Cooperative research center focuses on critical construction needs

Cooperative research center focuses on critical construction needs

By Sheila Galatowitsch

Tempe, AZ — An industry/university cooperative research center, which will serve as the international focal point for construction-related research, education and technology transfer for advanced technology facilities, is underway at Arizona State University`s Del E. Webb School of Construction (Tempe, AZ).

The goal of the Advanced Technology Facilities Construction Research Center is to improve the design and construction delivery process of advanced technology facilities, says Assistant Professor Allan D. Chasey, Ph.D., P.E. “The center`s mission is to develop a total research and education program that covers the lifecycle of a contamination-free manufacturing facility — from programming to design to construction and startup, including economical operation, maintenance, retrofit and decommission,” Chasey says. The center will be housed in existing campus facilities.

The construction industry has been challenged to keep up with technology industries, not only in technical elements but in the processes and tight purity, particulate and environmental controls, says Bob Predmore, a founding member of the center, and an advanced technology consultant with Predmore Program Management (Scottsdale, AZ). “Besides technical knowledge is the understanding of cost and schedule impacts driven by technology companies. That`s a whole new construction process, and the construction industry is being forced into it by the needs of the market-driven technology companies,” he says.

The goal is that the “research center will become more knowledgeable than individuals working in industry. The students will be years ahead, developing new, forward-thinking processes for building advanced technology facilities,” Predmore says.

Industry backers include manufacturers such as Motorola and Intel, several major design and construction firms, and suppliers. The companies are contributing financial support and personnel to serve on technical advisory committees. Organizers want to raise $2.5 million to fund the operation of the center`s first five years. Member sponsorship levels range from $1,000 to $100,000 annually and offer varying levels of access to information and other benefits.

Work will formally begin in August when the first set of research programs is in place at the school. A reception was held in April for 15 founding members who contributed money to get the center started. Chasey anticipates that as many as 25 companies will become founders of the center.

As a founding member, Intel has committed $75,000 a year for the next five years and will also provide several people to the effort. Art Stout, manager of the facilities technologies group at Intel (Chandler, AZ), says that having a research center dedicated to construction issues is critical to the industry.

The center will “give us more contractors that are more competitive and at a higher skill level. We want to have construction companies be a part of this center and learn from it so that when they come to our project, they have just as much knowledge of the cleanroom products, process and protocols as we do — ideally even more,” Stout says. “We feel like we spend money training and helping them create new ways to do business better. We would prefer that the industry bring their suggestions to us because they are the experts in the business.”

The center evolved from the Del E. Webb School of Construction`s courses on cleanroom design and construction, which were initiated two years ago at the urging of industry. A 43-member industry/university taskforce that helped develop the courses felt the time was right to launch a research center, Chasey says. “The center grew out of realizing that we needed to do something more than teach classes.”

The taskforce has started several working groups to develop the center`s research agenda, structure and fund-raising strategy, and to build alliances with other organizations, such as the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology and Sematech. The center differs from these other industry organizations in its focus on construction topics rather than process topics. An executive committee and industry advisory board will ultimately guide the center`s operation and determine the research agenda, Chasey says.

Although no agenda has been announced, topics for research might include energy conservation, water reclamation, air management to improve yield, optimization of material specifications, expedited construction techniques, facility construction benchmarks, the impact of 300 mm fabrication and retrofit vs. new construction decisions. Research results will be shared first among center members, then released to the industry after approval by the industry advisory board.

“We are trying to develop that niche of facility delivery so that when people think, `Where do I find information or get research done on clean manufacturing environments?` Arizona State University is where they will go,” Chasey says.

To become a member of the research center or to participate in the monthly meetings of the cleanroom taskforce, call Chasey at (602) 965-7437.


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