Brice Holmes does not leisurely spend his weekends and free time like most college students.
Instead, he is busy working on special projects for disabled adults. Holmes, junior in architecture, is the assistant director for Freedom By Design.
Freedom By Design, a program of the American Institute of Architecture Students, is a service organization that gives students the opportunity to use their architectural skills to build special projects for disabled or low-income families.
The program searches for clients in the community that have a disability and need assistance to make their daily routines easier. The organization starts by identifying their clients' unique needs and then designs around those to create ramps, decks and reconfigurations.
"I was looking for a way to get involved and saw it as a good opportunity to get out and do something helpful for the community," Holmes said. "I also wanted to use my architectural education and apply it directly to design and build projects."
Holmes, who has been involved with the organization since freshman year, said Freedom By Design has helped him develop many skills he will use as a future architect.
Being a volunteer, he said, is a rewarding experience that helps his community and uses his education to give back and impact people's lives in a positive way.
While the community benefits from the work Holmes puts into the organization, he espoused his own benefits: getting hands-on experience with real-world construction applications.
Holmes said he has strengthened his skills in client relations and basic construction methods and techniques, eventually seeing how something as simple as a ramp, when thoughtfully implemented, can truly affect one's quality of life.
"We try to help them regain their freedom of movement within their home," Holmes said. "The ability to understand how things are put together is invaluable to architects, and the best way to learn is to go out and get your hands dirty."
Even though the designs are typically modest, they have the power to make a profound impact on the lives of the clients.
On his biggest project, Holmes helped build and design a wheelchair-accessible ramp and decking system for a 1-year-old boy with centronuclear myopathy, a condition that affects skeletal muscles. The project took seven months and included replacing a deck near the boy's living room, building a deck off his bedroom and a wheelchair-accessible ramp.
When Holmes isn't busy gaining hands-on experience with design builds, he and other members of FBD are organizing trips to regional and national American Institute of Architecture conferences.
Holmes said FBD couldn't have made such an impact in the community without the input of the entire committee, adding that faculty advisor Brian Ambroziak plays an important role in the organization.
"I am always amazed how our students, who typically average about 10 hours a day in their studies and design work, always make time for meaningful extracurricular activities," Ambroziak said. "They are 'Volunteers' in the purest sense of the word."