A team from the Department of Construction Science and Management finished fourth in a prestigious National Association of Homebuilders Student Competition in which students designed plans for an entire residential community.

Erin Smith and Carli Hurd

Erin Smith, left, and Carli Hurd were the leaders of a Clemson Construction Science and Management team that won fourth place in a national competition that required students to design a residential community. Image Credit: College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

“It was, without a doubt, the biggest accomplishment in my entire life – other than getting into Clemson,” said senior team member Carli Hurd.

The Clemson team was one of only 37 university teams selected for the competition, held Feb. 19-21 during the 2019 International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.

The Clemson group improved from a 10th place finish in 2018.

“That was a huge accomplishment,” said Erin Smith, also a senior. “We really looked at the winners from last year to see what made them stand apart.”

National Association of Homebuilders Grant

Clemson also came back from Las Vegas with a big check.

The National Housing Endowment awarded a $100,000 Homebuilding Education Leadership Program (HELP) Grant to Clemson University, which will be distributed over five years. Under the direction of Assistant Professor Jason Lucas, the HELP Grant will be used to bring courses specific to residential construction into the curriculum of the Department of Construction Science and Management.

The HELP Grant will also support industry outreach and engagement efforts between the department and the residential construction industry. The award was formally announced and presented on Feb. 20 to Lucas and members of the Clemson University National Association of Homebuilders Student Chapter attending the International Builders Show.

Designing a community

The National Association of Homebuilders Student Competition began last fall with a challenge: Design a hypothetical development in Coweta, Oklahoma, about 25 minutes southeast of Tulsa. All of the teams were assigned the same parcel of land and given the same budget. The team had to develop a community plan, publicly present it at the 2019 International Builders’ Show and then answer questions from five judges.

The entire process at Clemson was student-driven, with some advice from Professor Lucas, the team’s coach.

A Clemson Construction Science and Management team receives its fourth-place award at a national competition.

The Clemson team receives its fourth-place award at the homebuilders’ student competition. Pictured, from left to right, are: Anders Ike, Zach Miles, Hudson Orders, Erin Smith, Troy Clifford, Carli Hurd, Douglas Singletary, Noah Fuller, Max Overly and faculty coach Jason Lucas. Image Credit: Department of Construction Science and Management

Team members named their hypothetical community Cypress Creek and dubbed themselves Calhoun Ridge Developers. They wrote a 90-page development plan and had to figure out how to market the community, ensuring that it would be profitable.

Hurd and Smith, both 22, took leadership roles on the team, meeting last summer to discuss ideas and divvy up assignments among the other members. “We all have different strengths,” said Hurd.

Smith, for instance, chose the home designs while Hurd figured out how the houses would be placed on the land in the community.

Smith said a thorough market analysis of the area and its home sales inspired what kind of homes should be built there: “What’s the draw to move eight or 10 miles outside the city? Are the schools good? How much can potential homebuyers afford?”

The team chose six home designs, ranging in price from $200,000 to $250,000, for a total of 285 homes in the entire development.

The Clemson team then added some creative touches. For one, they put swimming pools on some properties. “No one else had pools in their neighborhoods,” Smith said.

Confronted with creek beds and wetlands on the site, the Clemson team created green spaces with trails.

Along with allowing homeowners to choose common upgrades such as hardwood floors or granite countertops, one option particularly impressed judges: storm shelters under garages for an extra $3,000 per home.

“We thought, this is Oklahoma,” Smith said.

It’s that kind of creative thinking that helped the Clemson team advance in the rankings.

In addition to Hurd and Smith, the Clemson team included seniors Max Overly and Douglas Singletary, and juniors Anders Ike, Hudson Orders, Troy Clifford, Noah Fuller and Zach Miles.

Job-ready students

Students from the Department of Construction Science and Management at Clemson are courted with job offers before they graduate. In fact, a fall career fair attracts more companies to recruit students than the total number of graduates in the department.

During their time at the University, the students gain real-world experience through 800 required hours of internship work.

As interns, students are paid and treated much like the employees of a company, Smith said. “And internships really can turn into job offers.”

“Internships really help you figure out what you want to do with your life,” Hurd added.

Both Hurd and Smith had high praise for the Construction Science and Management Department.

“The curriculum is so tailored to the real world, and the idea of the Clemson Family is very prevalent in our major,” Hurd said. “The professors all know our names and they’ll always make time for us.”

No surprise, both Hurd and Smith already have jobs waiting on them.

Hurd, a native of Moultrie, Georgia, will work for PulteGroup, Inc. in Charlotte as an assistant field manager for new residential developments.

Smith, who was born in Frederick, Maryland, will work for Choate Construction in Charleston – a commercial developer specializing in schools and a variety of other projects.

“It’s a good time to be a female in construction,” Smith said, noting that women make up less than 10 percent of construction workers. “We’re being seen as equals and our credibility is respected. They say women can bring a different and valuable perspective onto the job site.”

After four years of education and internships, both Hurd and Smith said they plan to take off a month after graduation in May.

“I’m going to allow myself to have a little bit of fun and sleep a lot,” Hurd said.