Students in the new course “Construction Management Practices in Eastern Europe” began their studies early last summer in the heart of Bulgaria, spending two weeks examining historic and modern construction sites throughout the country.
The trip began with a visit to the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in the capital city of Sofia, where students participated in a colloquium with engineering students and faculty focused on engineering education in Bulgaria and United States. They visited nine construction sites with active infrastructure, commercial, residential development and industrial projects. Students met with engineers, architects, developers, construction managers, superintendents and construction safety officers. They also explored three historic sites and the evolution of construction from Trachian, Roman and Byzantine times to today.
Arthur Qiming Wang ’18, a participating civil engineering student, says, “Unlike in lectures, we were able to use all of our senses to observe, to feel and to understand the real engineering practice. It helped us to link everything we have learned so far and try to apply it in the real world.
“Students gained perspective of engineering and construction practices, as well as construction materials availability and project delivery methods,” says Professor of Practice Svetoslava Todorova. For example, in the U.S., steel is the preferred material for commercial construction of multistory structures. In Bulgaria, and throughout Europe, the first choice is reinforced concrete. “They see that there can be different practices, different materials, different regulations, and still they produce a building that is high quality,” Todorova says.
While students studied contrasts in construction techniques, they were also intrigued by similarities. A retaining wall from a Trachian site dating to the 12th century BCE was created with a locking system in which two stones were carved in order to make an opening, which was then filled with melted iron, with lead poured over the top to prevent rust.“A similar construction technique was used for the stone walls of the Erie Canal,” Todorova says.
Todorova considers learning about practices of another part of the world a valuable experience for students. “I think it opens their minds about how things can be done differently,” she says. “It gives them an opportunity to think creatively.”