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Funded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the students, who voted to increase student dues to pay for the updates, the project added 6 basketball courts, 17,000 s.f. of weight/fitness space, 3 multi-purpose rooms, a gym for indoor soccer and floor hockey, an indoor rock climbing wall, a new 8 lane competition pool, and study areas for students. The project is expected to create 100 student jobs and engage more students on campus. The exterior features a glass curtainwall that spans the entire building, bringing in more natural light.

The project is certified LEED Gold - the most efficient facility on campus. It features a geothermal system; native plants and landscaping that reduce water irrigation by 50 percent and a reduction in waste that was sent to landfills [by 75 percent].

Northern Kentucky University
Project Location
Highland Heights, Kentucky
Promoting construction management
Pepper has become a partner to the department of Construction Management at NKU in the process, assisting not only with learning opportunities through the project, but also serving as an industry adviser to faculty and students. Since the project is one the students are particularly interested in, the department of Construction Management at NKU has also been able to use the recreation center to promote their construction management program to future students.
Student engagement
Our project team was challenged with keeping the building open to students during construction. To us, keeping the building open meant more than its doors. Pepper partnered with the university to expose first-year students in the department of construction management to the preconstruction planning and construction process. Students had full exposure of the job through weekly job site walks, where they asked questions and saw progress, as well as in-class presentations about various topics including the BIM technology used to plan the project. Pepper also hired an intern in his junior year who helped to guide the tours and explain the construction terminology.
A real-world case study
The rec center project provided a solid foundation as the first-year students began their education. In the early stages of the project, the students witnessed a unique challenge. From the existing drawings, Pepper anticipated that the foundation of the original 1984 structure was built on top of gray shale that would not support the building with the new addition. Before excavation could begin, the building needed a solid foundation. The team devised a plan to shore up the standing structure, tear out and rebuild the foundations underneath and align the two foundations. This is one example of how the students had a front-row seat to critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can’t be observed in a classroom.
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