High school students win construction competition

Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Five Juneau-Douglas High School students have won a national construction management competition.

Tracy-Diane Lazaro, Eli Wray, Dani Cherian, Matt deLaBruere and Valerie Ozawa placed first of three high schools in the residential construction competition Jan. 13 at the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla. The contest was organized by the Home Builders Institute.

The JDHS students scored high enough to have placed fourth among two-year colleges, who competed separately, said Craig Mapes, a JDHS vocational teacher.

The students' task was to develop working drawings such as a floor plan and elevations, a detailed estimate of material and labor costs, and a construction schedule for a house based on specifications by Centex Homes, a major homebuilder in the United States.

Lazaro, who has competed twice before, said she enjoys solving the problem.

Students worked on the project "forever," Wray said. Actually, it was a semester, including "every single lunch," some time after school, and during holidays, he said.

"I think (the students) got a whole lot out of it," Mapes said, "including networking with people in the building professions, including architects, contractors and university professors that teach construction."

The project is the sort of work they'd do if they worked for Centex, Mapes said. Wray, Cherian and deLaBruere said they want to be architects.

Students learn the level of detail the construction industry is looking for, said Marquam George, a professor in the University of Alaska Southeast's construction technology department.

The students figured it would cost about $204,000 to build the single-story, 3,880-square-foot house. It would sell for about $430,000, using a ratio of cost to sales price provided by Centex, which sponsored the competition.

"We went to the local home-selling agency online and looked for prices of homes in Orlando," Wray said.

They divided prices by square-footage to get an average, and then applied it to their house, he said. Their final result was close to that estimate.

Students made the drawings on computers. They used building-supply Web sites for some of the information about material costs.

They also received considerable help from George and Charlie Ross at UAS and Kelly Flynn of Juneau Truss. The students tested their presentation at Minch Ritter Voelckers Architects.

Ross "helped me to figure out the amount of days and the amount of people it would take" to work on each stage of construction, deLaBruere said.

The competitors were supposed to show innovation and look for cost savings. But one of the Juneau team's ideas lost them points because it didn't follow the specifications, Mapes said.

George advised them to make the exterior walls out of insulated concrete forms, rather than the wooden frame listed in the specifications. The Orlando area is infested with termites.

The concrete "is more expensive, but it saves more in the long term," deLaBruere said.

The Northern Southeast Alaska Building Industry Association contributed $1,200 toward the students' travel cost, and the Filipino Community gave $100, Mapes said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.

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