Students build energy star home to bring down utility billsSubmitted: 06/07/2014

Karolina Buczek

RHINELANDER - Attention to small details will help two families save some money on their utility bills. Rhinelander High School students in the Building Trades Program built an energy star duplex.

"There are about ten percent of homes north of Highway 29 that can say they have that label," said building instructor, Russ Germain. "I think it only makes sense if we're in the education business to educate possible future builders and homeowners."

An energy star home has most of its small cracks sealed up tightly to stop heat from escaping.

"In a normal energy star house, there's 500 CFM units of leakage. In our house, there's only 240 and 220 so we're 45 percent better than a normal energy star house," said Rhinelander High School senior Logan Rudis.

The program uses more expensive products to make sure the house conserves energy.

"We use different products," said Germain. "We spend more money on things that will essentially make the house tighter while providing good ventilation so it's a healthy home as well."

Getting the energy star certification wasn't easy. The students had to build the entire house differently than normal.

"We frame differently. We insulate differently. When it comes to air sealing, we try to do a really good job of eliminating leaks," said Germain.

The students used a unique framing technique.

"We wanted to try to frame so that it's a good, strong, safe home but we're not wasting a lot of material. We're actually adding more insulation to our walls so ultimately the customer is going to benefit," said Germain.

The duplex is finally done and will be available for rent sometime in July.

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PARK FALLS - Many people in the Northwoods go to church on Sunday mornings, and for some of them it may be begrudgingly.

But there are plenty of people, often elderly or sick, who want to go to church but have a hard time doing so.

Peace Lutheran Church in Park Falls wanted to change that. Since May, they've been undergoing some construction. On Sunday, the church had a dedication ceremony for a special new addition—an elevator.

Now people like 100-year-old Ruth Olson can worship with greater ease.

Before the elevator, Olson said she would get to church by literally pulling herself up the stairs using the railing.

Olson's story is like many. As the older population grows, church buildings don't evolve with them. The buildings are often old and sometimes lack accomodating features for the elderly or disabled, and takes money to update the buildings.

"We have churches where the people are getting older and it's very hard for people to get around," said Rev. Dwayne Lueck, the district president for the North Wisconsin District Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

Some parishoners couldn't do what Ruth used to do, and so they would have to worship at a service held across the street in the day care center, instead of in the beautiful church.

"Now all the services can be over here," said Rev. Dale Heinlein, the pastor of Peace Lutheran.

The congregation at Peace Lutheran believed in an elevator, so they paid for it.

"We been talking and planning this for...a long time," said Dick Ross, president of the congregation. "Pretty hard for some of the people, and I think you saw them, pretty hard for some of the people to worship here, so it was time."

"You can see it in their eyes more than anything when they know they have access and when they come up here and just enter the building and no steps, it's a great thing," said Buzz Peters, a parishoner who helped design the new elevator and space.

"We can finally have access for everybody to get into the worship facility, free access, that's what this is all about," Heinlein said. 

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