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Senior Design projects help effort to revitalize Indianapolis neighborhood

Students in Purdue’s Construction Engineering and Management Senior Design course have partnered with Brookside Community Church in Indianapolis to help develop transitional housing for ex-offenders who are re-entering society. This collaboration is a result of a new and improved course format developed by course instructor Brandon Fulk and PhD candidate Kyubyung Kang, which puts real-world projects into the hands of students.
CEM seniors enter Brookside Community Church in Indianapolis for a meeting with stakeholders

Students in Purdue’s Construction Engineering and Management Senior Design course have partnered with Brookside Community Church in Indianapolis to help develop transitional housing for ex-offenders who are re-entering society. This collaboration is a result of a new and improved course format developed by course instructor Brandon Fulk and PhD candidate Kyubyung Kang, which puts real-world projects into the hands of students.

“We want to make sure our students are getting real experience on a project and that they’re invested in it,” says Fulk. “We’ve found that in past years, seniors would take an existing project that’s already been completed and develop their own design for the same project. It’s a challenge to be creative and excited about developing a plan for a project that’s already been done, so we want to change that.”

The objective of the current projects in Indianapolis is to work alongside Brookside Community Church to produce deliverables that allow them to begin the construction of housing developments that will bring more stability to the neighborhood. Seniors in the course met with stakeholders to kick off the semester and determine their needs before getting to work.

According to Pastor David Cederquist, over 65 percent of the housing in Brookside is owned by out-of-state and out-of-city owners, and one-third of the housing is abandoned and continues to create a blight in the neighborhood. By building new housing for community members in need, the church wants to help transform the area.

Brookside Community Church owns several empty and abandoned lots in the community that CEM students will help redesign

“Brookside Community Church owns several empty lots,” says Cederquist. “We plan to take the concepts [to build on these lots] and rough cost estimates produced by Purdue’s Construction Engineering and Management students and begin sharing the vision with partners and funders to see these concepts become a reality.”  

Over the past semester, two teams of students explored designs for mixed-use buildings to be used as transitional housing for men re-entering society in Indianapolis after incarceration, and five teams worked to create plans for single-family homes that will be used to break the cycle of generational poverty in the Brookside neighborhood. Teams produced conceptual designs, construction schedules, budgets, and pre-construction plans.

“I love this project because it veers away from the hypotheticals we’re used to working with in other classes,” says Annie Gassner, CEM senior and Project Manager of the mixed-use housing teams. “We are focusing on real people with a real need. We’re developing a project that will positively impact people’s lives in Brookside. I believe that having a real mission that makes a difference in the community is the best motivator in any project because it elicits a unique passion in the team members involved.”

CEM seniors present their final designs to stakeholders at the end of the semester

Seniors presented their deliverables to leaders of Brookside Community Church during final design review at the end of November and received positive feedback with constructive recommendations for how the next CEM Senior Design cohort can improve the housing concepts.

“We can’t even begin to explain how thankful we are for the work of these seniors,” says Cederquist. “Brandon Fulk and Kyubyung Kang have blessed us tremendously. To have Purdue University’s Construction Engineering and Management program believe in the vision of what we are doing is an encouragement as we seek to do good work in our neighborhood.”

Moving forward, a few CEM students will complete an independent study course in the spring which will involve working with the stakeholders to make adjustments and finalize conceptual designs based on feedback given in November. The next group of seniors to take the Senior Design course will design buildings for other locations in Brookside. Fulk, the course instructor, anticipates having an ongoing relationship with Brookside Community Church while seniors help turn their vision of a more stable, safer neighborhood into a reality.