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Construction Management Students Help Rebuild Mantua Block


RTP Mantua Block Build

Sidewalk replacing, kitchen floor installing, base trimming, carpentry making, ceiling repairing and managing to save concrete from three pouring rains sound like a month-long project; but volunteers from the College of Engineering, including students from the construction management program got by all those tasks and beyond within one day.

On Saturday, May 10, 2014, 15 volunteers from the construction management program, 12 members of the 2014 Associated School of Constructions team as well as faculty and staff of the university participated in renovating a house at 3832 Fairmount Avenue. The trip was part of the Mantua Block Build project, a construction-centric program co-organized between the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement and Rebuilding Together Philadelphia (RTP). The program has received support from President John A. Fry as well as Chaka Fattah, the U.S. representative for Pennsylvania’s second congressional district.

“Walking away from this event has given me a new perspective on teamwork for the greater good,” Sean Smith, a construction management sophomore, wrote in an email. 

“Getting to see our student body from Drexel University work hand and hand with the homeowners of Mantua enlightens the true meaning of community. A strong, committed and driven group of individuals can really change the landscape of our beautiful city, Philadelphia,” Smith continued.

The entire team, consisting of four crews, was under the supervision of Associate Clinical Professor and Program Director, Robert Muir, Ph.D., PE from the construction management program. The volunteers took responsibility in a myriad of tasks, including replacing over 200 square feet of concrete sidewalk, installing vinyl flooring, doors, trim and handrails, repairing ceiling, bricks and drywall.

One of the volunteers, George Kamaratos, a construction management senior, oversaw and worked with a carpentry crew on door repairing, outdoor balusters and handrails.

“One of the best parts of this experience was that we were able to apply our practical knowledge of construction tasks as well as what we have learned in our CMGT classes to come together as a group to work out issues and learn from each other. It was great to see how we could build on each other's ideas and also to see that students were motivated to get the job done correctly,” Kamaratos shared.

One major and unanticipated challenge that the team faced was completing the concrete and protecting it from three showers.

“[The team] demolished the concrete and broke it up with jack hammers. They worked very fast-paced, very hard, all day long, breaking the concrete then mixing it with the drum mixer on the site. They placed the concrete and then they started finishing it,” Muir said.

He continued, “In the middle of finishing the concrete, we got a rain shower. So we held plastic up in the air so it didn’t touch the concrete and that was enough to keep the rain off of it.”

After getting through the first round of the inclement weather, the team encountered more rain and had to do similar things to shield the concrete.

Muir said, “The third event wasn’t a shower, it was a monsoon. The sky opened up, it was pouring. It rained really heavily. We watched the concrete being washed away down the gutter. It was really demoralizing. But to our guys’ credit, they stayed there and worked very hard to save the concrete.”

Some members continued working at the site until 7:30 p.m., while they were expected to stay only at 4:00 p.m.

RTP Mantua Block Build was an essential experience for participants to hone, not only construction-related skills, but also leadership.

In Muir’s perspective, the project was beneficial because students could learn about giving back and paying forward, sharpen their hands-on skills about some tasks that they had yet to expose to as well as participate in civic engagement activities.

In the long run, Drexel University will continue to be engaged with RTP, according to Muir.

“President Fry puts a very high priority in civic engagement and supporting the neighborhood, being good neighbors. That’s part of the strategic plan. And so we’re following his marching orders and doing what we can and we’re able to because we have people with talent and skills in construction. We can fulfill part of the university’s strategic objectives of civic engagement,” Muir said.

Rebuilding Together Philadelphia is a non-profit organization whose projects are to bring volunteers and communities together to provide better accommodation and regenerate neighborhoods for low-income residents in the community.