Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Cabrillo Etech Students Are Building Low-Cost, Green Homes to Address the State’s Affordable Housing Crisis


August 27, 2019 — Aptos, CA

For three families on the Central Coast, the California dream of owning a home has come true thanks to Cabrillo College Engineering Technology (Etech) students who are pioneering one way the state can address the affordable housing crisis.

Through Cabrillo College’s Etech program, students are getting hands-on experience in home building at every stage of the process — from design, to getting plans through a county permitting process, to building.

“California’s affordable housing crisis requires groundbreaking innovation and experimentation with sustainable models to design, build, and bring homes into the market,” said Dean of Career Technical Education and Workforce Development Gerlinde Brady. “Through this program, these students have built real homes for local families while gaining skills that will bring positive impact to their lives and their communities,” she said.

Etech’s participation in these projects was free of charge and did not utilize any College funds —  and it is not the first time. Etech students have regularly contributed to life-changing projects by volunteering for local construction projects for a wide variety of Central Coast nonprofits.

Etech curriculum involves completing start-to-finish designs of homes as well as having its students build the homes under the direction of professional contractors. The students drew 100% of the plans, passed them through the County permitting process, and also assisted in the building of the homes with the intent of getting out from behind the computer screen and gaining hands-on field experience (see photos attached). The students provided all services free of charge to the homeowners.

The state-of-the-art software utilized in Etech classrooms calculates the energy consumption for every digitally-produced design and also provides potential energy-saving/cost-saving solutions. In brief, a homeowner will know the amount of their PG&E and water bills before the first nail is hammered.

“As Etech faculty, we teach current, relevant skills, so over the past few years we’ve incorporated the concepts from the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan into our curriculum,” said Bill Fisher, Cabrillo Etech Instructor and Licensed Architect. “That Strategic Plan states that all new residential construction needs to be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2020. In other words, the actual annual consumed energy will need to be less than or equal to the on-site renewable generated energy.” 

The software also creates photo-realistic renderings and animated walk-throughs of the proposed design so that the homeowner has no surprises once construction begins.

“Through my incredibly enriching experience as a student in the Etech program, one of the many things that I discovered is that the housing crisis presents an opportunity for architects to fortify the community with a wide range of innovative solutions,” said Jason Matthews, a recent Cabrillo Etech graduate.

Cabrillo College Etech courses meet at 6pm one night per week and the Fall 2019 schedule has five courses to choose from — all of which require no prior experience. The Etech program also offers free workshops to refresh computing skills. Please see for more information including our contact information or call 831-479-5705.



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