Past Projects

For many years, the Botetourt Education Foundation (BEF) has been heavily involved in supporting programs within the Botetourt Technical Education Center.

In 2005, the BEF partnered with BTEC’s building trades program to help students get hands-on knowledge of the housing industry with our innagural Books2bricks effort. The Foundation coordinated funding for construction materials and a lot in the upscale Santillane subdivision outside Fincastle off U.S. 220.

Over the next two years, students from the Botetourt Technical Education Center in Fincastle, supervised by Phillip Simmons, head of the Building Trades program, made the construction site their classroom as they sawed, mitered and nailed together a four-bedroom, three bath, 112 story brick ranch house. The home included a range of custom features, including smart wiring, hardwood floors and a gas fireplace framed in stone. The modern kitchen included stainless steel appliances, Corian countertops and cherry wood cabinets.

The project was perceived by all as a huge success.

"The most important thing to us was that the students get the hands-on experience," said Bob Patterson, a Roanoke lawyer and the foundation's president. "It wasn't let's get it built in six months so we can sell it. They participated in, I would say, 95 percent of the construction of this house."

The class is designed to give students skills they can use to find jobs after graduating from high school.

Simmons graded students on their abilities in carpentry, masonry, plumbing and electrical skills. If they didn't perform a certain task correctly, he had them do the work over again. What the students couldn't finish during the school year, either Simmons, a licensed contractor, did himself, or hired other professionals to complete.

In all, about 70 contractors, suppliers and tradesmen assisted with the project.

"It was overwhelming the amount of support from those in the industry," Gilliland said. "Essentially what we found was, one of the problems that they have is finding good, skilled help. And they would love to be able to work with our students through the program with the possibility of getting some skilled help."

Evolution of Books2bricks

Since the completion of the initial project in Santillane, regulations limited the ability for BTEC to engage in some of the activities required for home construction.

For the past nine years Mr. Phillip Simmons’ Building Trades Class has constructed modular homes on the Botetourt Technical Education Center campus. During this time span six modular homes were constructed and sold at public auction. While this has been an excellent learning experience for the building trades students, modular home construction omits and limits the students’ exposure to numerous activities and trades. It is the goal and desire of the Building Trades program to involve students in every phase of home construction. In the past, students have not had experience in excavations, footer layout, foundations and forming, drain tile, total utility connections, heating and air conditioning, finished electrical and plumbing, backfill and final grading, seeding and landscaping.