A team of Juneau-Douglas High School students last week won second place in a national competition to design a home.
Seniors Mary Wilcock, Garrett Paul, John Wagner and Taryn Bachman and freshman Tracy Lazaro had to modify base drawings for a two-story home for a hypothetical Las Vegas family that wanted certain options for a set price.
A JDHS team won the event at the high school level last year. Two-year colleges compete in a separate category. This year JDHS competed against just two other high schools, but Craig Mapes, a vocational teacher who coached the team, said that didn't diminish the achievement.
"It's a hard problem," he said of the competition's premise.
"We basically took the shell of the house and rearranged stuff inside the house," Paul said. "We had to keep the same footprint."
The Home Builders Institute, the workforce development arm of the National Association of Home Builders, held the competition Monday at the Las Vegas, Nev., convention center.
Students had six weeks to prepare a set of 19 architectural drawings, a construction schedule, and cost estimates for materials and labor. The students were judged for those documents, for saving money in the engineering, and how well they presented their work to judges.
The design requirements were plentiful and exacting. For instance, the contest instructions said, "All exterior side swinging doors shall have a landing located on each side. Landing shall not be more than 8 inches below the top of the threshold."
Among other questions, judges asked the JDHS students what kind of concrete they intended to use in the foundation, and what they had done to meet the family's request for upgraded kitchen cabinets.
"It throws them into the real word," said Charlie Ross, an assistant professor of construction technology at the University of Alaska Southeast who was consulted by the students.
Working on the project was "more professional" than class work, said Bachman, who has worked at the architectural firm of Jensen Yorba Lott. "You get to learn what it's like in the field in the real world."
"You don't have resources all ready for you," said Wilcock, who interns at Jensen Yorba Lott. "You have to find your own resources."
Wagner, who interns at Minch Ritter Voelckers Architects, worked on the construction schedule with help from Ross.
Ross showed Wagner how to modify a computer program that builds schedules so the team's document would suit the Las Vegas homebuilding industry's fast pace.
"It entailed learning schedule management: When you're building a house, what comes first and the possibility of certain things happening simultaneously," Ross said. Las Vegas "is the fastest development spot in the country."
Students consulted industry reference books and local and Las Vegas contractors to develop the cost estimates.
"We had to establish all costs for the building, all materials," Paul said.
"Including every detail," Wilcock added.
Students worked on the project "any time we could," Paul said - lunch time, after school and weekends.
Wagner said he might become an architect.
"It's kind of interesting to me whenever I go on trips and look at the buildings and I'm kind of stunned," he said.
"I just like how things go together. I like the way they take shape," said Paul, who has worked in construction for family members.
"I've always liked architecture," said Wilcock, who wants to study it at the University of Oregon. "I spent six months last year in Italy and I loved a lot of the architecture I saw."
Lazaro, the freshman, said she wanted to try out the contest "because I was told I had the knack for visuals."
"She'll be back," Mapes said. "She's going to be our heavy hitter over the course of the next three years."
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.