

The students presented their designs to Washington County leaders, who were impressed to the point that they adopted concepts from each group in the final design. The county broke ground on the justice center in August.

“I think it worked out well for everyone involved,” Cox said.

Along with the Washington County Justice Center, the service worked with the Town of Rockville to design a new town office building. The town council used the project to secure funding, and Sargent said the town will advertise for bids soon.

SUU’s Office of Government Relations & Regional Services has worked with Sargent to put the design service in touch with prospective clients, as well as provide funding to the fledgling program.

“All four projects last school year came through contacts from our office,” Cottam said. “We try to assist the client and John however they need. It’s a great partnership between faculty and staff at SUU and the communities and organizations we serve.”

The service is Sargent’s way to get his students real-world experience, Cottam said.

“It allows for involvement of both new and experienced students,” he added.

Cottam said working on a project helps students decide whether architectural work is what they want to do while providing a valuable service to the region.

“What John and his students are doing is a perfect example of service learning and community service, both of which are a priority at SUU,” he said.

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