For several decades, a small, dilapidated house with cracks in the foundation and rotting siding occupied the corner lot in an Andover neighborhood, but an assignment in an architecture technology class at Anoka Technical College and a unique partnership between the technical college and Anoka County Community Development cleared the way for a green-designed, two-story house drafted by students and funded with federal money.
In spring 2011, Anoka County Community Development Department approached Jay Boyle, the architecture technology instructor at Anoka Tech, with an idea about students drafting a house for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Grants from the NSP help counties buy or rehabilitate foreclosed, vacant houses that are unlikely to sell in a weak housing market.
Anoka County has a history of collaborating with the two-year technical college, but the project allowed the county to work directly with the students. Students in the architecture technology program learn how to evaluate and finish housing plans, but this assignment had the additional benefit of students being able to see the results of their work.
“Being able to see the final results of your work and of your ideas is such an important element of learning architecture technology,” said Boyle a 21-year instructor at Anoka Tech. “Working with the county and within the parameters of taxpayer’s dollars gave students a learning experience that cannot be taught in a classroom.”
With the county’s building specifications and codes in front of them, the students at Anoka Tech chose three pre-designed house plans to fit the property’s shape and topography. After the county chose a design, the students customized the house, added finishing touches and made sure the blueprints met fire, safety and building codes.
The students modified both internal and external features. Students added and removed windows based on solar orientation and external views. The siding of the house and the slope of the roof were altered to fit the context of the neighborhood. And students changed the orientation of the kitchen and the dining room to create a great room that was more open and inviting.
An open house will be held on March 24 from 1 to 4 p.m. at which time the public can take tours at 14524 Bluebird St. N.W., Andover.
“Partnerships like this are what will allow us to succeed as a region,” said Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah. “There are multiple winners in a partnership like this: the neighborhood which now has a home that contributes value to the surroundings rather than detracting from it; the students who learn not only from the technical experience but also from the relationships developed along the way; and the taxpayer, who gets maximum return for an already stretched dollar.”
Anoka Technical College, founded in 1967, provides innovative career and technical education to help students and communities live and learn well. The two-year college has evolved to a higher education institution that offers over 35 career and technical, degrees, diplomas and certificates. The hands-on, structured classes and small class sizes are enhanced by the diversity of the student body, faculty and staff, who bring a rich blend of ethnicity, culture and age to the college. Anoka Technical College is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.