Author: RS Thermal Mass Team

Weather Proof and a Roof

Live from the Test Buildings, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project team. After swiftly assembling the Test Buildings, the graduate team began weatherproofing. The team’s goal is to have the buildings protected from rain quickly so they can get to work on installing the thermal mass panels on the interior. The weatherproofing systems are designed to mitigate heat gain in different ways to eliminate experimental variation.

First, the team covered the buildings in shingled tar paper–a heavy-duty, waterproof construction paper. Next, the team installed battens which create space between the structure and cladding allowing for ventilation and avoiding heat gain. The roof is also ventilated and covered with highly reflective, low albedo corrugated sheet metal. This means the materiality and color of the roof are fighting solar radiation.

Lastly, the team installed the beautiful steel door frames. Turnipseed International donated the steel and Brad of Superior Metals LLC welded the frames Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

Tar Paper and Battens

Roof Battens and Flashing

Roofing Metal

Both roofs complete!

Door Frame

Two Buildings in 10 Hours and 45 Minutes

Live from inside the TMBV Test Buildings, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research team! This week the team assembled the structural and insulative envelopes of the Test Building in record time. Instead of traditional timber framing, Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) create the Test Buildings structure. After installing the SIP floors, the students assembled the remaining panels into walls, ceilings, and chimneys. This allowed for each structural plane to be craned into place. Just like a giant Leggo set! The panels were adjusted by two students in an articulating man lift and secured in place using special SIP screws. The joints where walls, floors, and ceiling met were made water and airtight with SIP sealant. In under 11 hours total, all eight walls, two ceilings, and four chimneys came together to create two sturdy, insulated shells. In the coming month, the team will weather-proof the buildings in order to begin installing the thermal mass interiors.

A little bit of Prep!

Building One: 6 Hours

Building Two: 4 hours and 45 minutes

With both buildings assembled, the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research team is drinking in the rewards of their hard work. This construction method takes a lot of prefabrication and intricate planning to go so smoothly. The team loves the relations of the buildings to each other, to the Cooling Porch, and to the Morrisette Campus. They will be keeping up the momentum so make sure to stay tuned!

Grounded and Floored

Live from atop multiple completed surfaces, it’s the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research team! They’ve been busy staying grounded and flooring onlookers! The team has nearly completed the Cooling Porch and fully installed the Test Buildings floor and walkway. Let’s get right into it!

Making a Mosaic

After properly stacking the Cooling Porch retaining walls, the TMBV team filled the enclosure with 4″ of gravel. This gravel covers the drain and also acts as a leveling surface for the concrete sidewalk scraps. If it hasn’t been mentioned yet, the final ground surface in the Cooling Porch will be a mosaic of reclaimed concrete sidewalk scraps. These scraps come from a newly replaced walkway in Newbern and will act almost as flagstones.

In order to create this mosaic, the crew labeled and documented the exact size of every piece of sidewalk scrap. They took photographs of the each sidewalk piece with a ruler on top. Next, they sized each one proportionally in the 3D modeling software, Sketchup, where they placed pieces within the cooling porch walls. Afterwards, out on-site, the team laid out all of the sidewalk scraps and prepared to place them in the Cooling Porch.

Flying Floors

Finally, one of the three big lifts to erect the SIPs structures is complete! Before Shane of Sweetwater Construction LLC could lift the Test Building floors and walkway into place, the team had to assemble the SIPs. Each floor is comprised of three SIPs panels, two embedded LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beams, and 2′ x 12′ lumber to cap the ends. The embedded beams allow for the cantilever from the 4 columns.

Underneath the Fabrication Pavillion, the team lifted the SIPs atop the gooseneck trailer where they assembled the different parts and pieces. The embedded beams are coated with SIP seal which ensures a waterproof joint. They are also nailed to the panels. The 2′ x 12′ caps have attached joist hangers to accept the LVL beams.

With both floors complete, it was time to lift! Shane with the crane pulled the gooseneck trailer down AL Highway 61 to the other side of Morrisette Campus. On-site, in place, and ready to lift, take a look at the process below!

The whole process took only 4 hours, but many, many months of prep work and design. Stay tuned to see the TMBV test building go up just a fast and hopefully just as smooth!

The Great Walls of Newbern

Live from within the newly completed Cooling Porch retaining walls, it’s the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research project team! We’ll take you through the evolution of both north and south wall and all the earthwork in between. If you stay tuned ’till the end you’ll see Cory’s latest artistic venture; a short film titled, “Le Grevier.”

Backfilling and adding the final course to the north wall

North Wall: Complete!

After laying and leveling the dry-stacked concrete highway barriers, the team backfilled gravel and earth against the wall. Directly behind the walls are drains that are wrapped in landscape fabric and covered with gravel. This protects the drains from getting clogged with Hale County Clay. Behind the gravel, the team piled and compacted earth. They are reusing the dirt excavated for the building foundations. This process repeats for each course, refilling the initial dig. The Cooling Porch is still a hole in the ground, but it’s becoming a far more precise hole in the ground.

Tamping over damp dirt and clay is a struggle

Voila! The joints, pattern, color, and textures of the north wall turned out fantastic. The team was astonished by the uniformity of the wall and the blending of the different blocks despite using reclaimed materials. On to the south wall!

South Wall: Complete!

Beginning the 1st course of the south wall and taking down the batter boards!

The process of constructing the south wall was essentially the same as the north wall. Small concrete footings were poured wherever the retaining wall went off the building foundations. The team also completed the installation of the drainage. The space began to form right in front of their eyes!

Fully Blocked

The team feels the space looks exactly as they drew it–which is both slightly surprising and super satisfying. All the measuring, drafting, and double-checking produced a beautiful pit. And, bonus, the reuse of materials is a surefire way to build with the environment in mind and luckily these concrete highway barriers turned out to be the perfect durable, stackable material. The backfill and dug-out stairs makes getting around site a whole lot easier. It’s all coming together!

Thanks for following the progress of the soon-to-be chilly demonstration space! Stay tuned for SIPs construction and laying the ground surface in the Cooling Porch. Now, for your enjoyment, follow the life of a scoop of gravel in Cory’s feature film, “Le Grevier.”

Le Gravier

Le Grevier: Directed by Cory Subasic starring Wheelbarrow, Shovel, Bobcat, and Gravel with a special appearance by Livia Barrett as “Gravel Girl.”

Structural Delivery: the SIPs have arrived!

Live from behind one of the largest deliveries in Rural Studio history, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation (TMBV) Research project team. For months the research team has been working closely with Insulspan, a company that manufactures custom Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). Together they finalized the design of the SIPs which will make up the entirety of the TMBV Test Building structure and enclosure—while providing experimentally valid insulation. This week, the team received the SIPs and organized them under Rural Studio’s Fabrication Pavilion to prepare for construction. In a couple of weeks’ time the panels will be assembled atop the steel columns like a giant 3D puzzle.

SIP, SIP, Hooray!

SIPs Assembly

The TMBV team originally sent the drawings seen below to Insulspan; breaking up the Test Buildings’ design into panelized pieces. The team will assemble all the pieces that make up each wall, the floor, and the ceiling. Then, Shane of Stillwater Machine LLC will crane the structure into place.

Thankfully, that same Shane with a crane was in the neighborhood when an 18-wheeler full of SIPs showed up a day earlier than expected. To get the panels off the truck Shane, his two young assistants, the TMBV team, Steve Long, and Andrew Freear got to work screwing in blocking and threading the straps. The team and helpers attached small lumber pieces (blocking) to prevent damage to the SIPs as the straps cradled the panels and lifted them off the truck.

How to Move a Building; in Pieces!

This delivery happened to take place right before a classic summer deluge. So, the SIPs were tarped and left outside the Fabrication Pavilion for the weekend. After the passing of the storm, it was time for the team to figure out how to get the panels under the Fabrication Pavilion for better protection. The Fabrication Pavilion roof is actually made of Insulspan SIPs as well. SIPs covering SIPs!

To move the panels, the team attached the lifting brackets provided by Insulspan. Then, to get the largest panels under the Fab Pav, the team used straps and the Bobcat custom, “Bob Crane.”

As the team transported the panels they also organized them. The vertical stacks group the panels by building, remember there are two, and by structure i.e. floor, ceiling, wall, or chimney. It is far easier to find the panel you need and access it when the panels are stacked this way. Also, the order of assembly was taken into consideration when sorting the panels. The floors will be assembled first on the 24′ trailer with the gooseneck attachment and then transported to the site. Next, the team will do the same thing for walls and ceilings. As far as moving the panels around under the pavilion, the students managed to do a lot by hand. With the help of an old, sturdy cart, they found in a storage barn they got everything into place and braced up.

In order to construct the floors, walls, and ceilings on the gooseneck trailer, the team had to extend the platform using TJIs donated to the Studio long ago. TJI stands for Trus Joist® TJI® Joists, they are essentially an I-beam manufactured out of engineered lumber. The TJI platform also allows the student to get underneath the panels during assembly.

With a whole lot of willpower and cart strategy, the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Team shuffled all the SIPs into place. Stay tuned for the Test Building assembly—those panels will be going up in the sky!