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WCU students help with Cullowhee church plans

The competition between Western Carolina University students to win a building contract at a Cullowhee church was just for fun, but the construction ideas and issues they pointed out recently were real — and appreciated.


“It was eye opening for us to see their presentations,” said Steve White, a member of the board at Cullowhee United Methodist Church, which plans to start construction of a nearly 10,000-square-foot addition this winter or spring. “There are so many aspects to be considered.”

As part of a senior Capstone project, four groups of students in the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology assessed a building project that would double the size of the church. The students conducted church site visits, researched costs, developed construction schedules, and considered contract and cost control system preparations. They addressed challenges such as how to build the addition while keeping the facility open for daily use for a preschool and church services.

The project required the students to synthesize everything they have learned in the classroom and apply it to the “real-world” in a way that would benefit the community.

“The opportunity to be involved with real clients on a proposed project, especially here on campus, completes their learning,” said Craig Capano, an associate professor of construction management who has more than 25 years in professional practice. “How they solve the owners’ problems while planning the projects to stay within budget and on completion schedules are their objectives. In the process, the church receives answers to some of its questions and concerns related to the project, and it gives them a better understanding of what to expect when the professionals begin their work.”

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The students shared their findings and proposals during 15-minute presentations to faculty members and the architect, contractor and church members in December.

They estimated total project costs between nearly $1 million and $1.2 million. Other suggestions for the project included temporary fencing, relocating a playground, building a retaining wall, asbestos abatement, shuttling construction workers to an already congested parking site, rerouting the well-beaten path Western students use through the property, and planning a culvert for an underground creek.

“We know where the underground creek starts, and we know where it ends, but we don’t know where it goes in between,” said David Ray, a senior from Marion.

The project was interesting and challenging with multiple unknown factors, said David Buckner, a senior from Raleigh, who is looking forward to beginning work with a construction firm in Wilmington after graduation.

“This type of service learning integrated into the construction management program is a win-win for both,” Capano said.

For more information contact Craig Capano at 828.227.2438 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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