Santa Fe students complete Habitat home

Students at Santa Fe College, including Kenneth Wiecek, right, listening to Fred Hart, the coordinator of the Building Construction Technology Program, build a sustainable Habitat for Humanity home during class at the Charles R. Perry Construction Institute on campus in Gainesville on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 7:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 7:46 p.m.

A family will eventually turn the house that Santa Fe College students and volunteers built into a home.

Students in the Charles Perry Construction Institute have hammered away since September on the house for Habitat for Humanity.

What started as a college project, said institute director Jane Parkin, became part of the curriculum.

Students in Fred Hart’s entry-level construction techniques class spent the year constructing the three-bedroom, two-bath 1,248-square-foot house.

Hart said many of his students will graduate and go on to construction management, but building the house is beneficial.

“They’ll mostly be doing management, not working with their hands,” he said, “but they’re going to be supervising people who do. It’s beneficial if they’ve set a door or hung a truss.”

Dwayne Griffis, 42, helped work on the first house SF College constructed in 2011. After graduating last year, he started his own business.

Even though he worked in construction before attending SF College, Griffis said the hands-on method of teaching is helpful for many students.

“It’s the best way to teach,” he said. “You can only learn so much from a textbook.”

Hart echoed these sentiments, saying that it helps students in lecture classes as part of the associate of arts transfer program, which links to the University of Florida’s Rinker School of Construction.

“If you’re having an issue describing something on a blackboard, you can bring them out here to see it,” he said.

The house — which will be lifted by a crane onto a platform and then moved to Robinson Heights near the Hawthorne Trail — has been built with energy-efficient insulation, heating and air conditioning.

It’s also equipped with hurricane straps to withstand strong winds.

Habitat for Humanity purchases the materials for each home that SF College students construct, Parkin said. The partnership works well, Hart said. The college has builders and the non-profit has home buyers. The new homeowners, meanwhile, have to agree to put in 200 hours of sweat equity toward the completion of the home.

“We’re teaching building, not real estate,” he said.

Bank of America also provided support for the project.

Members of the college’s apprenticeship program also helped work on the house by completing all the electrical wiring, Hart said.

The program takes employed technicians and enrolls them in classes to become electricians, carpenters, heating and cooling technicians and plumbers.

The institute also provides training for its heating and cooling, welding and automotive services. The various programs have seen unbridled growth, Parkin said, because students know that after graduation they can find employment. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning program has tripled already in the past three years and most of the other programs offered are at full capacity.

The institute’s building contains the construction project. Parkin said that when the building was constructed, it was built in a U-shape around the bay.

“Every day it has rained, our students can still work on it,” she said.

Hart said he hopes that more classes will take part in the home building as part of their curriculum.

The project has a long-lasting effect on students, leaving a permanent marker of their hard work and a devotion for community service, Parkin said.

“These houses,” she said, “will last for generations.”

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