A group of high school students from the Vicksburg Warren School District enjoy a new residential architectural design course offered by Hinds Community College.
The Residential Design and Building Information Modeling course is taught by instructor Richard Hunt, a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in Architectural Engineering Technology.
“The idea is to teach them to understand how a house goes together. We are primarily focused on residential construction,” Hunt said. “(How to understand) the elements that need to be there, how to talk to the customer and get the customer’s needs, and translate that into the language of construction.”
Students are taught at Hinds Community College, which offers brand new iMacs, 3D printers and a state-of-the-art plotter on which students can hone their skills. They are currently learning how to use modeling software to create a house of their own design.
“So it’s basically a virtual construct, isn’t it?” Hunt said. “The idea is that you design every aspect of the building’s details before you drive the first nail.”
The software that the students learn to use allows them to design a workable and detailed plan of the construction project.
“It’s able to print material lists, full specs, all that stuff,” Hunt said. “He can give you detailed cost estimates and things like that.”
The course is not only focused on architectural design. Hunt’s class also learns about the business aspects of construction.
After earning her bachelor’s degree, Hunt worked in the construction industry. Now he tries to pass on the knowledge he would have liked to know before entering the professional field.
“When I started, I didn’t know what to charge people. I didn’t know how to talk to them about the financial aspect,” Hunt said. “Teaching them to notice that and to be confident when talking to customers about money is also a very important thing. I think if they don’t take anything else away (from the course) being able to know their own worth…and knowing the value of their work is one of the most important things I hope they have learned in this class.
Hunt said the design process is an “emotional experience.” He tries to show students that going from the sketch phase to the final design phase, or even the construction phase, is a rewarding experience.
“When you see something that was in your mind and you put it on a piece of paper,” he said. “And then someone builds it, and you see it for the first time in real life, it’s a ‘goosebumps moment’.”
Hunt said he hoped the course would last beyond his freshman year, but he really needed it to grow in order to remain viable for the school district.
“Right now I have five students,” he says. “I really have to have 10. So I have to get the whole student body interested in getting them here.”
Hunt is also looking for community support.
“I actually have a couple of friends who are in the building trades, and a couple of realtors, a couple of developers that I’ve spoken to, and they’ve all offered support,” he said.
These types of professionals are interested “because it would benefit them…I try to teach (students) that they could do it right here. And that it could directly benefit this community,” he said.
Hunt believes the course is a way for students and the community to invest in a better economic future.
“There is a housing shortage in this country,” Hunt said. “Introducing your students to the design-build process by learning about it is the first step to correcting this.”
Several students were convinced that the skills they learn in the course could be applied to their future careers.
Trinitee Odom, a senior, said this course was directly related to areas that interested her.
“It helped me learn that I really wanted to be (in construction),” Odom said. “But I also want to be an architect; I want to do everything.”
Several students eagerly explained the architectural concept of the “work triangle”, a set of general rules for arranging the floor plan in a space where work is performed (such as a kitchen) in order to maximize efficiency and ease of use for the person working.
Another student, Owen McCardle, said he was primarily interested in the artistic aspects of the course and that the skills learned here don’t just apply to the fields of architecture and construction.
“Take it definitely. I mean, it’s not that you just have to take it because you want to be an architect,” McCardle said. “You might take it just to get some basic knowledge of how other things work.”
Hunt echoed the sentiment.
“You’ll learn something about construction, you’ll learn something about design,” he said. “You will learn something about what it means to build a community and be part of a community (and how to) run a business.”