News Ticker

Leading Market Series Updates on Higher Ed

Credit: Rachel Kettenhofen/AZBEX

By Tasha Anderson for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Around 100 people gathered in the ballroom at the DoubleTree by Hilton on Friday, March 9 for the AZBEX inaugural Leading Market Series event, eager to learn what’s going on in the higher education market.

The Leading Market Series is a new monthly event that focuses on a specific market sector and brings in top owners for a panel discussion on what they have in the works.

“So each month, we want to hear from owners – market sector by market sector – kind of loosely alternating public and private, but we really want to see what’s going on,” said AZBEX President, Rebekah Morris as she introduced the program. “I know what you guys came for is to hear direct from the owners. What’s coming down the line? How can you possibly get a piece of that work?”

A Glance at the Market

After a quick round-robin discussion with a couple of owners from the audience, Morris gave attendees a look into the higher education market using information collected from the AZBEX Database.

“We’ve pegged the education market at about $625M per year,” she stated. “That was the actual construction value in 2017.”

The data showed, unsurprisingly, that the large state universities (ASU, NAU and UA) have the majority of the capital projects in the higher education market. It also shows that there are still a lot of design and construction opportunities within the sector.

According to the analysis of the higher education projects listed in the AZBEX Database, 43 percent of projects have yet to assign a design/architectural firm and 44 percent of projects have yet to assign a general contractor/CM@R.

Speakers from the Higher Education – Leading Market Series pose for a picture after the presentations. From left to right: Moderator: Cassie Robertson – Preconstruction, DPR Construction; Bruce Nevel – Associate Vice President, Facilities Development & Management at Arizona State University; Rich Oesterle – Director of Campus Development with Grand Canyon University; and Peter Dourlein – Campus Architect, Asst VP Planning, Design & Construction with University of Arizona. Credit: Rachel Kettenhofen/AZBEX

Pipeline and University Goals

After a brief overview of the market, the panel discussion began with Cassie Robertson, preconstruction manager with DPR Construction, introducing the three panelists: Rich Oesterle, director of campus development with Grand Canyon University, Bruce Nevel, associate VP of facilities development & management with Arizona State University, and Peter Dourlein, campus architect/assistant VP of planning, design & construction with University of Arizona.

Each panelist was given some time to talk about projects coming down their pipeline and how each university’s goals influence project selection and project aspirations.

Some of the major projects in the pipeline for each of the universities include:

  • UA Interdisciplinary Research and Innovation Building 1 and 2
  • GCU student parking garage
  • GCU student dorms
  • ASU Wells Fargo Arena Renovations and Multi-Purpose Hockey Arena
  • ASU Novus Innovation Corridor

For ASU and UA, one of their biggest goals for the universities is sustainability.

“We’re looking at large scale renewable energy projects,” said Peter Dourlein with University of Arizona. “We’re looking at improving our campus, reducing our carbon footprint with the goal to be not only carbon neutral, but have some climate resiliency built into our campus.”

“We want to be climate neutral by 2025,” said Bruce Nevel with Arizona State University. “So we’re doing all sorts of projects toward that vein.”

One of the biggest goals for GCU is maintaining the growth of the university.

“The growth curve just continues to increase with the niche market that Grand Canyon has, so our goal over the last few years and into the near future is how do we manage to maintain that growth and stay ahead of the curve,” said Rich Oesterle with Grand Canyon University.

The Future

Toward the end of the discussion each of the panelists was asked what excites them and scares them the most about the upcoming few years. They were mainly excited about the growth of their schools while expressing their concerns over labor shortages and rising costs.

“We’re just on this curve here to grow in all areas, so we’re never bored, but I would say that the escalation of costs in the industry makes me very nervous,” said Nevel.

Overall, the first installment of the AZBEX Leading Market Series was well received and attendees walked away with a better understanding of what lies ahead in the higher education market.

The next Leading Market Series topic will be on healthcare. To check out dates and topics or to register for the next event, visit:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.