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Building Walls for Real-World Housing, Hudson Valley Community College Construction Students Put Their Skills to Good Use

CONTACT: Deborah Renfrew (518) 629-7180,
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Thursday, April 2, 2015

Construction Technology students at Hudson Valley Community College don’t just learn their trade in the college’s laboratories and classrooms, they put their skills to work during the spring semester building walls for Habitat for Humanity houses. This year, a single-family house soon to be under construction at 1568 Carrie Street in Schenectady by the Schenectady Chapter of Habitat for Humanity will benefit from the students’ efforts.

This is the ninth year that students of the Construction Technology-Building Construction A.A.S. degree program have undertaken the project. They will complete the 12 x 8-foot interior and exterior walls in the next week, in time for Curtis Lumber, a sponsor of the Hudson Valley program, to transport them to the building site. The students use architectural drawings provided by Habitat to erect the walls into a 52 x 26 foot structure — the size and layout of the finished house – in their campus-based construction lab. This process helps the students to see how the house will come together and assure the walls correctly fit.

Approximately 18 students work for nearly two months on the project, putting in their required lab hours, in addition to an extra 3 to 4 hours per week as each student can, says Tim Dennis, professor of Civil, Construction, Mechanical and Industrial Technologies at Hudson Valley. Students all have their own tool sets.
Lumber for the project is donated to Habitat for Humanity by Curtis Lumber after students determine how much and what kind of lumber and hardware is needed. The work is overseen by Dennis, along with a housing manager from Schenectady Habitat. Both do a thorough inspection for quality and safety standards before the walls are shipped.

“This is a serious effort, one that will result in a real house that a family will call home. Our students know they aren’t just practicing. Walls must be plumb, sized accurately and have reinforced window and door openings. They must meet construction codes,” said Dennis.

The structure is disassembled in the lab by Habitat volunteers for shipping. After being re-erected on-site, they are finished with exterior cladding and siding, insulation, electrical wiring and interior drywall, again by Habitat volunteers.

Hudson Valley undertook its first Habitat project in 2005, at the suggestion of an adjunct professor of the college who was active with housing organization. The college also sponsors a Habitat for Humanity student club, whose members--some in construction programs and some in other programs--volunteer at the organization’s construction sites.

Dennis says the construction students are not required to volunteer at the Habitat site, but many do so each year on their own. “Not all of our students have the time to volunteer on the housing sites because they hold jobs in addition to attending school. But those who can fit it into their personal schedule, do show up. This work is a source of pride to all construction students and they want to see the end result.”

The Construction Technology-Building Technology program at Hudson Valley Community College provides the skills to perform surveys for construction site layout; to plan, schedule and coordinate residential or commercial construction; to perform shop and field calculations for steel and concrete structures; and to interpret materials specifications.

Founded in 1953, Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in four schools: Business; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Liberal Arts and Sciences; and an Educational Opportunity Center for academic and career training. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, it has an enrollment of more than 12,000 students, and is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and workforce training. Hudson Valley has more than 75,000 alumni.