I visited the house-in-progress at 273 Brookemeade Circle in Wilder. Wilder is an unincorporated village within the town of Hartford in Windsor County, Vermont. The house wast bursting with very busy high school students learning the construction trade and building an energy efficient home in the process. A maximum of 16 juniors and 16 seniors can take the Building Trades course at the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center. This year’s class is smaller than past years, but they make up for it in enthusiasm. Seniors spend the mornings at the work site and return to the Tech Center in the afternoon for classes. The Juniors work in the afternoon. This is the program’s seventh home in this development and they plan to add six more with the addition of a cul de sac. It takes two years to complete a house.
Robert Clavelle, the teacher of the course emphasizes that the students learn or are exposed to everything: surveying, ordering materials, building forms, plumbing, electrical, flooring, cabinet installation and more. Clavelle partners with Efficiency Vermont to make sure the student’s house goes above and beyond normal energy requirements. This year they used dense pack insulation for the first time. The students worked with Chey Insulation to set up the netting and use a specialty hose to spray in the newspaper-based insulation. The students said it was a very messy process if you didn’t pull the hose away in time. They also did lots of air sealing – around all joints, concrete, and gaps for electrical equipment – everything was sealed with a layer of spray foam.
The house is two stories with a walkout basement so the lower living area is heated with a radiant slab. The hot water moving through the slab only has to be heated to about 90 degrees to heat the room compared to conventional base board heat that is closer to 120 degrees. Lowering the temperature of the water for heating the living space saves energy.
I spoke with Seniors Derrik French and Adam Perigton about the program. They both said working on this project made them think about what their own homes are insulated with and how things could have been done better. They both plan on continuing construction, Derrik as a carpenter in the military and Adam in an apprenticeship. The Building Trades class is an excellent opportunity for young people to learn valuable skills for a future in the green economy or just to be aware of efficiency opportunities in our built environment.