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Residential Construction Students Rehab Old Portable Building for Technical Skillset, Money Savings


March 15, 2017 – Drills make their whirring sound, an industrial tape dispenser glides across drywall seams, sanders send dust flying, and students giggle as they watch drywall mud drip off a tool onto the cheek of an unsuspecting peer. High school students taking part in the residential construction program at the Ada Career and Technical Education Center, located inside Renaissance High School, are in the middle of mudding drywall at their Lake Hazel Middle School portable project.


They have dedicated this school year to gutting and renovating an older portable building on the backside of the middle school’s grounds. This unique project provides beneficial learning experiences for these students and is a cost-effective way for the school district to make older portables suitable learning environments again.


“My students are proud of this project because they have put their energy and talents to use for direct benefit of others students,” Mark Enger, residential construction teacher, shared. “Many of them have connections to Lake Hazel Middle School, whether through friends or siblings, and feel a strong sense of ownership of this project.”


Enger explained many of his students had never done more than lift a hammer before taking this course, but now they have skillsets providing them a competitive advantage in the workforce. The Lake Hazel Middle School portable project came about because he wanted students learning these valuable lessons on projects with community impact. These abilities are also saving the school district thousands in construction costs.


“It will take us longer to finish this renovation project because we are only working a few class hours each day out here, but we could not imitate these lessons in a classroom and our students need to know their work matters,” Enger explained. “When the only expenses on the project are materials and special tools, the budget is much more affordable.”


Spencer McLean, West Ada’s administrator of buildings and grounds, explained the estimated cost of a new portable building is $120,000. To have an older one renovated by a construction company, the cost averages between $70,000 and $80,000. Because students in the residential construction program have taken on this project, the approximate cost is only $50,000.


Students installed higher quality insulation and windows in the portable building, increasing the energy star rating and creating a climate efficient space. According to McLean, the new materials bring the building up to new portable standards and the return on investment is just 2.8 years.


“We used insulation tape to seal off seams between insulation sheets and around electrical unit frames for draft prevention,” Enger explained. “We want to give our district a superior product, but these lessons are also teaching our students to spot high-caliber construction. Whether they go into the construction business or are one day homeowners, these are things they will now know to look for in a quality building.”


The portable building is not the only high-end product manufactured in this course. Students like Emily Kodesh, a senior at Centennial High School, are figuring out how to make their construction interests into viable careers.


“My dad likes building and fixing things at our house. He has worked on most of it at one time or another,” Kodesh said. “I really got interested in this class because I thought it was something my dad would have liked to take when he was in school – now I can do a lot of the things my dad has learned to do on his own.”


In her first year of the residential construction program, Kodesh earned a gold medal in the American Spirit Competition, highlighting the impact of technical skillsets on the American economy. She plans to study business at CWI before transferring to ISU for construction management.