News Release

A Design-Build Upgrade

March 04, 2013 — Coral Gables — University of Miami architecture students who recently designed and built a sustainable eco-tent for Everglades National Park not only had to concentrate on hammering nails, lining up joists, and sawing perfect lines; they also had to keep a watchful eye toward the skies.

Whenever it rained, the students knew they would have to abandon their outside workspace, leaving bulky and heavy construction materials behind to get soaked and possibly ruined by moisture.

Now, a pair of generous gifts from Coastal Construction Group and First Florida Building Corporation will help give students in the School of Architecture’s Design-Build Studio the covered space that they need to work on projects year round, unaffected by the elements.

Eco Tent

At the eco-tent’s ribbon-cutting ceremony held last December at Everglades National Park, Jim Adamson, right, the Billy E. Miller Design-Build Visiting Critic at the School of Architecture, points out some of the structure’s features.

“Currently, we design-build in the spring, given that there is less of a chance of being rained out,” says Rocco Ceo, professor and director of the Design-Build Studio. “Having a covered space will protect our projects from the elements and allow us to work in the fall and possibly to complete larger projects of longer duration.”

Ceo co-teaches the studio with Jim Adamson, the Billy E. Miller Design-Build Visiting Critic at the School of Architecture, who echoes Ceo’s sentiment that a covered workspace will be a tremendous benefit for students.

Measuring 36 feet by 36 feet and reaching as high as a two-story building, the covered workspace will be located behind the Design-Build Studio’s current construction area—behind one of the School of Architecture’s historic Marion Manley-designed buildings. Open on all four sides, it will have a louvered roof. A hoist will lift and load completed projects onto flatbed trucks, which will be able to easily back into the space.

While the area will primarily be a workspace for Ceo’s Design-Build Studio, it will also fill other needs when not in use, perhaps serving as a covered assembly space for the school’s model shop. “Or the school can use it as an outside jury space or materials testing space,” says Ceo.

UM is reviewing specifications for the project. The gifts that are making it possible are part of Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami.

Tom P. Murphy Jr., founder, chairman, and CEO of Coastal Construction Group, and his son, Tom C. Murphy, M.B.A. ’01, executive vice president of the Miami-based company, presented the gift that will help make the covered workspace possible. Coastal Construction, which supported the School of Architecture since 1995, has also pledged gifts to The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the Miller School of Medicine, the Real Estate Program Fund at the School of Business Administration, and the Legal Corps Fund at the School of Law.

W. Robert Miller, president of First Florida Building Corporation and a 1977 graduate of UM with a degree in architectural engineering, presented the other gift. The donation, given in memory of his father, Billy E. Miller, has funded the Billy E. Miller Design-Build Visiting Critic position that is held by Adamson. Adamson is a founding member of the famous Jersey Devil architecture design-build collaborative and has worked with architecture students on previous projects. Miller has provided support to the Design/Build program for studio expenses over the last several years.

Currently, Ceo’s students are working on an off-the-grid sanitary facility for the owner of an organic farm in Homestead. “The project is for a composting toilet, shower, and sinks for farm laborers,” explains Ceo, noting that the only facilities for the workers are located one and a half miles from their worksite.

Rainwater collection and solar hot-water systems will provide water for showers and sinks, while the toilet will provide composted soil for organic farming. “It’s meant to be a low-tech, affordable solution that could have applications for disaster relief or anyone who is in need of facilities but might be sensitive to the environment,” Ceo says.

Rocco Ceo
Rocco Ceo, top, and students in the School of Architecture’s Design-Build Studio work on the eco-tent that now stands in the Flamingo section of Everglades National Park. His students currently build in an outside workspace.