Developer Incorporates Winning Student Designs

OGDEN, Utah – A home development company has selected five innovative Weber State University student design projects and wants to incorporate the best ideas in a new Layton, Utah, subdivision.

The five proposals were selected in a competition among 27 home designs created in instructor Jeremy Farner’s design graphics engineering technology course, which is a basic residential architecture course. Farner’s students got their first chance at residential design theory, construction methods and computer aided design (CAD).

“I graduated from the first design graphics class at WSU in 2003,” Farner said. “When I returned to teach, I wanted to tie education to the community, so industry leaders could see our student talent, and students could gain experience and network with professionals.”

Nilson Homes, which sponsored the contest, gave the students the design criteria for 12 homes intended for owners, ages 60 to 80, who want three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a great room, kitchen and laundry all in 1,200 square feet.

Kirt Merrill, director of production at Nilson Homes, and a Weber State graduate, said the students did more than just cram three bedrooms in a little box; they looked for features that came alive in their plans.

“Any builder who’s been in business as long as we have has a tendency to get on the same track,” Merrill said. “We wanted something different. We gave the students some basic requirements, and they came back with very inventive ideas.”

One of the student winners, Jacob Sommers, plans to be an architect. He spent more than 150 hours on his design. He developed the plan after interviewing and soliciting suggestions from a number of family and friends in the target age range.

“I tried to incorporate small elements that the people I interviewed liked,” Sommers said. “One wanted a desk just in from the garage as a place to drop off keys, mail and other stuff; another wanted a personal-standing deck off the master bedroom. Someone else suggested a covered deck and porch. Taking the information we learned in class and applying it to the real-world was an eye-opening experience.”

The experience was so successful for the students and the company, Nilson Homes already has another competition planned for a more advanced class of design students in spring semester. They will work on another Nilson subdivision approved in Layton with its own unique specifications for style and size.

“The students were a joy; they were so fun to work with,” Merrill said. “They were eager to learn and please. With just a few tweaks, the students designed market-ready material, and my whole department was excited about what they saw.”
Student winners included: 
Nicholas Atkin, Roy
Canada Clawson, Holladay
Brandon Loock, South Weber
Jacob Sommer, Kaysville
Michael Walters, Ogden

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Jeremy Farner, design graphics engineering technology instructor
801-626-6962 •

Kirt Merrill, Nilson Homes production director
801-390-6239 •

Jacob Sommers, design graphics engineering technology student
801-309-0405 •


Allison Barlow Hess
, director of Public Relations
801-626-7948 •