Student Builders Get Real-World Experience

Pat Hamill of Oakwood Homes is justifiably proud of what his company has accomplished in building Green Valley Ranch, a master planned community in northeast

By Patrick L. O’Toole, Professional Builder Magazine | May 1, 2000
University of Denver home builders (from left to right) Brandon Bruemen, co-chair; Bryce Wallnut, DU hockey player and co-chair; John Leatherman, team member for marketing, construction and finance; and Brian Kunkel, co-chair of marketing and sales.


Pat Hamill of Oakwood Homes is justifiably proud of what his company has accomplished in building Green Valley Ranch, a master planned community in northeast Denver not far from the airport. Touring four newly modeled bungalows at the development during the recent Green Building Conference sponsored by NAHB and Professional Builder magazine, it became clear that Oakwood’s Hamill deserves credit for more than the development. Hamill’s commitment to the industry and its future made Green Valley Ranch a learning place where 17 University of Denver students are nearing completion their yearlong home building practicum.

In an industry that has been working hard to find ways to develop and retain talented managers, the UD program has long been a standout. Hamill himself is an alumnus. "This program is unique because it aligns the students with the home building industry," notes Hamill. "It’s my hope that some of these talented students end up in the housing and development industry because of this program."

When the tour bus left the "Bungalows" and arrived at the UD practicum house, disembarking home builders were met by the fresh-faced enthusiasm of students who have managed all aspects of the construction a three-bedroom home with an asking price of $173,500. They take their business very seriously and were very professional in their presentation of all of the "Green" aspects of the home. The group was also flush with the victory of having just sold the house to a manager at Oakwood’s primary framing subcontractor. This was a particular relief to senior Brian Kunkel, one of the co-chairman of the sales and marketing team.

"It’s great to get away from classroom theory and actually get some practical experience, which will give us a competitive advantage as we enter the work world," says Kunkel summing up his experience. "We’re doing everything from market analysis to calling subcontractors and creating sales strategies. It’s something we feel proud to put on our resumes."

The two-semester class began last fall with the formation of a limited liability company and quickly progressed to bidding out the project. Oakwood Homes donated the lot and gave the students the option of choosing from four floor plans to build. The student showed some commitment to the project (and some flexibility) when they were presented with information about green building. They had the choice of proceeding as planned or making the changes to make the home greener. They chose the latter, focusing on the use of recycled materials and materials that increase energy efficiency. They later achieved a very good energy efficiency rating from local Built Green program administrators.


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