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HBA Supports ACC in Launching the Next Generation of Green Builders

For years the building industry has voiced concerns over the number of young people entering into construction field trades.  When you take a look at the number of people preparing to exit the industry you will gain a better understanding of that concern.  Industry statistics show that the average age of those currently employed as carpenters is 49, welders 55, plumbers 56, and masons 69.  Twenty percent of all those currently in construction trades are expected to retire within the next five years.  And yet our population here in Central Texas is expected to continue to grow, construction activities continue to be a large sector of our economy, and housing demand is expected to remain strong.  Where will the workforce come from to continue to service these market needs?

Part of the problem is that most construction jobs are just not very glamorous in the eyes of young people looking at their future prospects.  But that is changing.  Construction has become high tech, utilizing the latest in building information modeling (BIM) and energy modeling software, building science leading exponential advances in improvement to building materials and methods, smart technologies infiltrating every sector of mechanical appliances, and a vast array of trade skills that are challenging even experienced workers to sharpen their tool kits.  Interest in acquiring these high-tech skill sets and the ability to use them to improve both the quality of life of building occupants and the sustainability of our communities in the future now offers rewarding career choices.  Welcome the next generation of green builders.

It’s not coincidental that the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin and Austin Community College both recognized the need for higher education programs to support this changing construction landscape.  But what happened next is certainly worthy of recognition.  They decided to partner with the green building community to take action.  In the fall of 2013, plans were made for the members of the HBA to work with students in the Building Construction Technologies department at ACC – Round Rock to help launch a new Green Building Construction Technologies Associate degree program.  HBA Education Committee Chair, Miki Cook, who also happens to be Green Building & Sustainability Consultant, Sr. for the Austin Energy Green Building single-family program was the first to volunteer to serve as Project Coordinator.  Austin Energy Green Building has long been active in the HBA and with the ACC building construction technologies program.

And many, many other followed her lead, jumping on board to be part of this historic opportunity. Barley and Pfeiffer Architects, the nationally renowned green architectural firm based in Austin, provided the architectural design and drafting services, as well as the  building science knowledge and support to generate the building specifications based on climate-specific, high-performance assemblies that provide for durability, energy efficiency, healthy indoor air quality, and water conservation.  As an education endeavor, the construction documents represented the level of detail and oversight that high-performance construction demands, so the students experienced first-hand what they should see in the field on projects of this caliper.

BASF, a manufacturer of many building materials, provided the seed money for the project.  Their national Center for Building Excellence also provided building science support.  The donation included the latest in high-performance materials from their arsenal of new technology developments, including open- and closed-cell spray foam insulation, liquid applied air barrier, and rigid exterior insulated foam sheathing.

There were far too many HBA member businesses and trade contractors that stepped up to support this project than this article can recognize what each contributed.  The building features a high-performance Mitsubishi ductless minisplit air conditioning and heating system, Kohler water conserving plumbing fixtures, standing seam metal roof, metal and Hardie siding, Panasonic exhaust vents, Weyerhauser engineered structural members, Milgard windows and doors, Leviton electric controls, Executive cabinetry (certified green), silestone countertops with recycled glass backsplashes, eucalyptus and linoleum flooring, and ENERGY STAR appliances, including new DC-motor ceiling fans.

Framers, carpenter, plumber, electrician, and other skilled contractors worked with the students and independently to see the project through to completion.  Notable Austin entities like Ferguson Enterprises, Kidd Roofing, PSW Real Estate, David Weekley Homes, BMC Building Materials, McCoy’s Building Supply, Stan’s Heating and A/C, Casa Plumbing, Sappington Construction, In-Charge Electric, TreeHouse, Dupont Tyvek/Weatherization Partners, MLAW Engineering, Legend Lighting, Tri-Supply, ProSource, Architectural Tile & Stone, Robert Madden Industries, BLS Painting and Valspar, TexTruss, Circle RB Drywall, Spring Builders, Mary Dewalt Design Group and others donated materials and services.  The result was nothing shy of state-of-the art in high-performance construction in this 288 square foot passive solar design, finished with healthy, durable materials that will provide low-maintenance and efficiency benefits for years to come.

The completed project is now for sale.   Plans are for a portion of the proceeds from the sale to be set aside in an endowment from the HBA to continue to support the new green building construction technologies program at ACC.  The remainder will be used to support HBA’s own education programs for its members, who continue to provide the highest quality housing available in the Central Texas market.

For more information on this project, visit www.BuddingGreen.org.

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