Academic journal article Human Ecology Forum

Hands That Work, Then Teach

Academic journal article Human Ecology Forum

Hands That Work, Then Teach

Article excerpt

The whole area of continuing education for home builders typically involves trade shows, seminars, and certification programs. Joe Laquatra has become a specialist in designing such courses as well as in conducting them. His most recent, "Builders, Remodelers, and Indoor Air Quality," is currently being offered around the country through the U.S. Home Builders Institute.

Laquatra's popularity as an educator stems from his unique blend of academic preparation in the economics of housing design and construction and a wealth of hands-on experience. During high school and for five years after college, Laquatra worked in the building trades, all the way from drywall finisher and carpenter's assistant to self-employed contractor and housing director for Project REACH, a community development organization providing housing to low-income families in western New York.

"I've heard people say they like my teaching because I have an expertise in housing economics and public policy as well as the building trade," Laquatra notes. "That's important, because unless you've actually been in the trenches, the risk of failure is very great for things that sound very good in a laboratory or on paper or in a meeting where you're formulating policy."

It's easy, he says by way of example, to teach the details of energy efficient construction, but knowing how the building trades work (that insulation must be installed after the electrician is finished) is essential to getting those details right. And the devil is in the details when it comes to energy efficiency.

"I learned in grad school that the most effective way to teach the value of energy efficient housing is not to teach how much money you'll save if you do it but rather how much money you'll lose if you don't. People are more sensitive to financial losses than they are to financial gains. And governments are, too."

Laquatra joined the College of Human Ecology in the mid-1980s, first as an extension associate with Cornell Cooperative Extension and later as a faculty member. Early on, he was asked by the New York State Energy Office to write a series of fact sheets and offer programs to new immigrants on how to select an energy efficient apartment. …

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