Columbus students get hands-on with green building

Columbus students get hands-on with green building

by Robin L. Flanigan

Twenty former students from Worthington Kilbourne High School in Columbus have more than a diploma to show for their academic accomplishments. They helped build one of the first houses in the city to pursue LEED certification – without so much as a vocational course on their transcript.

Along with community volunteers, the students in Roger Beck's Home B.A.S.E. class started construction on a Queen Anne-style home in September 2006. (B.A.S.E. is an acronym for Building Academic Skills and Experiences; the set of courses blend senior-year English, government and technology education with the requirement to build affordable housing for working families.)

"This started out as a student project, so the time frame is much longer than normal," explains Beck, the teacher responsible for overseeing the home's construction. "But this wasn't about the house, per se. This was about the house as a vehicle to get them to interact with the critical national social and energy issues facing our country."

Located on an urban infill site in the dense North of Broad neighborhood, the 1,500-square-foot home features photovoltaic solar electricity, recycled hardwoods and tile, Energy Star appliances, low-VOC paints and solar-thermal heating, which will provide 70 percent of the home's hot water needs.

Landscaping will include eco-friendly NoMowGrass. "And every drop of water that hits that property will not leave the site," says Joshua Lloyd, a graduate intern at Phillip Markwood Architects who donated his time to produce construction documents and help monitor the homebuilding process. "There will be rain barrels at the bottoms of downspouts, and a rain garden to collect and store water."

The house has been a combined effort, with support outside the school from the Columbus Housing Partnership, an organization committed to helping moderate-income households find an affordable place to live, and the City of Columbus. The home the students helped construct "is a best practice for sustainable development in an existing urban neighborhood," says Craig Murphy, director of Columbus Housing Partnership's homeownership development arm, Homeport.

Beck is adding the finishing touches, as his students graduated last spring. With this winter's below-freezing weather, it passed its first test – keeping indoor temperatures between 65 degrees and 70 degrees with a small kerosene heater turned to its lowest setting as its only heat source.

The original plan was to put the finished product on the market for $130,000. But Columbus Housing Partnership was so impressed with the home's initial performance that it has requested it be used or several years as a model for affordable green housing. That will happen through investment from corporate and government sources.

Lloyd says the architects were able to roughly mimic the footprint of the house next door, while using high-performing features for a projected energy savings of 60 percent and "to really show that green homes aren't necessarily the super-high-design things you see in the magazines."

The house is expected to be certified by late summer. "We're comfortably sitting at a gold certification level right now, with a potential platinum," Lloyd adds.

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