Our program dates from the 1960s when the Wood Technology program split-off from the Forestry program in the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management (now the Department of Environmental Conservation) at UMass. The Department and our program have both evolved significantly over the intervening decades. In the 1980s and with a declining forestry industry in Massachusetts, our program refocused on the general field of building materials and their application in residential construction and was renamed Building Materials and Wood Technology (BMATWT). After a period of decline, our program started a growth trajectory that is still increasing today. In 2010, our program name changed to Building and Construction Technology (BCT), our current name, in response to yet another refocusing, now on the entire field of construction (commercial and residential).
We continue to evolve from our beginnings, which were solely focused on the discipline of wood science, to an academic unit that broadly supports teaching and research for the construction industry as a whole including: construction project management, green / high performance building, structural design and engineering, materials and methods, engineered wood products and systems, CAD and BIM, building science, and building energy modeling and assessment. Graduates from our undergraduate and graduate degree programs are employed across the building construction industry, as construction project managers, estimators, design professionals, contractors, building inspectors and auditors, building energy consultants, technical sales associates, retail and wholesale business managers, and researchers, with current starting salaries averaging above $60,000.
As a unit, we are heavily involved in interdisciplinary teaching and research targeted at the built environment. We have strong collaborations with faculty across the engineering and design domains, and many non-BCT students enroll in our Minor or take our courses as electives.
BCT faculty served as core founding members during the development of the first accredited Architecture program at a public University in New England (now the Department of Architecture at UMass). We were also among founding faculty for the School of Earth and Sustainability at UMass, a recent cross-disciplinary effort to engage sustainability-focused faculty from multiple departments and colleges.
Together with the Departments of Architecture, and Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, BCT planned and in 2017 moved into a new building, the Olver Design Building, which is a manifestation of collaboration in the built environment and a showcase for sustainable design and construction at UMass. BCT’s research was used in the construction of this building’s 50,000 sf of upper floors and BCT lobbied successfully to have the Design Building constructed using contemporary heavy-timber methods. We continue to work closely with faculty in ECO, Architecture, Engineering, Computer Science, Polymer Science, and Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, offering classes and conducting collaborative research.
Our undergraduate student body has grown to 250 (from 160 students in 2012). Our graduate student head count has recently increased due to a more streamlined professional MS program and stands now at 15 PhD and MS students (in the Sustainable Building Systems concentration in ECO’s graduate program). We are also planning to offer a standalone professional MS and certificate programs in the coming years.
For more on our history, consult this document as well: Wood science education in a changing world: A case study of the UMASS-Amherst building materials & wood technology program, 1965-2005 by P. Fisette, P. Clouston, D. Damery
We intend to establish BCT as the leading academic unit at UMass (and in Massachusetts) for teaching and research in sustainable construction, building science, advanced building systems, and technology in the built environment.
Overall, construction accounts for 7% of the US gross domestic product (GDP), amounting to a $1.3 Trillion industry. With this economic activity come significant resource demands and it is estimated that buildings globally consume 40% of all energy (construction and operating), 70% of electricity, 40% of raw materials, and 15% of all fresh water. They also account for 40% of all CO2 emissions and 30% of waste.
With world population currently at 7.7 billion and growing just over 1% each year, significant and increasing demands exist worldwide for safe, affordable, and comfortable dwellings.
With our research, teaching, and outreach we intend to make a significant impact by supporting efficient buildings and systems, sustainable and resource-efficient materials, and a healthy and comfortable built environment.
Buildings can become a solution for impending climate change pressures, rather than being the cause of those!