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Celebrating 50 Years of Model Homes

Vintage model home photos


Hawai'i Community College is celebrating a significant milestone in 2017: the construction of the 50th Model Home. The "Model Home Project" was established in 1965 and the first home was completed in 1966. Nearly every year since, students in the construction trades programs have designed and built a custom home for a local family. The unique project provides incredibly valuable hands-on learning experience for students while providing an affordable home in the community.


Do you have a story or experience you want to share related to the Model Home Project? Visit the 50 Years of Model Homes Facebook page and share your story! You may also email the Hawai'i CC Office of External Affairs at


Hawai'i CC Alumni and Friends will be celebrating "50 Years of Model Homes" with a reunion on Friday, April 28, 5:30 - 9 p.m. Reconnect with classmates, instructors, and others in the construction industry during this fun reunion! At the UH Hilo Campus Center Dining Room. Buffet dinner, no host cocktails.

Tickets are now on sale for $25 at this link: or contact Lori Medeiros at or 934-2518 for tickets and sponsorship options.

The Project: Hawai‘i CC students design, build and landscape a real home for a Native Hawaiian family in Hilo.
Programs Involved: Students in several construction trades programs participate each year. The Architectural, Engineering and CAD technology students design the house. Carpentry students build the house. Electrical Installation and Maintenance students install the wiring and solar panels. Agriculture students landscape the property. Diesel Mechanics students provide equipment maintenance during the project. The Hawaiian Studies program leads the blessing ceremony.
It’s the only project of its kind in Hawai‘i!
Since the program’s inception, the Model Home Project has provided over 4,000 Hawai‘i CC students with valuable hands-on experience.
Nothing is pre-fabricated; everything is custom made, right down to the window frames.
Sustainability: The homes have green design features, including solar hot water and photovoltaic system; Energy Star qualified appliances; Energy Star metal roofing; low v.o.c. paints; CFL lighting, and native plant landscaping.
Partnerships: The program has thrived thanks to many community partnerships over the years, including the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which currently acts as the owner and developer of a single family home while Hawai‘i Community College provides the skilled labor force while educating students — resulting in an affordable home for a local family.
The Model Home Project was the brainchild of Mr. Herbert Watanabe, then Principal and Staff Business Specialist with the Department of Education, State of Hawai’i, Hawai’i District Office. In 1964, Mr. Watanabe proposed an innovative model home project through which students could learn on-the-job training in skills needed to be successful in their field of work. When Mr. Watanabe left the Department of Education, Mr. Mitsugu Sumada, Principal of the then Hawai’i Technical School, took over the project in 1965. With much deliberation with Mr. David Blyth, President of the Hilo Contractors Association (now Hawai’i Island Contractors Association), the local building supply houses, the trade unions, and the advisory committees of the College, full support was gained to start this project.
The first model home was completed in June of 1966. The first sponsor was American Factors. Mr. Clarence Andrade, then Carpentry Instructor, coordinated the different construction trade programs at the school as they completed the first model home. The drafting program designed the home and the carpentry, electrical, and welding programs carried out the basic construction.
Overall, the students gain much valuable work experience by designing and building a home from its foundation to its completion. An excellent feature of the projects is that students learn how to work with others in related fields and, in doing so, develop work ethics and the professional attitudes necessary to be successful in their trades. As a direct result of this project, over 4,000 drafting, welding, carpentry, diesel mechanics, and electrical students at Hawai’i Community College have benefited to date.
Originally, the homes were built on the Manono Campus. Completed homes were sold to the highest bidder after the Open House ceremony held at the end of each Spring semester. These homes had to be relocated to the buyers’ designated sites that included such places as Paradise Park, Kurtistown, and Hilo. The last home built on the campus was purchased by Hawai’i Community College. When moving the purchased homes became cost prohibitive, it was decided to have future model homes built on State property. Beginning in 1972, the first State model home was constructed for the Hawaiian Homes Agency in the Panaewa Subdivision where eventually nine homes were built. Then in 1981, agreement was made to construct homes for the Hawai’i Housing Authority, presently the Housing Finance & Development Corporation. The first six homes were constructed on Popolo Street and later, building took place on Ainaola Drive. Presently, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands acts as the owner and developer of a single family home while Hawai‘i Community College provides the skilled labor force while educating students — resulting in an affordable home for a local family. The last several homes have been constructed in the Keaaukaha area of Hilo.


  • See what the Model Home Project is all about in this video showing the dedication of home #46


  • Vintage photos plus some current pictures. Click here to go directly to the Flickr album.


  • Carpentry Class Photos, 1975 - Present. Recognize Anyone? Click here to go directly to the Flickr album.