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20 years Building a Better Community: Groundhog Shadow Day


I was surprised how many little details had to be accounted for!”  said Aaron, a senior at Wyoming High School.  “Learning the whole process of building and all of the little things that it takes in the bigger picture was really helpful.  Everyone needs to do their part for the schedule and process to work.”

Aaron, as well as Gerardo, a junior from Godwin Heights High School, and Sam, a junior from Forest Hills Eastern High School, spent a day at Heartland Builders learning more about the building industry, architectural design, and construction project management as part of Kent Intermediate School District’s  Groundhog Shadow Day career exploration program.

As part of our 20th anniversary celebration happening this year, we’re celebrating by doing what we love to do:  building a better community.  On the 20th of every month we’re celebrating the opportunities we have to do this!  This month we celebrated by hosting these three young men from area high schools for a career shadow experience.

Gerardo’s interest in architectural design led him to sign up for the Groundhog Day Shadow experience.  Also interested in design, Sam has taken some engineering courses at FHE and was curious about the actual home design process.  Aaron’s also interested in design, but was particularly intrigued by project management after his shadow experience.  “I didn’t realize the kinds of responsibility you had as a project manager, and I’m really interested in looking into this” when heading to Grand Rapids Community College next year, followed up with Ferris State University.  “I was thinking about the architecture program at Ferris, but project management is something I want to think more about,” he said.

Sam was impressed with the design capabilities of Chief Architect, the 3D software we use for designing our clients’ homes.  “I’ve done some design in class, but Chief Architect is so much more powerful than what we use and it’s much cleaner.  3D design is amazing.”

Gerardo was particularly intrigued with the Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) that go in each of our homes “I didn’t really understand anything about how homes can waste energy and how ERVs can save energy and also give you better air quality.”  He also enjoyed seeing the trenches required for geothermal heat.  “I’d heard of geothermal but I didn’t really know anything about it, and it was really neat to see the trenches under construction and learning about how geothermal works.”

After spending some time in the office learning about design, they toured some job sites with Rich, viewing homes with two different kinds of foundations (poured cement as well as precast concrete panels) and a home built on stilts by the river.  They met some tradespeople and learned about how each step of the building process has to be carefully planned and managed to ensure that the house plans are executed properly.  They learned about how site excavation impacts the cost and function of homes, and they even practiced taking measurements to confirm construction details matched the original design.

At the end of the day, they were excited about potential careers in design & construction.  Here’s what they had to say about it:

“This day gave me a better idea and information about what it entails than I knew before.”

I’m more interested in it and would like to do even more than I did before.

“I’m more interested in this than I was before and I’d like to look into project management too.”

As for us, we learned a few things too.  We were impressed with the experience these students have already had with the field through their high school courses as well as classes through Kent Career Technical Center.  We learned that we’re looking forward to the future of our industry with such talented and hard-working students preparing to learn about and enter it.

And Rich got some pointers on taking selfies.  He’s famous for his cut-off selfies, and we figured high schoolers could teach him a thing or two!

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