Ask a high-school student from the Hermiston, Umatilla or Stanfield school district about energy-efficient new home construction and you might hear an earful. In a unique career and technical education opportunity offered by Hermiston School District in cooperation with the Northeast Oregon Homebuilders Association, the Columbia Basin Student Home Builder Program shows students firsthand how to design, construct and sell a new Hermiston home every school year.
The program, which launched three years ago with a grant of almost $400,000 from the Oregon Department of Education, has students working shoulder-to-shoulder with architects, engineers and local tradespeople to complete a home from start to finish. They learn about thermodynamics; framing; insulation; air and duct sealing; energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling technologies; water heating and appliances.
“We involve Energy Trust experts from the start,” said Curt Berger, an instructor with the program. “They provide early design assistance and explain requirements and incentives for Energy Trust programs.”
Each home goes through rigorous Energy Trust testing to make sure it has a low EPS™—an energy performance score that indicates low energy costs and carbon footprint based on a scale of zero to 200, with zero being the best rating. The first student-built home had an EPS of 72 and the second had a 75.
“Energy-efficiency is a great selling point for these homes,” said Berger. “Proceeds from each sale fund the next project.”
After graduation, many students pursue education in building science or get jobs with Energy Trust contractors or other participating trades.