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Engineering Futures, Rebuilding Dreams

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Engineering Futures, Rebuilding Dreams

At Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, rebuilding and helping dreams come true is all in a day’s work for the show’s well-known designers. One fairly recent project helped a Nashville, Tennessee, school recover from the devastating floods that swept through Middle Tennessee last May. As Extreme Makeover helped the school recover, engineered wood made much of the rebuilding possible.

“For our projects, a lot of the success relies on finding a good builder and product sponsor to partner with,” said Kim Lewis, art director for the show. “Thanks to LP, we had strong, easy-to-install products on-site to help streamline the building process.”

HARDAWAY Construction Corp., LP Building Products, and DA|AD Architects formed the team that led thousands of volunteers and about 50 other business and media partners on a one-week adventure to rebuild the preschool at Lighthouse Christian School in Nashville, Tennessee.

Under the direction of the Sweatt family, Lighthouse Christian School has served the South-Nashville Antioch community for decades. When the floods hit in May 2010, the small school became the image that was broadcast across the nation when video of one of their portable classrooms floating down Interstate 24 hit the national news outlets.

Despite the extensive damage to their facility, Lighthouse School and the Sweatt family—Brian and Barbara, along with their children Alexandra and Kobe—spearheaded recovery efforts and worked to provide shelter, food, water, clothing, counseling, and a myriad of other social and financial services for more than 200 families in the local community.

But at the end of the day, their school was destroyed and they were running out of funds. Closing seemed inevitable, until Extreme Makeover as well as local volunteers and businesses stepped forward.

“On a normal build, we schedule things by the week,” said Bryan Hay, director of business development at HARDAWAY Construction Corp. “But Extreme Makeover: Home Edition schedules everything by the hour.”

Hay said it was well planned and executed, and that there were as many as 500 people on-site at any time. “For a normal building project of this size, we may have around 25 people working on it at the height of the day,” Hay said.

The team of contractors and subcontractors engaged in what is called a vertical build, in which multiple skilled craftsmen and subcontractors work on the project at the same time, often in the same space. While this is not the way many prefer to work, it is critical to finishing a project of this scope in seven days. Because engineered wood is easier to install than many alternatives, it was the right fit for this project.

This isn’t the first time LP Building Products has worked with Extreme Makeover, so they were familiar with the show and eager to get involved in this Nashville-area build. LP provided most of the engineered wood materials that went into the construction of Lighthouse Christian School’s new preschool, including LP® SmartSide® siding, trim and soffit; LP® OSB sheathing; LP® SolidStart® LSL door and window headers; and LP® TechShield® roof sheathing.

Compared to natural wood, engineered wood products are stronger and straighter, without knots and imperfections to cut around. This helps reduce both waste and time spent on the job site. And with a seven-day build, every second counts.

Along that line, the designers at Extreme Makeover used LP SmartSide siding to help cut time and labor without sacrificing quality. The siding used in this project—painted in various shades of blue as a call back to the flood—also served as the structural sheathing.

“I thought long and hard about a way to show the beauty of the siding product and pay tribute to the flood,” Lewis said. “So we painted it in different shades of blue as a reminder of the reason we were there rebuilding the school.”

Unlike fiber cement pro-ducts, engineered wood siding requires no special tools or handling. Plus, fiber cement products can be heavy and brittle and break easily if they are mishandled.

“LP SmartSide products are a lot easier to install than other siding products,” Lewis said. “And there are so many different profiles that it’s easy to match almost any design we’re looking for.”

The strength of engineered wood goes beyond siding. The LP OSB sheathing and LP SolidStart LSL door and window headers used in the new preschool building will help provide durability for years to come. Engineered wood outperforms conventional lumber—which can shrink, twist or bow—by remaining straighter as well as resisting warping and splitting. And when you’re building a school, longevity is key.

“Having LP as a product sponsor for this school gave us peace of mind. We know the school is built to last,” Lewis said. “Plus, with a radiant barrier installed on the roof, we’re also helping the school cut back on energy costs.”

LP TechShield Radiant Barrier Sheathing reduces the exchange of heat among surfaces in attic enclosures, helping keep buildings cool during the summer and reducing heat loss during the winter months. Radiant barrier sheathing can block up to 97 percent of the radiant heat in the roof panel from entering the attic. This can lower the temperature in the attic by as much as 30 degrees and reduce cooling costs by up to 17 percent. For a privately run school, every dollar saved helps.

In spite of the flood that devastated the city last May, the school is back up and running. Thanks to the Extreme Team, the hundreds of volunteers who stepped up to the plate, and the generous product sponsors, the Lighthouse Christian School will continue to be a beacon of hope for the entire community.

Blogs, photos and videos of the project can be found online at

This information and the websites identified above are provided solely as a convenience to the reader. They are not intended to state or imply that the editors of Engineered Wood or LP Building Products sponsor, recommend, endorse or are affiliated or associated with the companies or products listed.