CFM professor introduces new construction methods to the Dominican Republic

BYU construction and facilities management professor Brian Capt could change the way construction operates in the Dominican Republic. For the past eight years, he has travelled there annually and has introduced and taught the people of the Dominican Republic about new ways of construction.

BYU students and professors first started to travel to the Dominican Republic when BYU technology and engineering education professor Steve Shumway was invited by electrical engineer Claudina Vargas to teach K-12 students and teachers about science and engineering. During a trip to the United States, Vargas inquired with Capt about possibly helping her to build and design a school in the Dominican Republic. Capt agreed and travelled to the Dominican Republic, where Vargas introduced him to Omar Ramos, an engineering professor at the Technology Institute of Santo Domingo (INTEC).

At this point, Capt began to focus on teaching the students and professors at INTEC more about American styles of construction. Capt introduced Ramos and other professors at INTEC to Building Information Modeling, a way of creating buildings virtually before creating them physically. This technology allows the builders and architects to see any issues the building might have before they construct it, so they don’t have to change anything after the building process begins. This speeds up the building process, makes it safer, and makes it cheaper.   

“Building Information Modeling is what’s changed construction in the United States,” Capt said. “It’s changed construction by getting rid of all the clash and the conflicts that you find.”

At first, Building Information Modeling was met with a lot of debate. The Dominicans believed that their customs were so different that this type of technology could never be utilized. However, Ramos and his wife, who also own a construction management business, have since begun to work on two projects in the Dominican Republic using the system. More people have been able to see the benefits of Building Information Modeling and the effectiveness of it through seeing it in action. Capt said that people on the island are now willing to learn more about it.

“People are starting to see how effective it can be,” Capt said.

Building Information Modeling has proven that it will improve construction on the island. In the Dominican Republic, there is no minimum building code requirement like in the United States. Therefore, their quality assurance is much less and the quality of the buildings is not always as good as it can be. Planning a building through Building Information Modeling first can improve the quality of the building.

This technology is also improving communication between construction workers in the Dominican Republic. Spanish, English, Creole, and French are all spoken on the island, so the builders are not always able to communicate with each other. By being able to see the images of the building through Building Information Modeling, the builders can understand what needs to be done and how the building is supposed to turn out. 

“The quality assurance can be increased and improved as the communication between all the different players is improved, and that’s what Building Information Modeling helps to do,” Capt said.

A small group of six undergraduate students also accompany Capt on his trips. Students need to apply by fall semester to be considered for the 10-day trip in March. The trip allows the students to experience construction in a completely different culture. The students are assigned the task of preparing seminars to present to other students at INTEC, which they prepare from January to March. They teach Dominican students more about how construction works in the United States.

The BYU students also get to see how construction works in the Dominican Republic. They are able to visit construction sites, which are much more labor intensive than in the US. In the US, it is much cheaper to have machines do a lot of construction work. In the Dominican Republic, however, it is much cheaper to have laborers do the work. Capt explained that this can be really helpful to teach the students about the two different markets, and international construction. It can also help them prepare and open up new possibilities for future careers.

“They realize how impactful their education is, and what they can do to really effect change,” Capt said. “A lot of kids have their eyes open to projects internationally and working in international construction.”

Not only do BYU students have the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic, but students from INTEC get to travel to BYU every year as well. They teach BYU students more about their way of construction, and get to visit construction sites in Utah. Capt also sees this as an opportunity to teach the students about LDS culture and beliefs. Whenever the students from INTEC come, he takes them on a tour of Temple Square and on a tour of the Bishop’s Store House.

“Not only do I get a chance to teach them about what we do in construction here, but we also try to teach them about the church and about what we stand for,” Capt said.

Students from INTEC will be returning to BYU campus in September, and Capt looks forward to returning to the Dominican Republic again next year. 

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