Author: AC Priest

Doing Things!

Man oh man what a month it’s been. Last post, our team was preparing for a fast approaching dig day, and dig we did! After many batter boards and much anticipation, we were happy to have Tyler from T & C Excavating come out and help us officially break ground! Over the course of one morning, Tyler and crew managed to dig up a literal mountain of dirt to make way for our driveway and footings.

After a couple days of placing and tying rebar we followed fast behind with an early morning concrete pour. All of our fellow leftovers showed up to help us out, and we even had a special guest star all the way from Project Horseshoe Farm! A couple truck loads (from the generous Crosby-Carmichael Inc.) later, and we found our footing(s). Nothing says “no stopping us now” like a few thousand pounds of concrete. As the concrete set, we also placed vertical pieces of rebar for the block mason to tie into as he builds our block wall. (Thanks again to Crosy-Carmichael Inc. for their donation of concrete!)

students watch concrete pour
freshly poured concrete footings

Since then, we’ve turned our attention to the driveway and third volume. Steve stopped by to give us a quick Bobcat tutorial and Toews Brothers brought in new red dirt to replace the old topsoil. This allowed us to start building our driveway. For now, the goal is to get a gravel surface suitable for delivery trucks. Keeping the gravel just below our desired grade will allow us to come back later and either pave or add a finer layer of gravel. Over at the third volume, we hand dug our trenches and prepped the area for plumbing and formwork. All in a month’s work!

heavily edited picture of student digging
We let Davis edit this one all by himself!

Spirits are high here in Hale. Next time you hear from us, we might even be raising the roof!

cat leans over phone

Can You Dig It?

Last time we talked, the team was preparing to get into the ground, so let’s dig in!

As soon as the team returned from graduation, we wrapped up our mock-up construction. We then stepped back and reflected on our details, figuring out what worked and what needs improvement. It was exciting to get a sneak peek at what’s to come for the actual units. Simultaneously, we started site prep!

First up on site, batter boards! (The drawing doesn’t stop in studio people!) Batter boards are a way for us to draw in real life. Each colorful string pulled across our site represents a line in one of our CAD drawings. Using a combination of strings and wooden stakes, we’re able to create a very precise footprint of the units on the ground. This helps us know exactly where to excavate the trenches for our footings as well as the final height of the CMU block wall.

Speaking of footings, we determined the appropriate footing size for the porch’s 14’ overhang. Pouring a really robust footing allows us to expose the thin “spaghetti” trusses marching along the porch header while still taking into account the uplift that may occur at the columns.

With all of our site prep up and going, we’re ready to dig. Cross your fingers and toes, and with any luck, we’ll be up and out of the ground in no time. Until then, over and out.

very cute kittens
The team also gained a few helping paws on site. Meet Okra, Duo, and Mouse!

Next Time You See Me, It’ll Be On Site

Since our last update, the team has been digging, chopping, drilling, and sawing our way through the project, so let’s catch up!

First up, mock-ups. To better understand the details of the project in three dimensions, the team jumped into a 1:1 mock-up of crucial project details and so far, we’re learning a lot. More than just dusting off our chop saw skills, building several details at full scale is a way for us to reflect and improve upon some of the decisions we made on paper. For example, we learned from testing the window framing that making the rough opening stud continuous not only creates fewer pieces, but allows a direct load path from header to foundation. We’re also testing the character of the porch assembly and how we can marry our desired aesthetic with required bracing for wind uplift.

To prepare to break ground, we called in a local contractor to do some serious tree removal that was beyond our capabilities, and simultaneously ripped up the existing chain link fence to create equipment access and give us a chance to fully assess its condition and salvageability. The site has never looked spiffier.

site before clearing
cleared site

And how could we not give a toast to Pig Roast?! The first ever two-day Pig Roast went swimmingly, minus the part where our team ran into a rain shower and came out looking like we’d gone for a swim. It was the first time many members of the Uniontown community were able to see the project, along with our parents, friends, and many Rural Studio alumni.

team at pig roast
pig roast fireworks

The following week stayed just as busy as teams prepped for our second Executive Review. This was a make or break moment for the future of the project, but after an intense two-hour review, all three teams were given the green light! This means it’s full steam ahead for construction.

team meets for stress test

Oh yeah, and all twelve 5th-years graduated college three days later! What a week! Diplomas might be in the mail, but things are just getting started in West Alabama. The team is taking a few days off to relax and be with family, but y’all better believe the next time you see us, it’ll be on site!

Also, a big thank you to our parents for letting us stick around West Alabama for this next phase: building the C.H.O.I.C.E. House. And to our 3rd-year friends returning to campus this fall, we’ll see you next time in Hale!

Digging Into the Details

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, the C.H.O.I.C.E. House: Emergency Shelter team has been gearing up for Pig Roast. The focus of the past two weeks has been on detailing the units along with testing different color combinations for the exterior cladding.

And That’s Design, Baby

The ultimate question we have faced when designing the details is, what do we want these units to look like? Even the smallest details will have an impact on the overall look and feel of the units. Luckily, we had three visitors who helped us work through this big question. First up was a visit from Pete Landon and Cameron Acheson of Landon Bone Baker Architects. They helped us understand the traditional way windows are trimmed, which we used as a jumping-off point for our current window detail.

Pete explains trim to group

Then, this past week we were visited by Rural Studio’s structural engineer extraordinaire, Joe Farruggia. We walked him through our raised slab and slab-on-grade foundation details to double check that our design would perform correctly. Thankfully, he gave both a thumbs-up!

axon of roof assembly

Since then, we’ve been working on perfecting the details of the front corners, which are major points of contact in the project. At these two corners, windows are wrapping the edge, headers are connecting to the wall, and the roof is extending past the enclosure and over the porch. Each of these connections is so important and will have a large impact on the aesthetic of the units, so we want to make sure it’s right.

drawing at full scale

Color Me Sheltered

One of the fun tasks we’ve been exploring is the color of our units! After an intense color study where we took every available metal color into consideration, we decided we liked a neutral palette the best.

We like the contrast of the light metal box underneath a darker roof, with a window and door trim color that’s somewhere in between. We think neutral colors will serve as a nice backdrop to the activities, landscape, and furniture that will be in and around the units.

render of current units
We created a new rendering of the units! Woo!

That’s all for now! When we make our next blog post, we’ll be college graduates… how weird!

Juno on door
When you realize Pig Roast is in 17 days and graduation is in 25 days… 🙂 hang in there y’all

Judgement Day

We’re officially halfway through the Spring semester, which also means we’re three-quarters done with our 5th and final year of architecture school…YAY!!! As the annual end-of-year Spring Pig Roast event approaches, it’s more important than ever for the teams to keep the pedal to the metal and develop their projects to be conceptually sound and technically constructable. In order to get in the dirt prior to Pig Roast, each team has to undergo an Executive Review with Justin Miller, Associate Professor and Head of Auburn’s School of Architecture, and Rusty Smith, Associate Director of Rural Studio.

For the C.H.O.I.C.E. House team, this meant revisiting our concept—now that we aren’t prefabricating and tightening up our drawing set—to reflect our newest ideas about the nature of the roof and porch. After presenting our work to Justin and Rusty, they gave us a helpful critique to move the project closer to construction. The day then culminated in some exciting news: it’s mock-up time! Because the project includes a small laundry space in addition to the units, we were tasked with building the extra volume before Pig Roast as a way to test out all of our details for the units. This means we’ll be working on-site sooner than anticipated, so stay tuned as we dust off our boots and start site prep!