HFCC and Dearborn Collaborate for Hands-On Lessons


DEARBORN — The Henry Ford Community College architecture/construction and interior design programs are currently working with Dearborn to restore a historic 1919 home, located at 22668 Nona St., in the Ford Historic Homes District.

A total of 25 students from both programs are participating in the project, according to Chad Richert, HFCC lead instructor for the architecture/construction program. Collaborating with Richert on this effort is Karen Wilmering, HFCC program coordinator for the interior design program.

“It’s been a fantastic opportunity for the students. It’s also been beneficial for us to have them out from behind a textbook and actively work on a design project, especially one with such historic significance. Students have enjoyed working with other students from a different program. [Dearborn] Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr. has been a huge proponent of this project, and is excited to see the progress our students have made on it,” said Richert.

Some of the design challenges facing the students participating in the preservation of this Henry Ford home include the following:
·         no first-floor bathroom;
·         no first-floor closet;
·         a small kitchen;
·         inadequate storage;
·         no garage; and
·         neglected landscaping.

Additionally, guests must enter the private upstairs area to use the bathroom, which is a downside to the home’s current functionality and future marketability.

The impact of this project is far-reaching; HFCC students from two distinct disciplines have an opportunity to work and learn from and about each other. They will learn first-hand how local government functions and personally meet the mayor of Dearborn, the city’s building inspector, a sustainability expert and other related managers and directors in the Residential Services Department. The home must also meet the requirements set forth by the Ford Home Historic District. When the project is complete, students will come to understand how their participation in this real-life service learning project will significantly and positively impact their local community. 

Kelley Erickson, an HFCC interior design student from Dearborn Heights, said that the greatest benefit for her, “is the experience and understanding of what it is like to work with a real client and other professionals in the field,” she said. “Collaborating with the architecture program has been a great experience because it allows us to bounce ideas off each other and really create something that is not only beautiful and inspired, but also fully functional.” 

Hadi Abbas of Dearborn, who will graduate with an associate’s degree in architecture/construction in May, agrees with Erickson.

“This project has given me the opportunity to work with students from the interior design program, something that has never been done before at the college,” Abbas said. “Working with interior design students prepares us for how we will work together in a professional setting. Also, the ability to work on a real project before most of us graduate or transfer is helpful because it gives us a step ahead of other students who typically work on projects that are for class only, not for an industry or business. We are working on a project where we have visited the site, researched materials so we can maintain the historical value of the house, and set up contacts with area businesses.”

Although the majority of the project design is slated for completion at the end of May, interior design students will continue working into the spring semester, selecting interior finishes for the house.

“This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened since I’ve been at HFCC,” Wilmering said. “I wish I could teach all my classes like this. We’ve had a good response from the students, who are getting a positive learning experience. They’re learning much more than they know. If another opportunity like this project comes along again in the future, we will jump at the chance to participate.”