By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A poet once mused "We've built tall buildings, but we've not become taller," but a dozen students at the Huot Technical Center are building a small — in fact, very small — building and they are growing in the process.
The students, all seniors in their second year of the Building Construction program, are building a house, a "tiny house," just 192 square feet with an 80-square-foot loft set on a wheeled trailer. The Huot Technical Center is among four Career Technical Centers participating in this workforce development initiative sponsored by the New Hampshire State Lottery and the New Hampshire Home Builders Association. Altogether, five tiny houses will be built, one each at the Huot Technical Center, Mt. Washington Valley Career and Technical Center, Alvirne High School and two at the Seacoast School of Technology.
David Warrender, director of career and technical education, said that while students have built garden sheds and bob houses, the opportunity to build a house is unique. The lottery donated the trailer and the Lakes Region Home Builders Association, along with the Dead River Company, Harvey Building Products, Selectwood and Builder Installed Products, are contributing materials. The cost of the project, anticipated to fall between $15,000 and $20,000, Warrender said was beyond the means of the school district in light of the pressures on its budget.
At the same time, Warrender noted, because the house can be built within the center, the district is spared the cost and the students are spared the time of traveling to a remote site.
"We can build here and wheel it out the door," he said, explaining that the house would fit through the doorway while conceding overhead light fixtures may need to be removed.
As the students framed the windows to a cacophony of hammered nails, Matt Towle, the teacher overseeing their work, joked "I don't have to pay them. I get away with a dozen doughnuts."
He said that the class will do the construction, while the plumbing and heating students will fit out the kitchen and bathroom. Mike Schofield, who teaches plumbing and heating, said that although a boiler has been offered, the choice of heating system remains to be made. Since the center has no electrical program, the wiring will be installed by a professional observed by the students.
"This is their project," Towle said. "They are really invested in it." Compared to the structures past classes have built, the house is more challenging and rewarding, he said, explaining that fitting doors and windows as well as installing cabinetry and constructing dormers will test all their skills.
"This is problem solving," he said. "My biggest challenge is managing 12 students. I have to keep up with them." Apart from Towle, the students also learn from mentors from the Lakes Region Home Builders Association who are assisting with the project.
"It's a good learning process," said Nathan Kierstead of Northfield, a student at Winnisquam High School. He said he has worked with his father, a roofing contractor, and expects to continue in the building trades before returning to school to prepare for a career as a utility lineman. In building the house, he said, he has learned the importance of communication and teamwork.
There are two young women in the class, the first, Towle said, to complete the program.
"I was pretty much born to it, " said Mary Davis of Gilford, who comes from a family of builders.
She said she has built sets for theatrical productions at Gilford High School and intends to work construction to finance her further education as a civil engineer. Davis acknowledged that she got some guff from the boys, but said, "I love working with the guys. It's part of the job."
Alexis Albert aspires to be a flight nurse and plans to pursue her education in medicine. But, she said, "I want to own a house and to know how to take care of it and add an addition without having to pay someone else to do it." She said that in the building construction program she has learned math skills she learned nowhere else.
"What I'm learning here," she said, "I can use every day."
When the five tiny houses are complete, they will be displayed and judged at the New Hampshire State Home Show in Manchester in March. Meanwhile, in January. the New Hampshire Lottery will introduce a "Tiny House Big Money" scratch ticket with the winning house as one of the top prizes. The remaining four houses will be auctioned and the proceeds distributed between the schools and New Hampshire Home Builders Association.
Students of the Building Construction program at the Huot Technical Center begin work on their "tiny house," a workforce development initiative project sponsored by the New Hampshire State Lottery and New Hampshire Home Builders Association. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)
Matt Towle, building construction teacher at the Huot Technical Center, working with Mary Davis of Gilford, tape a window surround on the "tiny house" under construction at the center. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)
The tiny house being constructed by Huot Technical Centere students will be displayed and judged at the New Hampshire State Home Show in March, along with four others built by students of other career and technical centers. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)