RPS, Swedish students collaborate to build home

Highs in the 80s are expected this week. So keeping homes warm is not top-of-mind these days.

Still, the story of the super-insulated Swedish Standard House and the involvement of East High School students is pretty cool.

The Swedish Standard House is at Benton and Adams streets in Rockford.

The Swedish Standard House is at Benton and Adams streets in Rockford.

The house at 1301 Benton St., Rockford, is a collaborative effort, part of the SwedishAmerican Foundation’s Neighborhood Renovation Project. It involves students in construction classes at East and construction students and instructors from De la Gardiegymnasiet School in Lidkoping, Sweden. The students and instructors worked side-by-side to build the house. The house is now finished, and a ribbon-cutting and renovation is scheduled for 10 a.m., Tuesday, June 3, at the house.

Matthew Walling, East High construction teacher, said this is the third school year his students have worked on the house. They and the Swedish students have built it from the ground up, handling every detail except for the plumbing and heating. They have used the layering principle of Scandinavian construction. By installing insulation in different stages of the wall assembly — in the exterior, main stud and interior layers — it creates a continuously insulated, air-tight envelope. (Read about the process and see other pictures here, courtesy of Roxul, an international manufacturer of insulation.)

Mr. Walling said the result of the technique was dramatic. During work hours, the thermostat was set at 55 degrees. But, within an hour of people being in the house, just their body heat and the heat of burning lightbulbs boosted the temperature of the house 4 degrees.

And that was when it was barely 10 degrees outside, Mr. Walling said.

Another dramatic transformation that took place was in the students themselves. At the beginning, “We have more faith in them then they have in themselves, to be honest,” Mr. Walling said. Then, as they build their construction skills, they gain confidence. They go from being wide-eyed observers of completed home projects — “You built THAT?” they ask — to driving by and telling people,  “Yeah, I built that house.”

Not all Mr. Walling’s students go into the construction trades. But they can take the skills they learn — and, in the case of the Swedish Standard House, the cultural undestanding they gain  — with them for life. That’s the beauty of college and career readiness, which is one of  they key goals of the Rockford Public Schools.

You may RSVP for the ribbon-cutting by calling 815-961-2496 before Friday, May 30. Never fear: I’m pretty sure they won’t have the heat on.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator at the Rockford Public Schools. Contact her at mary.kaull@rps205.com. Like the district on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.





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