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From the Ground Up

Kelly Gustafson carefully balances a level as she and a group of fellow Rogue Community College students build the forms for a concrete stem wall sprouting out of a lot in a new Eagle Point neighborhood.

She calls for more shims and a classmate wearing a toolbelt fetches some from across the site. Instructor Jeanne Schraub scans their work with an optical builder's level, ensuring a solid foundation for this house and for the education of the students building it.

The Home Builders Association of Jackson County and RCC have teamed up to build a home. The project will give students real-world experience and showcase sustainable and environmentally sensitive building techniques and products, said Tug Ferguson, a Grants Pass resident who sells Tyvek building materials around the state and serves on the association's education and green building committees.

Home Builders Association President Mark Knouff said the organization long has worked closely with the college to make sure construction training fits with industry needs.

"It was evident that they didn't have a big project for hands-on experience," he said. "So we said 'Why not build a house?' "

Knouff is the general contractor for the project. His company, Knouff Inc. of Central Point, provided the lot. The project is financed by Evergreen Federal Bank and numerous local builders have donated supplies, he said.

Students designed and will build the home. All proceeds from its sale will be donated to the Rogue Community College Foundation to provide scholarships for students in the construction program.

"This really brings it together," said Ralph Henderson, head of Rogue Community College's construction technology program. "It's the whole building. It's a great learning experience.

A drafting class last summer developed the design for the three-bedroom, two-bath home with an attached two-car garage accessed from an alley in back. The house will have 1,800 square feet of space, a rock front, lap siding and two covered porches.

The students incorporated green ideas such as routing heating and cooling ducts through climate controlled areas to conserve energy, Ferguson said. The home will be certified by Earth Advantage and Energy Star, programs that support environmental responsibility. The project also will showcase ideas to educate builders and homeowners, he said.

Back at the RCC classrooms, Henderson has taken students through the building permit process with the help of Dale Bohannan, Eagle Point building inspector and an RCC instructor, and worked on cost estimating and project scheduling. In October, they started work on the footings and now the foundation is taking shape.

"As a crew, we're inexpensive, but slow," Henderson said with a chuckle. He expects to complete the home by next spring.

Construction students will frame and finish the house and students from RCC's apprenticeship program will provide electrical, sheet metal and heating, ventilation and air conditioning work. Crater High School has a construction program that works with RCC, so its students will help out, too, and Henderson wants to get other high schools and student groups involved.

Gustafson will earn a certificate in architectural computer-aided drafting in June and has a summer internship with an architect, but she values her experience at the job site.

"I don't plan to do this for my career," she said, kicking a section of the concrete form into place. "I will draw plans for this, so it's good to get hands-on experience."

Another drafting student, Daniel Clogston, 19, came to RCC to learn to design fire sprinkler systems for his grandfather's business, Central Point-based Don Clogston Fire Protection. He also volunteers to build homes abroad with Helping Hands International and will use what he's already learned at the Eagle Point construction site to head up a project this summer in Mexico.

"These are our workers," Ferguson said. "This is a great opportunity to reinvest in the future of our industry and make sure we have quality educated employees."

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485 or at aburke@mailtribune.com

Rogue Community College student Daniel Clogston carries a sheet of plywood to be used for a concrete form on a house being built by RCC students and the Home Builders Association of Jackson County. - Jim Craven