OGDEN -- Five Weber State University freshman are getting an opportunity many architectural graduates would envy: the chance to have a floor plan they created developed into real homes.
Nilson Homes paired up with professor Jeremy Farner's basic residential architecture class to give 27 students a challenge: create a home plan intended for owners 60 to 80 years old who wanted three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a great room, kitchen and laundry area, all in 1,200 square feet.
"It's a freshman-level class," Farner said. "They have never designed a home before, so they were really fresh, and their ideas were really fresh."
A fresh look on a basic home design was exactly what Nilson Homes was looking for, said Kirt Merrill, production director.
"The (students) go off and do research and surveys without any preconceived notions," he said. "The benefit is we get these really new, fresh ideas. And we have the opportunity to develop some of those young minds into really good designers."
The students with the winning designs are Nicholas Atkin, of Roy; Canada Clawson, of Holladay; Brandon Loock, of South Weber; Jacob Sommers, of Kaysville; and Michael Walters, of Ogden.
Merrill said the winning students looked for features that were unique, while still being practical and affordable for the homeowner.
The students spent the fall semester researching and surveying people in the target age bracket to get an idea of what they wanted in a home.
Sommers, one of the student winners, spent 150 hours designing his plan. He said he included a desk near the front door because those he interviewed suggested they would like somewhere to drop off their keys and mail when coming into the house.
"I tried to incorporate small elements that the people I interviewed liked," he said.
Elements of each winning design will be incorporated into a new Layton subdivision.
Farner said the students benefited from the partnership because they gained real-world experience and also were able to network with those working in the business.
"It's the old cliche of 'it's not what you know, it's who you know,'" he said. "(The design industry) is a tight group of people who all know each other. It's the networking. They can start to network at a freshman level."
Merrill said they are already starting to plan a new competition for Farner's spring class.
"We absolutely are," he said. "We are going to continue on with this. These young ideas are always helpful for a company that has been around for awhile."