Students Build Homes As Part Of Technology Training


May 26, 1991|By Dolly Merritt

You could say that the five-bedroom colonial that stands on Silent Dell Lane in the Columbia community of River Glen is the house that Jack built . . . although Bruce, Anthony, Benito, Heather and some 200 students from the Howard County School of Technology had their hands in its construction, too.

The new house is the ninth home built bythe Howard Vocational Construction Co. Inc., a non-profit corporation formed 19 years ago through a partnership between the county's Department of Education and local businesses.

The corporation gives students hands-on experience in planning, developing, constructing and selling homes. Profits from the sale of the homes go toward scholarships, field trips and the next year's project. "There's a lot more to it than taking the kids to a constructionsite," said Chuck Venable, project coordinator.

The students design the site plans and architectural drawings for the house. They alsowork with the county government to acquire all permits needed for its construction, he said.

The project draws together students from 12 trade classes at the School of Technology: drafting, carpentry, air conditioning and refrigeration, plumbing, retail marketing, electricity, welding, horticulture, data processing, commercial arts, printing technology and even the culinary arts class, which hosts luncheonsevery other month for the board of directors who met to discuss the program.

The corporation represents 33 businesses from the county."We try to involve everyone as much as possible," Venable said.

The board supports the project in various ways. For example, a construction business will donate building materials or provide supplies at cost; a title firm offers a representative for settlement negotiations; a landscaping business contributes plants.

The drafting class stays one year ahead of the other classes involved in the projects. Currently, they are designing next year's house, which will be built inthe Clemons West area of Columbia. It is a departure from the last three traditional-style homes that were modeled after designs from Winchester Homes Inc.

The building firm granted the students permission to use architectural drawings and blueprints for various models, then the students re-drew the plans making their own modifications.

Board members of Winchester Homes Inc. often visit the building siteto offer advice and support to students. In addition, a tour of the firm's building plant in Baltimore is among the annual field trips the students take.

Next year's house will present the toughest challenge yet. Based on a home design they noticed in an architecture magazine, the students have chosen a contemporary style house for their tenth project.

"With house No. 10, we will be doing everything ourselves," said 17-year-old Anthony Peake, a junior at Hammond High School who is procurement director for the carpentry class. "For the pastthree years, the Winchester package has given us everything the easyway."

For the coming project, said Venable, students will have torely solely on the faculty and each other.

The "easy way" still involved a lot of ground work, such as finding a suitable location forthe house, which must be close to the school so students can travel easily to the building site.

In preparation for the River Glen house, the students also made a trip to the bank to present their drawings in order to obtain a $100,000 construction loan. Once those details were ironed out, students were bused to the site and building beganon the house January 15.

"A class is scheduled out there every day of the week," Venable said. For example, the carpentry class may bescheduled to put up dry wall, while the electricity class may be wiring one of the circuit boxes.

On one afternoon two weeks ago, the school bus pulled in front of the new dwelling to unload students whowere about to put the finishing touches on the carpentry, plumbing and electricity.

Silent Dell Lane is a quiet street of new, large homes. The 2,800-square-foot house the students are finishing is on the market for $269,900. The house has a deluxe

kitchen, electronic air cleaners, two-zone heating and air conditioning, dual humidifiersand a whirlpool tub. The yard is fully landscaped. A student foremanoversees the various jobs for each group, and the students went immediately to work.

Heather Rhodes, 18, headed straight for the kitchen. She is part of the carpentry class responsible for framing, finishing and hanging the kitchen cabinets. Although the senior attends morning and afternoon classes at the Howard School of Technology and has worked on computers during various parts of the project, she prefers her work in carpentry class.

"I like the actual building," she said.

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