LACONIA — A famous architect once said, “Less is more.” Anyone who finds that notion appealing might want to take a close look at the small-house project students in the building trades program at the Huot Career and Technical Center have undertaken.
Students who are studying building construction and heating and plumbing at the regional facility are in the midst of building a 400-square-foot modular house which, despite its diminutive size, has all the comforts of home.
The Lakes Region Builders and Remodelers Association has been working with Huot students on small-scale building projects for the past five years, but this marks the first time that the finished product will be placed on a foundation.
“This is the first time they’ve been working on a house that is not on wheels,” said Bob Glassett, the Builders and Remodelers Association treasurer, and head of its Workforce Development Committee. “We felt with this project they would get the feeling of building a house,” he said of the 32-by-12-foot, one-bedroom residence.
When the association and the Huot first partnered five years ago the project was a really small one — a bobhouse. Then, the next three projects were tiny houses, 8-by-28-foot homes built on a trailer frame.
Work on the current project began in 2019. But the project was held up when the Huot Center as well as its sending schools closed last March due to COVID. Progress has been erratic during the 2020-21 school year due to the Huot or sending schools having to switch to full remote classes because of increasing COVID cases and quarantine requirements. But Glassett said the plan is to have the house completed by the end of the school year in June.
Students under the supervision of building construction instructor Ben Schneeweiss and plumbing and heating instructor Mike Schofield have been working on the framing, wiring, plumbing and interior finishing of the small house, which comes with radiant floor heating, a kitchen range, microwave oven, refrigerator, dishwasher and washer and dryer for appliances.
The students gain a lot of industry knowledge throughout the school year, learning how to frame, install windows and flooring, align cabinet doors, trim work, staining and painting, insulation techniques, setting the range top, cutting in the sink, and plumbing the bathroom and kitchen areas.
Glassett said the house is being built with high-quality components and material, including wood-composite siding, oak flooring, and state-of-the art windows and insulation.
Many of the building materials and furnishings have either been donated or obtained at a greatly reduced price, Glassett said. All told, those materials are worth about $50,000, he added.
He said they hope to sell the house for $60,000. In addition to the price of the house, the buyer will need to pay for the installation of a full foundation, any needed municipal permits, as well as hire an electrician, plumber, and gas technician to perform the final hook-ups for the utilities.
The buyer will be the first person to pay the $20,000 deposit, he said.
The project gives young people thinking of a career in the building trades some valuable hands-on experience. But just as importantly, it benefits the association’s workforce development program by encouraging young people to enter the building trades, an industry in dire need of younger talent to take over for what is now an aging workforce, Glassett said.
“It’s a great networking opportunity for contractors,” said Glassett. “That’s the big takeaway.”
The Builders and Remodelers Association funds all the material for the house and gets local businesses to help with labor and instructions when they are able. Some of this year’s partners have been FW Webb, Pella Windows, Ponders Hollow Custom Flooring, All in the Details, Quality Insulation, Middleton Lumber, Custance Brothers, Classon Remodeling, AG Graton, and Jeff Winchell of Winchell Electric.