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Adopt A Building Project: Utilizing The Existing (Case Studies) To Teach Construction

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Teaching Innovation in Architectural Engineering I

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.161.1 - 11.161.17



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Paper Authors


David Cowan Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

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Dr. David Jan Cowan is an assistant professor of Architectural Engineering Technology and Interior Design at Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, Indianapolis (IUPUI).

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Adopt a Building Project: Utilizing the Existing (Case Studies) To Teach Construction


This paper focuses upon the discussion of using existing buildings to teach commercial construction. In this particular instance, class projects are developed around the study of an existing building project that the students “adopt”. This creates a case study methodology that involves site visits and reviewing existing drawings as a method of learning about commercial construction. Students develop as-built drawings and then use these to create new designs and details. Photographic and journal entries also add to the understanding of how to build and renovate existing structures. The value of this method of learning is assessed through student feedback questionnaires. The data created from this is then analyzed to determine the effectiveness of this as a teaching method versus other, more traditional methods of learning about commercial construction.


Teaching commercial construction to undergraduate students is a complex task as the subject matter is diverse and often intimidating to students when coupled with learning advanced CAD skills. This is compounded in teaching technical design as the incorporation of working drawings into design studios has historically been problematic. Building technology is often an appendage to the studio in many North American architectural schools. Added to this is the necessity of obtaining the complex technical knowledge of how to construct a building.

It has been noted by some (e.g., Grabow and Alexander)1 that “there is the simple, plain, ordinary fact of the necessity for having a first-hand acquaintance with building and making things” when designing and in particular when developing a set of working drawings. This paper explores this notion and discusses the development of a commercial construction course that relies upon first hand experience to teach the fundamentals of renovation design. In doing so it involved students in an “adopt a building” program in which each student used an existing building as a case study for the development of their project. The research questions in this instance were: 1. Is using an adopted building an effective method for teaching commercial construction? 2. Does using an adopted building help in the production of a set of working drawings? 3. What specific drawings in a set of working drawings are most influenced by using an adopted building in a project?

Background Pedagogy

One of the most typical teaching methods found within architectural schools is the project based method, or more appropriately, the solution based method. An apt reference to this is Scott Brown who states: “Studio is the gem of our training”2. Studios with a specific project/solution

Cowan, D. (2006, June), Adopt A Building Project: Utilizing The Existing (Case Studies) To Teach Construction Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--146

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