By: Jesse Leavenworth

MANCHESTER — Howell Cheney Technical High School introduced its new E-House Thursday, a working laboratory in energy-efficient construction.

Designed and built from the ground up by students, the approximately 750-square-foot building is outfitted with solar energy systems, a wifi smart thermostat and other materials on the cutting edge of the clean energy industry.

The building’s excess power will feed electricity and and hot water to the school’s main building. More important, the E-House will serve as a lab for green job skills, said Peter Jennings, head of Cheney’s electrical department. Students will retrofit the facility with new materials as technology advances, Jennings said.

This is the fifth E-House in the state’s technical high school system, an ongoing initiative meant to give students an advantage in the workforce as skills in green construction become more advanced and in demand, school officials said at a ceremony in the auditorium.

“As a result of this experience, our students are armed with the necessary skills and knowledge to obtain internships or full-time positions, or continue their studies in a relevant field,” state technical high school system Interim Superintendent Nivea Torres said.

The goal is to have an E-House at each of the state’s 17 techincal high schools by the end of 2015, Torres said. Students training as carpenters; electricians; heating, air conditioning and ventilation specialists; and building designers will benefit, officials said.

“They’ll be in a growth industry,” Penni Conner, Northeast Utilities’ chief customer officer, said.

Energy costs in Connecticut are high, so the state needs workers who understand not only the basics of their professions, but how to work with the latest clean energy materials, Judy Resnick of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association said. The Cheney E-House, Resnick said, “is a perfect example of project-based learning.”

The program’s chief sponsor is Energize Connecticut, described on its website,, as “an initiative dedicated to empowering Connecticut citizens to make smart energy choices, now and in the future.” Program partners are the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, the state, and power utilities. The initiative has funding support from a charge on customer energy bills.