Work With National Organization Puts Lancaster Students in Forefront of Green Building
Their job is to build a $400,000 model home that is not only a “green” home, but is used to help develop the standards for green homes. And they have to do it in 10 months because it is part of their school project.
It may sound like a daunting task for the seniors in the construction technologies program at the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center, but they have completed and sold two homes and are breaking ground on the third.
The four-home development behind the Mount Joy campus for the CTC is called Apprentice Green, a name that fits exactly what goes on in the construction of these homes.
Highlighting the Homes
Michael Dodson, building project coordinator, has been involved with Apprentice Green since its inception in 2006 and swells with pride when showing off the homes.
“This is the best job, watching young folks learning,” he said, standing in front of the second home that was built. Behind him, the carpentry students laid out the initial framing for the third home. “I know these kids are getting something out of it that they can take with them in their future careers.”
It was this desire to help these young students get involved in an evolving field and get some real world experience that caught the attention of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center. The Center partnered with Lancaster CTC and helped guide the program.
“We put the team in place and NAHB ran the program,” explained Dodson. “They laid the foundation and got us off to the right start.”
Twelve of the CTC’s programs are involved with the homes’ construction, everything from floral and landscaping to sheet metal and heavy equipment operation. The work is done by the students under the supervision of a team of instructors, manufacturers and professional subcontractors. Scientists from the NAHB Research Center guide the program and check in periodically to make sure the home is continuing down the right path as a green home.
Some of the features Dodson discussed during a tour include:
- a landscape plan that uses native plants and minimizes soil loss
- stockpiled and stabilized topsoil for later use
- recycled content materials used like fly ash concrete
- a rainwater harvesting system that stores 2,600 gallons of water to operate laundry, yard faucets and toilets
- a geothermal heat pump, which is twice as efficient as a standard heat pump
It took the students two years to build the first home, but NAHB was so impressed with what the students accomplished they used the home as one of six in the nation to help build the standards for green home certification.
The second home was constructed a bit differently, with a breezeway and detached garage to help with air quality. The second home received the gold level for the National Green Building Standard. The home surpasses even the EnergySmart Home Scale for green homes.
Once the homes are complete, they are included in a local parade of homes show and sold on the regular market. Money made off the sale goes to pay off any money borrowed for the home and to start building the next one.
The homes have been well-received. Before the homes are occupied, they are used as a training facility for green construction. Some other schools in the state have inquired about starting similar programs at their CTCs. The program has also won NAHB’s Green Building Award for Research, the Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Golden Apple Award for Applied Learning, the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and the Lancaster Planning Commission Smart Growth Award for Community Capacity.
Dodson explained that the homes are part of a Community Education Project with NAHB Research Center and the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project. The community education piece showcases to other schools, organizations, and the local industry the latest advances in building technologies and green building practices, and the economics of incorporating these practices.
The Student Component
Dodson loves talking about the homes, but it is because he loves seeing what these students can do. “The students are so proud,” he said. “They bring their friends and family to see the finished house.”
Rich Burley, carpentry instructor at the Brownstown campus, has also worked on all of the homes in the development. “They really don’t get a better line of work than in this program,” he said. “They get exactly what they would get at a real employer.”
And employers seek out their students. Burley says, “Employers love our students because they already have the basics and some depth of knowledge. They call us and tell us who they are looking for and a lot of the time we have someone for them. They like finding people this way rather than putting an ad in the paper.”
And the students realize the value of a project like this, as well. Nat Kotzmeyer, a 2010 graduate, now works for Steigel Construction. The Apprentice Green home was the first home he ever built. While he worked on the carpentry and framing of the home, he learned the basic skills he needed for his career. “Everything I learned I apply now,” he said. “The program was definitely a neat experience.”
It is the collaboration of hundreds of students just like Kotzmeyer that makes these homes a success. And it is the collaboration of local businesses and national organizations together with a strong CTC community that has made this program a success. “I could not be more proud of the students, teachers, administrators, and the board,” said Dodson.