916 unveils 24th student-built home

Student Built home exteriorStudent Built home kitchenStudent Built home bathroomStudent Built home porchStudent Built home entryStudent Built home lights
916 unveils 24th student-built home
Posted on 09/13/2017
Student-built home

A 1600 square-foot “farmhouse chic” rambler in North St. Paul is the ultimate final project for students at the 916 Career and Technical Center. The newly-built home boasts three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fireplace, main-floor laundry, an open floor plan and a screened-in porch. Over the course of nine months, more than 40 students from the Career and Technical Center partnered with the school district’s contacts in industry, business and higher education to build the $306,000 home from scratch.

For eighteen years, students in the construction occupations program at Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District have been revitalizing the City of North St. Paul by building affordable, modern and high-quality housing. The program is the only one in the state where students get real-world experience constructing a full-sized house on site; students spend only 10 percent of their time in a traditional classroom.

After uninhabitable homes have been demolished, high school students and school district staff step in to build brand new homes on the lot over the course of a single school year, all while earning important college credits. Those involved ensure the new homes match the surrounding neighborhood's home value, size and architecture, so it is truly an upgrade, not an intrusion.

“Students do not learn a single skill like carpentry or masonry. They get a well-rounded education that builds skills in electrical, heating/cooling, plumbing, drywall, flooring, and landscaping,” said Tom Spehn, who teaches the course. Students also practice teamwork, build their resumes and make important professional connections with the tradespeople they encounter on the job.

Some students find related employment after leaving the program, others pursue a four-year degree in Construction Management and others may leave the field. “Regardless of what they choose, students leave the program with lifelong skills in home maintenance that will impact whatever community they land in,” said Spehn.

The construction industry faces a skilled-labor shortage, and is eager to partner with the school district to fill that need. Since the program started in 1999, hundreds of students have contributed to building 24 homes, with one more on the way.

The program has revitalized neighborhoods in the City of North St. Paul, leading to an additional $3 million in real estate value and adding energy to a town that is already fully-developed. By partnering with the school district, the city is able to save thousands of dollars in labor costs. The city usually breaks even in the sale of the home, but every home is a long-term investment. The new homes inspire neighbors to invest more in home maintenance and improvement, which raises property values and tax revenues throughout the city.

The program benefits from a close partnership between the school district, the City of North St. Paul, St. Paul College and Century College. The city identifies homes that are beyond repair, demolishes them and purchases the materials that high school students use to build the home. Students from St. Paul College design, build and install custom cabinetry. Interior design students from Century College select the paint colors, cabinet stains and other finishing touches.

Business partners include: Anderson Concrete Forming Inc., Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), The Builders Group (TBG), Carpentry Contractors Company, Fireside Hearth & Home, Harkraft, Innovative Surfaces, Kraus-Anderson, Lyman Lumber, Pratt Homes, Quality Insulation, and Southern Lights.

“This program is truly the result of the entire community pitching together to make a difference,” said Spehn.