The Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech. Courtesy of Justin Chan Photography.
The Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech. Courtesy of Justin Chan Photography.

Frank Wickstead, Jones Pierce Studios project delivery director, is out on the hustings proclaiming sustainability in a part of academia related to home building in Atlanta.

He's currently serving as an architect and building performance consultant to his classroom in the Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech as a Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) adjunct professor. In this capacity, Wickstead works with a group of next-generation home builders.

Classes taught in the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design focus on real-world learning and offering students a chance to learn hands-on. Funded by The Kendeda Fund, the building is the most environmentally advanced education and research building ever constructed in the Southeast.

SLS offers programs that allow students to dig deeper into sustainable communities education and practices, and stay involved over multiple years. SLSL Signature Programs include Sustainable Cities Minor, Innovating for Social Impact, Internship Program, Events and Workshops, Linked Courses and RCE Greater Atlanta.

Each semester, Wickstead partners with a nonprofit on behalf of the SLS course, such as Habitat for Humanity, Invest Atlanta, Westside Future Fund and Star-C. Wickstead’s current SLS course focuses on Ethics Policy Trends in Real Estate Development. Specifically, the course addresses the pendulum swing between quality, safety and profitability and where builders land on that spectrum. Students meet with attorneys, tradespeople, and nonprofits that are doing it correctly and successfully, which allows them to see how far-reaching smart development can go, so they can learn about the potential problems with building inexpensively.

“We deal with real-world design and construction problems,” Wickstead said. “This keeps it fresh and current. I am as much a student as I am a teacher.”

Wickstead’s Georgia Tech class has multiple hands-on experiences packed into the semester, including working with Habitat for Humanity to frame a house in a day. This follows the in-class framing lecture.

“The students will have the opportunity to construct the least-expensive building framing package in Atlanta,” Wickstead said. “This shows them what is possible and gives them job-site experience.”

Partnering with the Westside Future Fund, Georgia Tech student teams are currently designing three homes to fit on the fund’s three most challenging home sites. This immersive project requires each team to design a home that fits the lot, meets zoning requirements, fits neighborhood architectural requirements and complies with EarthCraft House standards. Additionally, the homes must be priced to sell to potential Atlanta homebuyers with a 60% average median income.

The final class deliverable is a book with a worksheet and plans that each Georgia Tech student team presents to the Board of the Westside Future Fund as if they were applying for approval to build the home.

“Hopefully, a local builder will build these three homes, or a student team will be inspired to go for it,” Wickstead said.