April 7, 2014Vol. 44, Issue 4

Students Forgo Spring Breaks to Build Transitional Housing

Junior and student project manager Emma Caswell reviews building plans with Bud Shope of Modern Building Inc.

Junior and student project manager Emma Caswell reviews building plans with Bud Shope of Modern Building Inc.

Keeping with an annual tradition of aiding those in need, students from the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management forfeited their spring break vacations in order to build two duplexes in just eight days for families transitioning out of rehabilitation.

More than a year went into planning the 2014 CSU, Chico Annual Winter Community Service Project, which involved nearly 200 volunteers; 20 industry suppliers, subcontractors, and sponsors; and financial support from community benefactors.

Volunteers worked from Friday, March 14, until Friday, March 21, to meet their goal of completing the two 1,600-square-foot duplexes. When completed, the University’s partnership with the Salvation Army and the City of Chico on the project will fill a vital need in helping single-parent families transition out of the Salvation Army’s adult rehabilitation program.

“The Salvation Army greatly appreciates the collaboration with CSU, Chico and the City of Chico,” said Salvation Army Chico Corps Envoy Dennis Stumpf. “We’re excited to offer this transitional program for single-parent families and so grateful for the generous community support we’ve received. It’s truly an example of what can be done when community partners come together.”

The duplexes are located at the corner of West Eighth and Salem Streets in Chico and will serve families participating in the new Ann and Emmett Skinner Transitional Living Program.

Each year, construction management students plan and lead a community service project from start to finish. Past projects have included rebuilding homes in tornado-struck Joplin, Missouri; barn raising at the local Patrick Ranch Museum; building homes for Catalyst Domestic Violence Services in Chico; and rebuilding houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

A student applies caulking before installing windows.

A student applies caulking before installing windows.

The 20-person student leadership team acted under the guidance of construction management faculty members Alan Bond, James O’Bannon, and David Shirah and Assistant Manager of Utilities and Sustainability Marie Patterson. Along with the challenge of building two duplexes in eight days, the students planned for the units to be LEED Platinum certified and meet stringent environmental building requirements.

“Because we’re involved from start to finish, we gain tremendous knowledge of how the building process works,” said student project manager Justin Besotes, a construction management major in his senior year. “We get hands-on experience, from planning the project to going out and building it. It puts in perspective what we’re learning in our classes.”

During the Blitz Build, students, staff, faculty, advisors, and other community volunteers started construction activities at 6 a.m. and worked until 10 p.m. every night. Each shift consisted of 50 to 60 volunteers hammering, cutting, and laboring to aid in the successful completion of the project.

“Instilling the joy of giving in our students is one of the best aspects of this project,” said O’Bannon. “Once they experience that, they will keep doing it their whole lives. From a practical standpoint, students who graduate with experience like this are a step ahead of those at other colleges.”

Students work together to complete two duplexes in eight days.

Students work together to complete two duplexes in eight days.

Among the other special features of the project are the following: 

  • An Industry Advisory Board made up of prominent area builders from Conroy Construction Inc., Slater and Son Inc., and Modern Building Inc. advised the student leaders throughout the project, offering workshops to students on a construction methods.
  • The homes include high-efficiency heating and air-conditioning equipment, instantaneous water heaters, drought-tolerant landscaping, LED lighting, high-efficiency appliances, and solar electricity.
  • In addition to the approximately 90 student volunteers, about 75 community members volunteered during the build, including a group of 40 employees from PG&E.
  • The project was made possible by substantial financial contributions from several members of the community. The total project cost was estimated at $500,000.
  • A number of community partners provided in-kind products and services, including Alternative Energy Systems, CES Electrical, PG&E, Chico Sunrise Rotary, and Chico Noon Rotary. The last two, for example, provided volunteer meals and landscaping services.
  • Students participated in nearly every aspect of the project. They applied for the use permit, managed the public review process, created estimates and schedules, coordinated with local utilities, and planned site safety and logistics. The estimated student contribution was valued at approximately $100,000.

Due to the tremendous effort on the part of the volunteers, construction was completed a day earlier than planned. At a celebratory event March 22, Shirah responded to words of thanks from representatives of the Salvation Army.

"We're the ones who are thankful," he said. "The students will spend their careers doing service like this. It's exciting to do something that galvanizes a community. We're thankful for the opp to serve and fill an unmet need in the community."

—Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications; photography by Chris Ficken, Academic Technologies

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