The project is a new, three-bedroom, two-bathroom, single-story house containing 1206 square feet of air conditioned living space and with a front porch and an attached, back shed. It is comprised of 4, modular sections all being fabricated from raw materials by the Construction Academy students inside of their shop at the school (see “The Academy” for further information about the Academy’s teaching program). The students will also build and waterproof the roof in sections so that it can be transported to the property and hoisted on top of the installed house modules.
The Academy’s past experience building the Ticket Building directly on the school’s campus showed the faculty and administration that they needed to try and stay on campus for future construction projects to maintain control of the classes and the construction process. The Choice Programs department had heard about a school in the Keys that had worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a modular house in their school’s shop and then transporting it to a property owned by Habitat. That spawned the idea of the school district working with the Palm Beach County chapter of Habitat to build a modular house here. Habitat’s executive director, Bernard Godek, thought having the students build a house for Habitat was a remarkable idea for both Habitat, for the students’ Academy training, and to give the students a chance to give back to their community. Over the past two years, planning and contractual conditions were worked out between Habitat and the school district and during the summer of 2011, a building permit was issued by Palm Beach County. The first materials arrived in August of 2011 and construction began. For this first Habitat house and because this is a teaching project, 18 months has been allocated for the student-construction time. It is hopeful that subsequent student-built, Habitat houses can be completed within a single school year.
Habitat is providing the building lot and they will have the foundation built, ready to accept the students’ modular house components. Habitat is also providing all of the construction materials for the students’ work. The Simpson Strongtie Company has donated all of the metal connectors necessary to tie all of the wood framed parts together to meet the south Florida wind codes. David Porter, the volunteer architect for the Academy, donated all of his time and efforts on the design, the construction drawings, permit coordination, and continues to consult and advise with the students on the construction work. The students will be completing the house modules up through finished interiors, including electrical, plumbing, insulation, drywall, cabinets installed, doors and trim, and finished interior painting. Windows and doors will be installed and the exterior walls will be clad with a building wrap membrane to make they dry for transporting. The Academy will build the roof with trusses in strips that they will then dry in. These will be hauled to the property at the same time the house modules are moved. The roof can then be put in place within a half a day and sealed to protect the completed interiors. Habitat’s volunteers will take over, once the modules are in place on the foundation at the property, to complete the siding, roofing, joining together of the modules, installing finished flooring, building a driveway, and doing the landscaping.
Work on the house is being done by the juniors and seniors of the Academy along with some sophomores. Each of the Academy’s different class groups have been divided into four teams. Each team for each class is in charge of all construction on their designated module. When the next class comes in, they take over where the last class left off. It is shift work training at its best. Color coding of hard hats to identify the various teams was the brainchild of Bill Featherston, the GC advisor for the construction work, and it has helped to corral the students back to their respective modules to keep the progress moving along. A team leader for each group was chosen by Mr. Terkovich to serve as the foreman and for quality control. Mr. Featherson and the architect, David Porter, make weekly “job site” visits to the shop to look over the construction, advise about the next steps, and to show the students what, if anything, needs to be corrected. The students are getting a real life construction site experience. There are safety briefings (and reminders) and no one, including the adult advisers, subcontractors, and consultants assisting with the project, steps inside the fenced construction zone surrounding the work without wearing a hard hat, proper clothing, proper footwear, and eye protection. Each student has already received his/her 30-hour OSHA construction safety training and certificate as a part of the program taught by Mr. Terkovich (a certified OSHA trainer).
Habitat has now selected a deserving family to be the owner of this house. The chosen owner, Tina Cromatie, first visited the school to see her new house under construction on September 21, 2012 (see 9/21/12 Progress Photos). She plans to make future visits with her family members to meet the students who have put their heart, soul, and efforts into building a dream come true for the Cromatie family.
The students have progressed faster with the construction than any of the adults associated with the project imagined might be possible. The tentative “ship date” for rolling the modules out the shop door and transporting them to the site and onto the awaiting foundation is November 13 & 14, 2012. The modules and the roof sections will be rolled out the shop door and loaded onto awaiting trailers on the 13th and transported to the site and craned onto the foundation on the 14th.
For plan review, permitting, and inspections, this project is also unique. Since the school district has its own building department to handle permitting and inspections for all projects built on District property and since the modular units are being built on District property but for eventual installation on property in unincorporated Palm Beach County, the project required and received cooperation from the District’s building department and the County’s building department. The County reviewed the plans and issued the permit and the chief inspectors for the County are taking on the project to come out to the school to conduct the inspections. It was an important part of the students’ construction training that they become familiar with and interact with the building inspection process. The chief inspectors are being helpful, instructive, and critical, where necessary, so that the students learn and earn a respect for doing things right and in compliance with the building code. For as long as they remain affiliated with any construction jobs, building codes will be an integral part of their life. Following a recent structural inspection of the floor system, the County inspector commented that the work was done well and that he had seen work by paid, licensed contractors that was a lot worse. The school district inspectors are also offering up their time to assist with the project by making “pre-inspections” of the work by the students so that they will have an advance “heads up” for corrections that might be needed before the inspection that counts by the County. With the volunteer professionals and contractors and the various inspectors looking over this house, it may be the most inspected project to be built in the region..
The project’s involvement with the school district has now expanded to include additional high schools. Royal Palm Beach High School has an Air Conditioning Academy where students are trained in the installation and servicing of air conditioning systems. Their students and instructor, Patrick Raney, will be providing the air conditioning installation work once the module units are installed at the property. EDS Air Conditioning, an air conditioning contractor and a member of the Royal Palm Academy’s advisory board, and Goodman Air Conditioning Equipment Manufacturing Company, have offered to donate all of the AC equipment and supervisory management for the Royal Palm Academy students in their work on this house. In addition to adding Royal Palm to the team, students and a teacher from the Dwyer High School Construction Academy will be partially building the attached storage shed at the back of the house, once the modules are in place. And last but not least, to properly document this momentous project, John Walker, magnet programs coordinator at Seminole Ridge, has engaged the photography and videography classes at the school to chronicle the construction process and progress from the beginning through to the end when the units are rolled out the door and away to the property. You will see some of their work in the “Progress Photos” section of this website.
The Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, a division of the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) College of Education, and the Florida Native Plant Society, are contributing time and expertise to design a native-species, environmentally compatible, landscape for the property. Their design will address low maintenance landscaping, low water-use species, and create an outside extension of the living environment for the family.