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Hudson Valley Community College Construction Students Build Walls of Habitat for Humanity House

CONTACT: Deborah Renfrew (518) 629-7180,
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Wednesday, April 30, 2014

As work gears up in the next few months on the Habitat for Humanity house at 2106 VanVranken Avenue in Schenectady, construction technology students at Hudson Valley Community College take pride in being a critical part of that effort, having built the very walls that bolster the structure.

Each spring semester for the past eight years, in fact, students in the Construction Technology-Building Construction A.A.S. degree program at Hudson Valley have undertaken the project of building the 12 x 8-foot interior and exterior walls for a single-family house of the Schenectady Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Using architectural drawings provided by Habitat, students erect the walls into a 52 x 26 foot structure — the size and layout of the finished house – in their on-campus construction lab to see how the house will come together and assure the walls correctly fit into it.

It takes approximately 18 students nearly two months to complete the project, working during their required lab hours in addition to an extra 3 to 4 hours per week that each student puts in, according to Tim Dennis, professor of Civil, Construction, Mechanical and Industrial Technologies at Hudson Valley. Students all work with their own tool sets.

Students determine how much and what kind of lumber and hardware is needed. It is all donated to Habitat for Humanity by Curtis Lumber, which also transports the completed walls to the building site. Dennis oversees the work and, along with a housing manager from Schenectady Habitat, does a thorough inspection for quality and safety standards before the walls are shipped. “We inspect for accurate nailing -- we hand nail; no nail guns on this project -- plumb, size, properly reinforced window and door openings, etc. The students understand from the beginning that they are helping to build a real house that will be lived in. This isn’t practice.”

The students’ structure is disassembled by Habitat volunteers for shipping, and the walls are re-erected on-site and completed with exterior cladding and siding, insulation, electrical wiring and interior drywall, again by Habitat volunteers.

The department first became involved in the project in 2005, on the suggestion of an adjunct professor of the college, who was active with Habitat. Hudson Valley 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.

And, while construction students are not required to volunteer at the Habitat site, Dennis says many do so each year. “Our students take real ownership and pride in their work. Naturally, they want to be a part of the end result, but it depends entirely on their personal schedules. Many hold jobs in addition to attending school, so it can be difficult to put in extra time. In the end, nearly half the class works at the site,” he says.

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