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Vandeberg Teaches Students to See the World in a Different Way

While earning his philosophy degree, Joshua Vandeberg spent summers pouring concrete. He went on to get his contractor’s license and worked in construction for 20 years. During that time he gave his talents to working with disadvantaged youth.


“Building Opportunities is an education, skills training and job readiness program funded through YouthBuild USA and Americorps,” Vandeberg explained. “We rehabbed and rebuilt distressed properties in the community.


Through continuing education, Vandeberg earned a Building Analyst Certificate from the Building Performance Institute (BPI). This organization develops standards and certifies professionals for energy efficiency retrofit work.


“They apply scientific principles to buildings to make structures more energy efficient,” Vandeberg said. “It piqued my interest.” He began to pass on this knowledge to his young construction students, helping them understand energy and moisture in buildings.


Western Technical College recognized this emerging field and tapped Vandeberg to help develop an occupational program in Building Systems Technology. The Advisory Committee for the program included representatives of Habitat for Humanity, Couleecap (a community action program) and the Center for Energy and Environment as well as local building contractors.


One of the first projects for students of the new program was to build a passive house. The structure utilizes a design and construction model that focuses on sustainability and energy efficiency. It will be used as an instructional facility for Building Systems Technology, HVAC, Landscape Horticulture, Wood Tech and Architectural Technology students.


“The first Building Systems Technology graduates tested 16 homes,” Vandeberg marveled. “They had amazing portfolios.” Adding to his sense of satisfaction, some of the at-risk students he mentored have gone through the program and earned degrees from Western.


“I have so much fun as an instructor,” he added. “It is fun to see their energy awareness grow. They see the world in a different way when they are finished with this program.”