St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is set to kick off a major fundraiser in the Oklahoma City area, and when it does, hospital officials won't be at a loss for local help.
Officials from the Memphis, Tenn.-based hospital plan to begin construction on the latest St. Jude Dream Home later this month. The home is being built as a part of a fundraising campaign for the hospital's research and treatment programs.
Even before the work begins, volunteers from Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City are helping ensure that the home is as green as possible.
St. Jude officials build homes across the country to raffle off as a part of the hospital's Dream Home campaign. The hospital sells raffle tickets for $100 each, St. Jude spokeswoman Emily Blanding said. Tickets will go on sale later this year, when the project is officially under way.
This is the campaign's seventh year in Oklahoma City, Blanding said. Details about the next home won't be released until later this month, she said.
Last year, the campaign sold 5,300 tickets for the Oklahoma City home. This year, Blanding said, they hope to sell as many as 7,500 tickets. St. Jude officials expect to have the home complete in July.
OSU-OKC officials became involved with the project through Randy Reitz, a superintendent at TimberCraft Homes, the builder for the project. Reitz also is a construction student at OSU-OKC, and will graduate next month.
Besides taking courses from them, Reitz said, he's worked with instructors in the department on construction projects, including homes for Habitat for Humanity. Instructors in the department tend to be accessible, he said, so approaching them about helping with the St. Jude project seemed like a natural step.
Reitz said he hopes to use the project as a way to increase awareness of green building methods. While green building has grown in other areas, he said, it hasn't seen the same level of popularity in Oklahoma. By incorporating energy-efficient technology into the home, he hopes to make Oklahomans more inclined to consider green building methods when building a home.
“It seems like we're always behind the rest of the nation when we move forward with something like this,” he said.
Reitz said he suspects that's because green building tends to carry a high up-front cost. The homeowner generally recoups that cost fairly quickly in savings on their utility bills. But faced with the choice between spending thousands of dollars on a ground-source heat pump or the same amount on granite counter tops, green building often becomes a secondary priority.
“Granite counter tops is going to win 99 times out of 100,” he said.
Terry Clinefelter, a construction instructor at OSU-OKC, said he's seen St. Jude homes go up in the Oklahoma City area for several years. While they tend to be nice homes, Clinefelter said, they aren't typically as energy efficient as they could be.
So Clinefelter connected Reitz with industry partners and other OSU-OKC instructors to discuss what resources they could bring to the project.
Since then, the project has received a donation of a geothermal heating system — a gift worth about $30,000, including installation, Reitz said.
As helpful as donations and industry involvement have been in the project, Clinefelter said, it's also helpful to have Reitz involved. A major factor in green building projects is the people who are on site day after day.
Reitz has a large base of knowledge in green building, Clinefelter said, meaning he'll be able to offer expertise throughout the project rather than simply on a consulting basis. Having that expertise on site can make the operation run more smoothly, he said, and eliminate mistakes and problems.
“Small mistakes can add up to big costs,” he said.