Auburn University dedicates new Robins and Morton Construction Field Laboratory

Published: March 04, 2020
Font Size

Article body

With its high ceilings, protection from the elements and real-life construction office setting, the Robins & Morton Construction Field Lab is giving Auburn University students the real-world training they need to succeed after graduation.

“The facility that Robins & Morton has given us is unique among construction schools,” said McWhorter School of Building Science Head Richard Burt of the new lab that was dedicated on Wednesday at 1160 W. Samford Ave. “I’m not aware of any comparable facility for teaching and students’ hands-on activities.”

The lab is the result of a gift of more than $1.3 million from construction firm Robins & Morton. On Wednesday, faculty, staff and leadership with Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction joined representatives from Robins & Morton to celebrate a dedication of the new facility. Unrivaled in size and capability, the construction field lab features a high-bay building with four bays, two of which are fully enclosed and protected from the elements. With 30-foot ceilings, the facility gives students the opportunity to build taller structures that might need to utilize scaffolding. There is storage for both tools and materials, and the onsite classroom holds as many as 40 students. The classroom space was modeled after a real-life construction management setting.

“We’re not teaching them to be masons or carpenters,” said Burt, “but I think it’s really important that our students understand fully what the construction trades do: how difficult it is, the skills needed, the environment you have to work in.”

In addition to hands-on training, the field lab will be used for safety training and for service-learning projects.

“Currently, we’re using this as a base and a prefabrication area for the field lab class, but we also teach safety out of there,” said Burt. “Students will be doing lab work in their estimating classes and mechanical classes, and faculty will be able to use the facility for research.”

Bill Morton, chairman and CEO of Robins & Morton, said the facility will go a long way in helping students put classroom theory into practice.

“We believe getting field experience is critical to achieving a successful career in our industry,” he said. “The field lab allows the students the opportunity to combine experience in the field with a formal classroom education.”

Robins & Morton has a long history of supporting Auburn’s Building Construction program.

“The construction field lab is more than a facility, it is the continuation of a long partnership between the McWhorter School of Building Science and Robins & Morton to continuously advance the education of tomorrow’s construction management leaders,” said Auburn alumnus Mike Thompson, vice president of Operational Support and Planning at Robins & Morton.

Burt said he is grateful for all Robins & Morton has done for the Building Science program.

“They’ve supported us by hosting field trips so the students can get to see what a field superintendent does. This field lab is sort of a natural extension of that, actually allowing students to be able to use their own hands to build and construct and learn.”

The College of Architecture, Design and Construction embraces the land grant mission of Auburn University by actively seeking ways to address and anticipate the critical issues of the region, the nation, and the world. The College's highly regarded programs in architecture, industrial design, landscape architecture and construction management as well as unique off-campus programs such as Rural Studio, Urban Studio and the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Program expand the boundaries of the classroom and offer an unmatched educational experience.