The future home builders of Connecticut got to tour the future homes of Connecticut.

Sophomore construction career students—those studying carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC—from nine Connecticut technical high schools recently toured of one of five net zero energy homes around the state.

Net zero energy home
Sustainability: Norwich Tech students tour a net zero energy home in Stonington.

In a net zero energy home, the total amount of energy used on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy the home creates through technology like solar panels.

Homeowners, builders, and home energy experts talked to the students and showed them new framing techniques, cutting-edge windows and insulation, and high-tech mechanical systems that create an extremely tight and energy-efficient home.

The homes use a renewable system, such as solar panels or geothermal heat pumps, to achieve the desired net-zero effect.

Students from Norwich Tech toured a home under construction in Stonington.

"The designer and architect were very informative and the homeowners and builder were gracious to allow us the opportunity," said John Kelly, head of the carpentry department at Norwich Tech.

Great Demand

Karla Butterfield, a senior sustainability consultant with Steven Winters Associates, said there is a great demand for skilled workers, especially those trained in green energy.

"There is a continuous need for subcontractors with the knowledge of sustainability strategies and certification program requirements," she said.

"When HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and framing contractors can hire graduates already trained in energy and material efficiency, they're able to deliver a better product to clients and reduce the building's environmental impact.

"The students were engaged and enthusiastic; we look forward to future participation with this successful program."

The program is Green STEP—Sustainability Technical Education Program, a partnership of EnergizeCT, Eversource, United Illuminating, Connecticut Technical High School System and CBIA's Education & Workforce Partnership.

It aims to develop the students' awareness of sustainable building practices and position them for employment in the green industry.

These students, entering their junior year this fall, will next apply the sustainable building and technology concepts they learned on their next trips into the field, where they'll spend some production hours working with builders on a net zero home.