OMAK -- The idea was to build an energy-efficient house, teach students the construction trades, and end up with an affordable house for a low-income family.
With sights set that high, two out of three isn't bad.
The house in Omak's Wildwood subdivision is now on the market for $190,000.
That's not exactly within the grasp of a family living on minimum wage jobs, said Lael Duncan, executive director of the Okanogan County Community Action Council, which oversaw the project.
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But in the two and a half years that it took to build it, an estimated 150 students were introduced to construction.
And the well-insulated home -- built with some recycled materials -- features all energy-efficient appliances, compact fluorescent lighting and windows that conserve energy.
"One of our motivations was to demonstrate that green can be beautiful, and that green can also be affordable," Duncan said.
Duncan said the idea came about when she and Bob Risinger, who then was Omak's school superintendent, started talking about the high school's construction program.
"I said, 'We've got a lot up in Wildwood. How about if we supply the land and materials, and the kids build the house?' "she recalls asking him.
A partnership was forged, and for the next two years, students in the Building Trades class worked with their instructor and private contractors to dig a foundation, frame a house, insulate, sheetrock, and do much of the finish work.
Students learned more than just how to swing a hammer, said David Kirk, Omak High School's assistant principal and career and technical education administrator. "We're showing everybody they can be a homeowner. They learn how to repair it, and what to look for when they purchase a house," he said.
Kirk, who joined the district when the house was half-built, said there were challenges. The constraints of a regular class period was one, he said. With some 51-minute periods and some 105-minute blocks, students didn't have a lot of time for actual work, when you take away getting to and from the worksite, unloading tools and cleaning up.
"It took us longer than predicted," he said. And students who dug the foundation were not in the class when the house was being painted, so they didn't get to see a project from start to finish.
But many students got a taste of what goes in to a major building project, including delays and cost overruns. "It was an outstanding learning opportunity for the students," he said. "If they give us another opportunity, I think we would jump at it."
Duncan said the students didn't do all of the work. For safety, the Action Council's construction crew built the roof. And contractors pitched in, including Walter Electric and Always Plumbing, which donated all of its labor.
The project will benefit low-income residents through other Community Action programs, Duncan said.
"We do feel like our most important task is the preservation of affordable housing. The profits that we can recoup from this project will help many families, as opposed to one," Duncan said.
Duncan said they will wait until the house sells and look at actual costs before deciding whether to try a similar project.
"We've learned a tremendous amount about managing a project like this, which is a little outside the box," she said.