Building for the future: Undergrad construction program completes transition to CEE

Monday, February 29, 2016

(Photo: Rob Felt)

The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering began an important new chapter in its century-long history in fall 2015 when Georgia Tech’s undergraduate building construction curriculum officially became part of the civil and environmental engineering program.

With the change, all undergraduates who wish to study construction will earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, marrying the technical excellence the School is known for with a broad array of courses specifically tailored to construction engineering and management careers.

“If you want to be part of the construction industry, you have to do it within the context of the civil and environmental engineering program, which, I think is a good thing,” said Reginald DesRoches, professor and Karen and John Huff School chair. “In addition to getting the technical depth of a civil engineering degree, students will have an opportunity to get the breadth classes that are important for working in the construction industry.”

Those courses will include construction management, construction law, accounting, and real estate — classes that, traditionally, have not been offered within the School.

The construction program’s shift strengthens the bonds between the School and its partners in Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture, combining the academic forces of the two units to provide a program rich in experience and fundamentals taught by faculty from both areas: Baabak Ashuri, Daniel Castro, Yong Cho, Russell Gentry and Iris Tien among them.

Construction industry leaders said the consolidated program will better serve students and give companies a single source of highly qualified, well educated new talent from Georgia Tech.

“The overall strength, in terms of size, ranking, etc., of the CEE program is a huge advantage for students looking for jobs,” said Brent Reid, CEO of Atlanta-based Winter Construction, and a member of a newly established advisory board for the School’s construction program. “The rigor of the CEE program is known throughout the industry. This is a big advantage.”

“We hear from industry leaders all the time that they like students to have a technical background, an engineering background, in their coursework,” DesRoches said, “while also having the other classes that are specifically important to practice construction engineering and management.”

DesRoches said students who graduate from the program will be well served with a foundation in the broader areas of civil and environmental engineering, including structures, water, geotechnics, transportation, and environmental issues.

“You want to understand how reinforced concrete and steel structures work, how buildings operate, what allows a building to stand up, how these things are constructed.

“Those are the technical aspects that are part of the basis of a civil and environmental engineering degree,” he said.

This year marks the end of a three-year transition for the building construction program, ensuring that all current students could finish their studies unaffected by the changes.