Sustainability meets charity as DC students pay it forward

Students from Durham College’s (DC) Construction Carpentry – Sustainable program are preparing to give back this holiday season through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity by building birdhouses as gifts for children, to help make this the most wonderful time of the year.

With the curriculum focusing on sustainable construction, students reuse surplus materials in creative ways, including building 150 birdhouses for Habitat for Humanity over the past two years. When the organization asked students to build another 50 in time for this holiday season, the response was a resounding “yes”. Children who attend workshops hosted by Habitat for Humanity will have the opportunity to assemble a birdhouse, paint it, and sometimes add bark or stones for a different effect.

“Our students are eager to give back or as the phrase goes, pay it forward,” said Don Fishley, Construction Carpentry – Sustainable professor and program co-ordinator. “The birdhouse projects started as a mini-idea to use up some of the scrap and recycled wood. When Habitat for Humanity discovered what we were doing, they asked if we could build 50 houses for their kids’ program and the project has snowballed. It has been very successful, but even more rewarding as a professor when you can see the hearts it has touched.”

Students of the two-year program study all aspects of construction with an emphasis on sustainability, thus the recycling of skids and other construction materials as they become available. In addition to the birdhouses, Fishley’s students have helped with Habitat for Humanity’s Centre Town build, which is composed of several housing units scheduled to be constructed over the next few years.

“It is a great hands-on experience for students as we co-ordinate the help that Habitat for Humanity requires with the course outcomes of our program,” said Fishley. “Currently we are studying exterior finishes, such as soffit, fascia and siding – which we installed on the Habitat project this fall.”

For more information on the Construction Carpentry – Sustainable program, please visit