Community College Partners with City Police to Build Energy-Efficient Center for Officers

Asheville, N.C., Police Department gets modular house built by college students.

by / November 9, 2010
The Oakley Police Resource Center a few months before completion. The center officially opened Oct. 27. Photo courtesy of Asheville, N.C. Photo courtesy of Asheville, N.C.

Thanks to Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech) students, North Carolina’s Asheville Police Department now has a new energy-efficient community resource center that serves 43 local patrol officers.

“We should see significant energy costs savings as a result of the high-efficiency features,” said Jeff Richardson, assistant city manager of Asheville. “I would not be surprised at all to see [monthly] energy savings well over 50 percent.”

Part of the reason those savings are so significant is because the police were previously working from a 100-year-old dilapidated house that was “very expensive to operate,” said Richardson.

Though the energy-efficient home wasn’t initially intended to service the police department, the partnership naturally fell into place.

Photo: Ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Oakley Police Resource Center in Asheville, N.C. Photo courtesy of Asheville, N.C.

In spring 2008, A-B Tech began a student-run project to build a Healthy Built home with high-efficiency irrigation, plumbing fixtures, windows and insulation, Energy Star appliances and lighting, and nontoxic finishes.  

The construction originally started as a way to get students involved in a “live project,” said Max Queen, vice president of administrative services at the college. The goal was to train the students on the principles of modular housing construction.

Each year, the college allocates money for these types of projects for students as part of their curriculum, Queen said.

The college provided about $100,000 to build the modular house, with the assumption that a local nonprofit would buy the house and use it as affordable community housing. The project was slated to take a year, but when construction was wrapping up, the nonprofit revealed it couldn’t hold up its end of the deal.

“Fortunately in the spring of this year, I was contacted by Ashville’s assistant city manager, Jeff Richardson,” Queen said, explaining that the center they were using in Oakley was 100 years old — it was in need of significant repair and renovation.

Richardson asked if the college would assist by constructing an energy-efficient building for the 43 officers assigned to that region — and Queen told him no construction was necessary. “We already have one ready to go,” he said.

The City Council agreed to purchase the home from the college, and within a few months, the foundation was set in Oakley, N.C., for the house to be transferred from the manufacturing facility near the college and placed in its permanent location.

The house was built for residential use, so Richardson worked with the students to reconstruct some aspects to meet certain code requirements for public buildings, and to incorporate a flex design to fit the police department’s needs. Flex design includes movable walls that allows reconfiguration of the layout for changing operational needs.

The Oakley Police Department has been using the center for about a month, and Richardson said the community is thrilled with the results.

“It’s just fascinating how the house is designed,” said Richardson. “It’s a big deal because it has such pragmatic function in the city.” 


Lauren Katims Nadeau

Lauren Katims previously served as a staff writer and contributing writer for Government Technology magazine.