In the construction world, a topping out ceremony celebrates a milestone in the progress of an ongoing project. The event involves placement of a final structural beam in a building and the raising of a live tree to the top of the building to mark that achievement.
While Clemson’s Douthit Hills project involves multiple structures – eight to be exact, officials celebrated the project’s milestone not with a tree, but with an appreciation luncheon for staff and contractors earlier this month. More than 700 people attended the event.
Project manager Mike Parker is excited about the scale of the $212 million project, its progress and what it means for Clemson.
“When it’s all completed, we’re going to be able to offer 1,700 beds to students in seven buildings,” he said. “The eighth building is the hub – the structure that supports all that.”
According to Parker, the hub will house a bookstore, a police substation, a dining hall and other dining experiences. He also said the structure would offer a workout facility similar to Fike Recreation Center. He jokingly called it “Fike East.”
Parker said that Douthit Hills is among the largest projects that the state has ever undertaken. Along with the state-of the-art housing, dining and workout facilities, the new structures represent something even more.
“Academic GPA and retention is increased when students live on campus,” he explained. Bringing students to campus in a more nurtured learning and structured environment can only be good for them.
Vince Burdette is happy with the progress of the construction project. As the general superintendent for Holder Construction, it’s Burdette’s job to keep the project moving on time.
“We’re peaking manpower-wise,” he said. “We’re running at high speed and peak efficiency.” Burdette credits the use of precast concrete in helping speed up the process. Precast concrete is made from reusable molds and is poured and cured offsite. While the product quality and cost is the same, precast products help speed building time and offer cleaner surfaces, which are easier to work with.
Burdette also credits the use of workers and local subcontractors, who he said are loyal to Clemson.
Two of those loyal to the university are Drew Turner and Tony Greene. The pair have reason to be very interested in this project – they are Clemson alumni.
Both men graduated from the university in 2008 with degrees in construction science management (CSM). They even completed their CSM senior project together.
When the opportunity arose for them to come back to their alma mater, they wasted no time.
“It was fantastic,” said Turner. “It was extremely exciting as the project was getting started up. I thought there was the potential to come out and be a part of this. Not only are you having the opportunity to start a new project for the company your work for, but also for your alma mater, so there’s an extra sense of pride in coming to work every day and being a part of this.”
For Turner and Greene, this opportunity offers a chance to become part of Clemson’s history.
“I was so excited,” Greene explained. “I got a phone call saying a job popped up at Clemson. We hadn’t worked together since 2008. Although my hometown is in Georgia, I spent most of my time here at Clemson, so I was ecstatic at the thought of coming back here to work. I’ll be able to drive by for years to come and tell my kids that I got to build these dorms for Clemson.”
The Douthit Hills project is slated to be complete in fall 2018.