The Concrete Preservation Institute (CPI), in partnership with the National Park Service, conducted a 12-week field school on Alcatraz Island in which seven CPI participants used BASF’s Master Builders Solutions materials to restore the iconic structures. BASF is the founding sponsor of the CPI program, providing materials and financial support. BASF technical and business experts regularly engage in product selection, offer technical expertise, and serve as guest trainers.

Participants of Concrete Preservation Institute field school help to preserve Alcatraz Island.
BASF Participants of Concrete Preservation Institute field school help to preserve Alcatraz Island.

Under the guidance of CPI management, instructors, and industry professionals, the field school participants planned and implemented the restoration of the staircase beneath the main Cell House building. CPI’s Field School at Alcatraz, which is comprised of college students and military veterans, develops future leaders and workforce in the construction industry, while contributing to the preservation of the country’s national cultural heritage.

“One of the biggest challenges for the industry today is the lack of skilled labor. In addition to attracting and recruiting talent, training is a priority for BASF. We place a lot of value on the hands-on experience, along with classroom learning. CPI encourages participants to think beyond the textbook and approach the project in its entirety,” says Brian Denys, BASF Vice President, Construction Systems, Construction Chemicals North America. “When you look at the challenges of working on Alcatraz, all the CPI participants take ownership of an aspect of the project to accomplish a goal. This program is phenomenal in terms of developing those life skills.”

“In addition to the ongoing classroom and hands-on CPI curriculum, our students benefit immensely from the guidance of the BASF restoration experts. As an industry leader, the BASF team brings invaluable practical know-how to the field school,” says Dr. Tanya Komas, Founding Director and CEO, Concrete Preservation Institute, “I am not aware of any other place in the world that is so well-suited for the training of construction talents.”

Alcatraz Island’s 22 acres are filled with buildings constructed primarily by the military in different eras, by different work crews, and with different materials. The climatic conditions on the island vary greatly with regard to driving wind, sun, and heavy chloride exposure in the seaside environment. This, in combination with the more than 1.3 million visitors each year, weighs heavily on the structures.

The tourism and environmental impact on the island provide a great learning opportunity for the participants, as well as a unique experience. With iconic structures such as those on Alcatraz Island, the restoration plays a role in preserving and interpreting the many layers of history.

“You see the pictures of how things were, you see how they are now, and you return them to this functional and safe form…every minute is rewarding here on Alcatraz”, explains Danny Lakowiski, field school participant.

Participants in Alcatraz Island restoration project in San Francisco Bay.
BASF Participants in Alcatraz Island restoration project in San Francisco Bay.

“I benefitted from the program a lot as I learned how to handle tools and how to better communicate with my co-workers,” adds participant Banessa Rios.

“If you are looking for something unique and valuable to do, something to branch out into the concrete industry, this is an excellent program,” says military veteran participant Matthew Brittin.

CPI initially began as a summer field school in 2010, and has since grown to a yearlong program that hosts three twelve week sessions. Of the nearly 80 participants who accepted CPI’s placement assistance, all have successfully transitioned either back into academia or into careers spanning the construction industry, from management to skilled trades.