SOAR program ready to make its first home sale
By Katherine Nettles
Crested Butte Community School design, building and architecture students spent the summer working on another home for the community at large—this time with more involvement than ever. The Student Organization Achieving Results for Community (SOAR) program, a non-profit organization, worked this summer on the second half of a duplex in Crested Butte South, and the first half of that duplex, built last summer by the same program, is now on the market for sale.
SOAR has successfully worked with local builders, architects and many others since 2015 to teach high school students design, architecture and building concepts for school credit. CBCS teacher Todd Wasinger and John Stock, owner of High Mountain Concepts, run the program and have been involved with the students in and out of the classroom and on the build sites.
After the initial year and build, Stock and Wasinger collaborated to form the non-profit to be self-supporting and self-funding in the future.
As Stock describes the SOAR program, “During the school year, we have the design and engineer part of [the project], and then during the summer we have to build part of it.”
Although the students cannot participate in the project construction year-round, they are involved in an increasing scope of what it takes to build a structure, start to finish.
The current project in Crested Butte South is a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom/three-bath unit. It complements its other half, a 1,200-square-foot three-bedroom/two-bath unit which the students worked on last year and is about to receive its certificate of occupancy. The sale of that unit will be the first for SOAR, and the hope is that SOAR can recover its expenses and repay loans while collecting proceeds to further fund the program into the future.
Nine students participated in the design class last school year, and 21 students participated in the building class that has run through this summer. Several of these students were on-site in late July as the framing neared completion, and gave the Crested Butte News a walk-through of both the finished half of the duplex and the new one under way.
Lily Hannah, Nathan Miller, Henry Bryndal and Sophia Truex have all been part of both the design and build teams at SOAR. The students explained that last year, they mostly worked on the fundamentals and this year had more opportunities to branch out.
“We had a really, really late start to our build,” said Nathan of the 2018 project, “so we had to do a lot of ground work, doing the basics.”
This included the foundation, garage, framing and footers, primarily on the first floor.
The unit built last year also has a richly textured clay wall on its second floor, a design element the students learned about in a class two years ago and opted to try out in the main living area. Local expert Matt Bergland taught the students and helped construct the wall as well, donating his time and materials as so many in the building industry have done for this program.
Stock and High Mountain Concepts finished the remainder of the build once school was back in session last year. This year, students were working on all the aspects of the build.
The two units employ a mountain modern theme with large, angled windows and roofs that trace and frame the peaks outside. Bryndal discussed the way they used Photoshop and their design program to play around with different colors and ideas, and how they compromised when several different ideas came forward.
“We had a straight week trying to decide if this roof was going to be flat or angled,” laughed Truex.
Local architect Andrew Hadley taught the architecture class once per week at CBCS, looking at design ideas and planning with the students.
“The biggest thing for me was seeing the plans, like the angled rooms, and wondering, ‘How are we going to pull that one off?’ And then going and seeing them as the actual rooms. It’s really hard, translating paper floor plans into a three-dimensional space,” said Miller.
The newer side of the duplex, now a hub of buzzing saws and pounding hammers, is quickly taking shape as well. Bryndal described how the theme of the two units was meant to be similar but not identical. “We want them to be siblings, not twins,” he said.
The latest structure uses bold and unexpected overhangs. It also used the same angles as the bump-out window of the master bedroom on last year’s home, tying them together in building elements. “It turned out really well,” said Bryndal.
Standing in what will be the dining room of this newest unit, the living room faces Whetstone Mountain, and the windows follow the slopes of the roof.
The nine design students presented their design plans to the Crested Butte South Property Owners Association in April, and passed with flying colors.
“They had a discussion with some of the local architects and designers to make sure our design met with all the guidelines in Crested Butte South,” said Bryndal.
“The neighbors were really supportive, they just wanted to make sure we weren’t going to have huge windows peering into their houses. That was where the site design and tree placement came in,” said Hannah of the process.
“Everyone was so excited and involved in this build, that at different times we would come in after school and just hang out on the computers trying to figure out different designs,” said Bryndal.
“Everyone was really invested in it,” agreed Truex.
“It’s been a really fun experience being able to learn all these trades that we can actually carry into our whole life,” said Bryndal.
“It’s cool to just be a part of the whole thing, you know. You get to be in it for the whole process, designing it, seeing it get put up and all the stages that it goes through. It gives you an appreciation for all the houses that go up here,” said Hannah.
It’s clear from the jokes and the reflections that circulate freely among the group of students, teachers and site workers that a bond between them all has developed. Building together has left a lasting impression, and Wasinger notes that two students from this program have gone on to architecture school after graduating—and that, most of all, SOAR gives students a big dose of something in the real world.
Wasinger says, “The more concrete we make it, the more investment we get from the students, because it’s not a theoretical problem—it’s real. So they feel that consequence, and they like it. It’s intense, and it’s intimidating, but they adapt to it and I think they get a lot of satisfaction out of it.”
Stock expects the current project to finish sometime next spring. Next, he is considering another affordable housing build for the town of Crested Butte, much like SOAR’s first project in 2015, an employee-housing unit on Butte Avenue.
“We are trying to get the kids interested in the buy-in to help their community. That’s the whole point of the project,” he says.
Wasinger says looking back at the projects they have done, “That first one that we did we were able to demonstrate that the community could really support this kind of education at the school and that the students could actually pull it off. But it’s always been with the help of professionals in the community, willing to come into the classroom to teach about different things like engineering, having architects come in…the fact that it’s a real world thing, we couldn’t do on our own without the support of professionals within the community.”
And as for all the local and even national businesses that contributed, “Everyone is really nice and people were psyched to help with it,” Stock says.
It may not take a village to build a house, but when a whole community gets involved, the benefits are exponential.