Mar 012011

Spring 2011
Norwich Record: Norwich University Alumni Magazine
News Feature


Lessons in Collaboration

A New University Program Integrates Disciplines in Pursuit of a National Honor


In every way possible, Norwich University works hard to prepare its students for life beyond the classroom. The school boasts one of the most rigorous academic environments in the county and holds, as its written mission, the education of students “to make moral, patriotic, efficient, and useful citizens.”

Since 2009, Management Professor Dr Michael Puddicombe has led yet another effort in pursuit of this goal. Dr. Puddicombe is the director of the University’s Center for the Integrated Study of the Built Environment, or CISBE. CISBE’s main objective, as the name denotes, is to integrate the diversity of Norwich’s academic disciplines into one collaborative center of study. More specifically, CISBE stems from Puddicombe’s own experience in the construction industry and his recognition that along with a student’s mastery of one discipline, cooperation between the disciplines is as equally important to learn.

Puddicombe, it might be said, is a man with a past; a past, it so happens, perfectly suited for his work with CISBE. Prior to obtaining his PhD in Operations Management, Puddicombe worked in construction, doing, as he says, “everything from digging ditches to owning and developing projects.” It was through this experience that Puddicombe faced, firsthand, the construction industry’s often debilitating lack of cooperation. “Architects, engineers, and contractors, like George Bernard Shaw said of England and the US, are people separated by a common language,” Puddicombe said. “We really don’t know each other. So we started the construction management program with the idea that we’d get everybody working together.”

Now, under the auspices of CISBE, students from Norwich’s three construction disciplines —architecture, engineering, and construction management — have collaboratively completed one project, are working on a second, and next year will begin a critical third.

The first project, the Energy Mobile Building Arts Research Center (EMBAC) was completed in the summer of 2010 and stands in Disney Field, near the Armory. The rectangular, box- like structure is a solar-powered research lab designed to be transported by trailer and to serve as a promotional tool for both Norwich and the project’s focus on sustainable design.

The second project, the RAE(V) house, pronounced ‘rave,’ is a solar-powered house that architecture Professor Matt Lutz expects to start building in early 2011. The design of the home was Norwich’s 2011 entry into the Solar Decathlon, a biennial design competition hosted by the US Department of Energy. Through the competition, 20 US schools are chosen to design and build a cost-effective, energy-efficient, solar-powered home, which, to make it even more challenging, must be transported and erected on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Norwich’s 2011 entry was not selected, spurring students and faculty to set their sights on 2013 and to use their work on EMARC and RAE(V) to influence, inspire and inform the 2013 entry.

“In the long run, we are going to come out much stronger as a result of what we are doing,” said Puddicombe. “When you have an architecture student, an engineering student, and construction management student actually working together on a physical project and realizing how their decisions impact each other, it is a learning experience that just can’t be replicated.”