Students learn about energy efficient materials from MBHS grad

5 mins read

FARMINGTON – High school students at Foster Regional Applied Technology Center are getting some hands-on instruction about the latest in energy efficient technology today, from a graduate of their own program.

Joshua Wojcik stood in a small demonstration shed, consisting of blocks of dense foam and thin sheets of composite panelling, which took him and some students about 10 minutes to erect. He explained the differences between his company’s system and the typical framework which supports most houses, throwing around terms like “R-value,” “building envelope” and “thermal bridging.”

The students didn’t blink. With a combination of John MacDonald’s alternative energy class and Jacob Bogar’s engineering design class, students have already learned about this technology before. Now they just get to see it up close.

Joshua Wojcik, of Upright Frameworks, explains the advantages of a house built with his company’s foam block insulation system.

Wojcik graduated Mt. Blue High School in 1994, and said he was especially struck by MacDonald’s class.

“It was probably the coolest one I took that year,” he said.

He went on to graduate from college and worked as a self-described “lobbyist in Albany” for a couple years before deciding to take up a different career. Partnering up with his father, who has more than 25 years in the construction business, Wojcik eventually started Upright Frameworks LLC, based out of Wilton. 

Acting as a subcontractor for most of their customers, Upright Frameworks uses SIPs, or Structural Insulated Panel, to erect the walls and ceiling of new homes. Unlike the standard frame system, the SIPs are nearly airtight and conduct heat very poorly, making the home far more energy efficient. The SIPs have other advantages as well; they’re airtight nature makes the home less of a fire risk, they’re extremely durable and easy to assemble.

Wojcik said that the system isn’t new, and has been around for more than 50 years. However, recent energy price spikes have created a new market for the design.

“This is the system that we’ve found is the most cost effective,” Wojcik said.

He noted that the extra expense could be recouped in four to five years by homeowners at current heating oil prices and in as little as two years at last summer’s oil prices. He contrasted this with other options such as wind turbines and solar panels, which could have a pay back period of 10 to 20 years.

“Who knows if they’re going to be living in the home in 10 years?” Wojcik asked.

Bogar heard that Wojcik had been doing small presentations of the material and asked him to combine his knowledge of energy-efficient construction with weatherization, which Upright Frameworks does for customers who already own a house.

“It’s kind of neat with him coming back as sort of a model,” Bogar said. “With him having graduated Mt. Blue.”

“I’m doing my best to just wreck their minds,” Wojcik joked.

In many cases, Wojcik seems to have been a successful model. Aleena Malik, a 10th grader in MacDonald’s alternative energy course, had heard his presentation and was clearly already familiar with SIPs. She gave an impromptu tour of Wojcik’s little demonstration shed, pointing out features and describing the best way to install an electrical system inside the foam walls.

“I think this will take off once people find out about it,” Malik said.

MacDonald said that Wojcik has not been the first visitor and won’t be the last; he follows the day-long presentation by an expert in the field of solar engineering.

“It’s just that the world of alternative energy is so vast and so new,” he explained. “It’s really great to have these people come out to show everyone what’s out there.”

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