Polytechnic professors build construction-focused YouTube channel

The BoilerBuilt Construction channel on YouTube

In January 2018, the Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s Mark Zimpfer, assistant professor of practice in the School of Construction Management Technology (SCMT), and Luciana Debs, assistant professor in SCMT, received a grant from the National Housing Endowment to develop a new YouTube channel dedicated to residential construction. The purpose of this channel would be to bring real-world construction lessons to classrooms in middle school, high school and college. In high schools alone, millions of students in career and technical education would benefit from the videos.

BoilerBuilt Construction on YouTube“When we pitched this idea to the National Housing Endowment, we knew that the thousands of instructors at all levels of education had to spend a lot of time searching for videos from multiple sources,” said Zimpfer, who leads the BoilerBuilt production team. “We wanted to build the resource these educators need, and that’s what we did.”

Zimpfer and Debs used the grant to create BoilerBuilt, a YouTube channel that takes the viewer through the sequence of construction events required on a residential job site. No ads, no how-to instructions, just a spotlight on the interconnectedness of all of the trades that work together to build a home.

“If you can’t go to the job, let’s bring the job to the classroom,” said Zimpfer. “Instructors can use BoilerBuilt’s onsite immersion videos to show the entire process, from breaking ground to handing the keys to the owner, or they can select only what they need to bring the job sequence to life for their students.”

Today, BoilerBuilt boasts more than 85 videos that focus on the key components of residential construction, with almost 20 more videos in various stages of production. BoilerBuilt playlists also include interviews with young professionals in the construction industry, information on construction surveying, and conversations with industry professionals. Thirty-eight universities already have expressed interest in the channel.

“Not every university has a construction lab like Purdue,” said Zimpfer. “We provide a better way for other instructors to bring the jobsite to life — the people, the materials and how the job is done.”

“The BoilerBuilt channel is a repository of information for students of any level involved in the built environment disciplines,” added Debs. “Students in architecture, engineering and interior design can benefit from visualizing how activities happen on site.”

"Foundation - Vapor Barriers under Slab" on the BoilerBuilt Construction channel

Construction ahead: expect delays

Zimpfer and Debs are the primary team members on the BoilerBuilt project, along with a video consultant. All of the videos they have created to date include closed captions, and most include Spanish subtitles. Students majoring in construction management technology provide feedback and even collaborate on some of the work, including developing the narrative of the videos and organizing the YouTube channel itself.

Zimpfer, who has worked in home construction since he was 16 years old, was shocked by the sheer scale of the BoilerBuilt project.

“When you break the job down into its individual pieces and show every step, it’s a giant project,” explained Zimpfer.

But the size of the project’s to-do list was not the only surprise in store for Zimpfer. When Covid-19 brought the video project to a near standstill, True Homes, one of the largest homebuilders in the Carolinas, saved the day by giving Zimpfer’s team access to a residential neighborhood construction site in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“They gave us access to a lot of job sites at one location – multiple neighborhoods with multiple jobs going on at one time,” said Zimpfer.

After filming for seven days, often for 10 hours a day, Zimpfer’s team captured more than 100 hours of footage for the BoilerBuilt channel, including drone footage.

"Overview of the Framing Sequence for Onsite Build Framing" on the BoilerBuilt Construction channel

Blueprint for the future of the BoilerBuilt channel

After Zimpfer and his team complete the channel’s current video series on the start-to-finish construction of a single-family home, future videos will examine different areas of the industry, such as commercial or healthcare construction. This likely will take the channel beyond the life of the current grant, which ends in 2023 and has been supplemented by a $20,000 gift from True Homes. Zimpfer and Debs also plan to recruit several current students to act as the voice of the channel for future videos.

Inspired by True Homes, Zimpfer wants to find additional industry sponsors interested in keeping the channel going long after the grant has run its course. Industry partners in the college’s Construction Advisory Council already have expressed interested in engaging with the Polytechnic to create more BoilerBuilt content, which they view as a helpful tool in their efforts to recruit young people into the construction industry.

“BoilerBuilt is a great way to get information about the industry to any prospective student considering a career in construction,” said Debs. “There are many ways to use this channel and make an impact on construction education.”

Additional information

"Framing Methods for Column Beams" on the BoilerBuilt construction channel

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