Author: Connor Warren

Here Comes the Leftovers

Students walk across the street

Since the team’s last blog post, a lot has happened. All of April was spent preparing for Pig Roast and the Executive Reviews that followed. The team focused on refining our thesis to fit our goals. We tried to bring the level of detail of the whole house up to as high a standard as possible. There always seems to be another layer of detail to dive into as we learn more about the project.

One to one detail drawing of whole house section.

These big upcoming reviews naturally meant that we needed to spend more time on how the house feels, inside and out. We are having a good time zooming out of detail land and drawing through how the elevations may look and what kind of interior finishes we want. We have some general criteria for making these decisions, but we are approaching a time when seeing how these things look in real life is becoming ever more important.

We also finally have a site! Due to the nature of our project being non-site-specific, it made sense to spend a certain amount of time designing the house without the bias of knowing where our version would go. We are excited to dive deeper into the site, analyzing every inch. Our site is fairly flat undeveloped land, surrounded by trees. Also, it is located right off the road in downtown Newbern. With the downtown projects so close by, we have a high bar to live up to!

Model of house photoshopped onto site photo

We still have to explore through drawings, models, and research before we can try building. Even so, a mock-up is on the horizon. While the finishes are important, the most critical parts of the building process are what need to be tested with this mock-up. The processes of building, moving, installing, and protecting these cores throughout that duration is the real focus of our thesis, along with how all of that process will impact the house.

Pig Roast!

Enough about the preparations. We had a great Pig Roast Weekend! Both 5th-year teams worked hard, and we all felt our presentations went well. It was a beautiful day, and the wind blew our drawings away only once—nice! We tried to have some fun and act out our building process. A little improv went a long way. In the end, it was great to celebrate with friends and family, and the event at Chantilly was unforgettable.

Did someone say leftovers?!

After all that fun, we had to go to Auburn for the much less fun but equally (in some ways) important Graduation. So that’s it. We are adults now who have all the answers to everything. There is nothing we are unprepared for in the real world because now we have a degree. All jokes aside, it has been a pleasure to spend our final school year at Rural Studio. We are so thankful for our time at Auburn and beyond excited to start our time as leftovers to continue the hard work.

Students pose together at graduation

Best Footing Forward

Collage of slab to core connections

Welcome back to the CLT Core House team blog! It has been a busy month filled with details and deliberation. As the title suggests, we have been focused on our footing design, particularly on the connection of our heavy and bulky CLT core to our concrete slab. We wish it were as simple as just “screwin’ er’ down.” However, because the slab will be on grade at ground level, we’ve found it difficult to design the right detail. We have worked through many kinds of solutions, all of which we eventually dropped for either being too complicated or too messy.

While working through footing details, we have identified the need for our core to be a six-sided box that arrives on-site wrapped like a present with a bow: something that you only unwrap once you are finished with the dirty business of finishing a house. Also, we know we want our concrete slab to be finished in one pour to avoid the orchestration of getting a concrete truck and team on site multiple times.

Our latest strategy—single-pour slab and a completed box—may not seem like much, but it eliminates most of our previous hurdles. As we both design the core and develop the process of moving and placing it, we are focusing on making sure others can easily replicate our work in the majority of rural contexts. The footing, our most recent detail, is hitting most if not all of our criteria and we continue to examine and refine it. What’s funny is that the final connection is only screws, so we may just be screwin’ er’ down after all.

Section of bathroom core footing

In Other News,

We have been steadily working in various other areas of the project. We are drawing elevation options, both interior and exterior and considering where our porches should be and what they look like. We are also asking ourselves what the human comfort scheme is, which is the heating and cooling of the house, and what passive strategies we could employ.

We have also been in the business of testing the spatial aspects of the cores and taking field trips to Rural Studio projects and places.

This point in the project is exciting. Hopefully, in the next blog, you will see a mock-up and some details that are finally nailed down, pun intended.

Donut Ask How Many Plans We’ve Drawn

The CLT Core House team continues exploring wood construction technologies and prefabrication in Rural Studio’s latest housing affordability project. The goal for this project is to reduce the overall labor costs on-site by prefabricating one key “core” part of the home in a controlled environment and then transporting it to the site.

It has been a long road of many crumpled sheets and drafted lines. Every week, it feels like we tell our classmates, “We finally have a plan.” As in a house floor plan. How silly we were. Many iterations felt so close, seeming to be just out of reach. If only we pushed one more week, we told ourselves, surely it would work! Alas, our continual effort never seemed to reach that coveted goal. That is one of the great benefits of being at Rural Studio. We have the luxury of time, and great help from teachers and visitors alike, to help us realize when we aren’t hitting the mark. Sometimes it is hard to even find words describing why something may not work. Still, through every iteration, we are learning.

Fresh Air, Fresh Ideas

This semester, we have been hoping to reach one final floor plan. We had a list of requirements and details that we saw as essential. It took a long time to realize that maybe we have been trying to hold on to too many of these “essential” criteria. We have a good concept. We have a core that holds all mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems while also acting as the shear structural support for the house. Rather than forcing the concept to work in a plan, we wanted it to inform a plan clearly and effectively. It felt like we were forcing the idea onto floor plans that tended to muddle the ideas.

We have finally developed a plan that is simple and clear while also giving that large family the privacy and utility that they might need. We have been calling it the Donut Plan as there is a free-floating core and program organized around it. There is still a long way to go and plenty of iterations but, “we finally have a plan.”


A Hard Core Semester

CLT Core House's award winning Halloween costume
The CLT Core House team dresses as “Three Men and a Truck” for Halloween!

Welcome back to the CLT Core House team blog! Things have been moving quickly in the last month. We have been working hard to push our project forward, clarifying the ideas and how we present them. It has been challenging to better define the project; the possibilities are endless! We are learning how to push forward to find the appropriate solutions.

The  team presents to de Leon and Primmer!
The team presents to de Leon and Primmer!

Our goal for this semester was to design two cores so that we could move on to design next semester. While there are plenty of details and changes that will undoubtedly be made, we are really happy with where they are at the moment. The two cores will support the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and all the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems of the house. On top of supporting all these systems, they will also act as the lateral and shear support for the building.

The prefabrication of the cores will help us to take our time when designing every piece; it will also lower the need for subcontractors on-site. The goal is to pour the slab and, once it’s cured, to place the cores. Then, we will tilt up our panelized exterior walls, bring in our trusses, and finish the roof. It’s easy to say now, but we hope that process can be completed in a week. Having a covered workspace in a week would be incredible and protect these cores as quickly as possible.

This upcoming semester, we want to finalize our two cores and design one or two plans that they could work with. We will make some mock-ups and ideally begin to build the real ones by Pig Roast. How ambitious! (Or naive…ha!)

We have had a great experience this semester and learned so much. We all can’t wait to see where the project will go. Thanks for reading, until next time.

Kicking Things Off

Welcome all to the first CLT Core House blog post! We are so excited to share everything we have been learning so far. It has been quite an adventure up until now. Let’s start from the beginning…

The 5th-Years taking a selfie in their first mock-up.

When our group of eight 5th-year students was briefed on the two new projects, we realized that things would be a little different. It was clear that the CLT Core House and Fabrication Pavilion projects would be more intertwined than most. They will help to inform each other as they develop.

Before our Rural Studio experience, architecture school seemed to be primarily a solo endeavor. It has been an invaluable experience to work as a team of eight as we navigated all the difficulties of trying to make an effective team. Throughout this process, we have been lucky enough to have had workshops with some truly inspiring architects and consultants who have advised and mentored us as we go.

It was exciting to be involved in both projects, but inevitably we had to split into teams.

Let’s meet the team!

5th-year polaroids

As a newly formed team, it feels great to be able to direct more of our attention toward one project. Our house is the first iteration of a new Rural Studio exploration and another addition to its research into mass timber applications. The cores of the house will contain the essential systems of a home such as a bathroom or kitchen. CLT (cross-laminated timber) walls will support the systems. Since the CLT is both the structure and the finish, we want to prefabricate these cores. Hopefully, prefabrication will provide some interesting benefits in reducing construction time, cost, and labor. The cores could also be the main structural support for the house while still providing an opportunity for easy maintenance of all the critical systems, like mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

Our team feels so lucky to work on this challenging project; the opportunities seem endless. Since its beginning, Rural Studio has invested its time and energy toward understanding what housing in a rural condition can be. Our team hopes to continue that legacy.

Serious business aside, we all feel that it has been an absolute joy to work out here. The program is intense and fast-paced. That’s part of the privilege of being here. We intend to take advantage of that opportunity and have as much fun as we can while doing it!

Thank you all for starting this journey with us and supporting us along the way. Stay tuned for our future posts! We look forward to keeping you updated.

Core house team group photo.