West Virginia technical center students build tiny house


RACHEL, W.Va. (AP) – According to teacher John Pheasant, the Marion County Technical Center is Marion County’s best kept secret.

Students learn a number of things including carpentry and electrical work. The students recently built a tiny house totaling 432 square feet, which Pheasant said, required all of the skills a builder would need to construct a residential home.

“Insulation, framing, installing windows, siding, shingles…the students have done all of it and I just sort of guide them,” Pheasant said.

He said the students do projects that are more than just a mock up. The projects often involve something that the community will use.

“In doing that the students have a greater appreciation for it and I feel like they work harder on it,” he said. “Students learned about building codes, find a piece of property to put the house on and upkeep of different things in a home.”

The students also do repairs around the building and have also built Mannington City Hall. They’ve built handicap ramps for people in the community. They also have built tiny houses for those impacted by the flood in 2016.

“A student going through the carpentry program for two years and passing the program, participating in it can go out and I feel get a decent job, be successful in life. If they’re willing to work they can get a job about wherever they want to,” Pheasant said.

He said some students go on to a four year school or might go to another trade school. He said it’s often misconceived that if students go to the tech center students can’t go on to college.

“Whatever they do, if they’re passing the class, I basically make the statement that it will save them or make them money in their lifetime. Cause if they live in a house they’re going to have some repairs,” Pheasant said.

In 2016, the state offered grants to vocational centers to build tiny homes after the floods in southern West Virginia. Pheasant said he thought that was a neat idea and he was willing to give it a try.

“We only got three grants but we built four homes. The community backed us, companies backed us. We’ve been very fortunate here in Marion County,” Pheasant said.

If somebody comes to the school and has a need that’s within reason the students will likely tackle it. Pheasant said the more the students are willing to work, the more he’s willing to do.

Pheasant said the time to complete a home varies according to the size of the project and the number of students he has in class. The most recent house has been at the school for two years. In the past, the tiny homes the students built were started in October and were finished in December.

Pheasant said the students stay over to work a lot, but due to the pandemic it has really impacted the amount of hands-on work the students have done.

“The buildings probably mean more to the student than me because I’ve done it all my life but it’s neat to see the students when they feel that they’re successful and you seeing them grow over the months that they’re here,” Pheasant said.

Wesley Allan was one of the students that lent a hand in building the tiny house. He said his group came in when he was a sophomore and the house started with just the metal frame which was cut to size and was built up from the floor. Allan said it feels good to see the project come together, especially when it involves giving back to someone.

“You’re learning something that’s going to help you later, learning a trade and up there I’ve gone and I’ve built my house. I know what I’m doing and I feel safe doing it,” Allan said.

Rory Phillips also worked on the tiny house did roofing, installed doors and flooring among other things.

“I came here thinking I was going to learn I was just how to carve wood I guess, but I’ve learned a lot more. I think I could probably refinish my bedroom if I really tried. It’s actually going to help me in real life a lot,” Allan said.

Allan said it was really cool to see the whole process come together when building the house aside from YouTube. Allan said he enjoys doing what he does everyday.

“I wouldn’t come here everyday if I didn’t, probably. That’s true,” Allan said.

The house is for sale, Pheasant valued the house at $38,000 and is accepting offers. The funds will go toward future projects at the school.

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