By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald

Central Texas College students are raising awareness about energy-efficient practices and materials as they work to complete a green-built home on campus.

“It’s been a really great project to work on,” said Michael McClellan, a second-year student studying electronics and wireless technology. “It’s a lot more engaging and educational than just reading everything out of a book.”

The 34-year-old Killeen resident is among an estimated 20 to 30 students working on the project. Their goal is to construct an 800-square-foot home that will showcase the latest in sustainable, energy efficient technology.

“When we started planning the project a year-and-a-half ago, the goal was to give students hands-on experience building an energy efficient home” said Mark Winans, project leader and chair of electronics department at the community college. “We wanted to use both low-tech and high-tech methods to make the build as efficient as possible.”

The two-bedroom, one-bath home has several energy-saving features, such as double-paned windows, a sprayable foam insulation and an energy-efficient heating and air conditioning system. Winans added that the students plan to install a solar array, which will power, among other things, the home’s hot water heater.

Many of the building materials and some of the labor were donated by various businesses and construction contractors in Killeen. The home also is wired to include a “smart grid” computer system, which can monitor and adjust energy usage in the home and provide data for student to use in future research.

Winans said he was proud that the project has been largely run by students from the electronics, agriculture/horticulture, architectural and building trades programs.

“It was definitely interesting watching (the house) go up,” said Matthew Needham, a second-year student in electronics. “It was cool to see it go from blueprints and plans to an actual house, and it was good learning experience to see how everything was put together.”

For Winans, the end goal of the project is two-fold: To highlight the importance of energy conservation and to prepare students for future careers.

“Moving forward, I think we are going to see a lot of builders focusing on building energy-efficient homes,” said Winans. “(The project) will enrich (the students’) education and prepare them for what they will be doing once they graduate.”

Once the home is complete, it will be open to the public.

Winan said he hoped to complete the project sometime in early 2012.