Innovation: Reaching Out Across Campus

The Neeley School of Business and the College of Science & Engineering are next door on campus, but it can seem like light years separate them. Until one innovative, interdisciplinary project brought them together.

(This story by Elaine Cole and Andrea Stafford originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Neeley Magazine.)

The Art Deco Sinclair Building in downtown Fort Worth is undergoing a remarkable transformation, and TCU MBAs and engineering students are in the thick of it.

The 16-story 1930s building in Sundance Square is being converted into a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel. The intelligent building will feature advanced technologies for state-of-the-art customer experience and energy savings. The innovations are mind boggling: refrigerators without Freon, energy-producing sports equipment, digital showers, and savvy electric mirrors for watching television, ordering room service, connecting to phones, adjusting lighting, checking the weather or calling for a car.

Photo of Brian Broom with students

Brian Broom, construction manager with Byrne Construction, meets with TCU MBA and engineering students who were tapped to help improve efficiency in the transformation of an 88-year-old building into a 21st-century marvel. (Photo by Leo Wesson)

Turning a historic building into what Sinclair Holdings President Farukh Aslam calls “the first true intelligent building” requires a combination of systems, vendors, designers, technicians and builders.

It also requires an innovative approach for managing the various parts of the project.

When Sinclair Holdings tapped Byrne Construction, an award-winning business with roots in Fort Worth for 95 years, construction manager Brian Broom turned to TCU to help him transform the 88-year-old building into a 21st-century marvel in less than a year.

“We are changing the industry with this project,” Broom said. “We needed resources.”

Mike Harville, Professor of Professional Practice in the Department of Engineering, learned about the project from Broom and sensed Byrne could benefit from a supply-chain focused solution. He contacted Ed Riefenstahl, director of MBA experiential learning in the TCU Neeley School of Business. Together, Harville and Riefenstahl recruited a team of three MBAs – Vivek Cheekoti, Terrance Lu and Sachin Sharma – and two engineering juniors – Cole Graham and Bill Pickett.

“I have always wanted to have interdisciplinary projects for Neeley & Associates MBA Consulting,” Riefenstahl said. “This paid project with Byrne Construction gave us the opportunity to start and hopefully maintain a partnership with the College of Science & Engineering.”

Read more in Neeley Magazine.