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Howdy from Newbern!

A series of student Polaroids with title "Meet the Third Years"

1 HOWDY

  • Mediocre Superpower: ability to find other people’s keys, but never their own
  • Born in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
  • Their lack of wisdom teeth is no indication of their lack of wisdom
  • Enjoys microwavable Mac n’ Cheese (to the rest of the house’s dismay)
  • On a free day, they enjoy doing chores, jamming to heavy metal, and planning schemes
  • May or may not own all the Lego pieces in the land
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2 BYE

  • Mediocre Superpower: being able to sleep through 50 alarms
  • Lived in Israel for a year as a baby
  • Continues to taunt the house with unfulfilled promises of Oreo Pie
  • Embarrassed of their Hufflepuffness
  • Their right ear is higher than the left one
  • Hates ‘Get-to-Know-You’ questionnaires
  • Believes the greatest cereal of all time is Lucky Charms
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3 GRAVITAS

  • Mediocre Superpower: be able to understand animals (only if they need something)
  • Is a cheesy person
  • Born and Raised in Houston
  • Loves spicy food
  • Only Ravenclaw of the house (smarticle particle)
  • Believes that people who close the bathroom door when they are done and leave everyone to wonder whether it is occupied or not should reevaluate.
  • Thinks the ‘Get-to-Know-You’ questionnaire made by the blog team is perfect (aaaaaaawww)
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4 MILK JAR

  • Mediocre Superpower: ability to know a penny’s life story when touched
  • Always eating popcorn before meals (never finishes their plate smh)
  • Speaks fluent Itali-English
  • Hides food from everyone else in the house and will eat your food if left unattended
  • Cheeseball Shark/ partial merperson
  • Undying love for Oreos and still waiting on the promised Oreo Pie
  • DeLiang’s least favorite actress
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5 RUN?

  • Mediocre Superpower: every time they reach into their pocket, they will find a single, random tree nut
  • The only Gryffindor of the house
  • Has secret ancient knowledge of strawberry juice
  • On a free day, they enjoy messing with Houdini (the famous escape artist not their dog)
  • Wants to learn VEX
  • Was caught off guard by their immense love of Twilight
  • Scared of photos
  • Unnaturally good at handstands
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6 READING OVEN

  • Mediocre Superpower: ability to stop time but only to procrastinate
  • Enjoys eating pie
  • Has visited a Glass Bridge (and it was beautiful)
  • Believes dust is the single worst menace to society
  • Loves road trips
  • Has more drill bits than any one person could ever need
  • Can fit a family of four in their giant tool belt
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7 TUMMPLE

  • Mediocre Superpower: the ability to speak any language but only to talk to people about their dogs
  • Is a very proud Hufflepuff
  • Their pinky toes don’t reach the ground
  • Lost the spelling bee in 3rd grade because ‘vacuum’ has 2 u’s
  • Parmesan cheese addict
  • Visited Hobbiton, New Zealand (where they should be because they are a hobbit)
  • Aims to imprison all Tummples
  • Inventor of Little Monsters TM, Newbern’s critically acclaimed board game

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A Responsible Return to Rural Studio

3rd years sit masked in the fabrication pavilion before eating lunch

The 3rd-year students are back in Newbern! Find out what they’re planning this semester in their first blog post here!

Out of Site

This week 3rd-years were introduced to two of their other courses taken at Rural Studio: Shop with Stephen Long and History with Dick Hudgens. While traditionally the Shop class focuses on a long-term project centered on the study and construction of a famous chair, this year students will be focusing on three smaller projects that can all be done during shop time. This will allow students to study wood construction more broadly as well as design some of the projects they are working on.

Dick Hudgens introduced his course with a bang as students walked around downtown Newbern making sketches of adjacent buildings and starting to learn some on-site drawing techniques. Similar to Long’s course adjustments, Hudgens has also adjusted the course syllabus to allow for more social distancing and safe meetings. As a result, all students drive their own cars to different historical sites and focus has been shifted from watercolor to more hand-drawing techniques.

20K Ophelia’s Home

Despite a rainy start to the semester, 3rd-years were able to get back onto 20K Ophelia’s Home project site mid-week on the first working week of the semester. Due to COVID-19 regulations in Spring 2020, progress on-site was sadly halted. However, these returning students and faculty have been eager to continue to work on this Rural Studio project. During the first few days on-site, 3rd-years were able to clean up the site and sort through materials in order to catalog how much material had been lost to weathering. 

With a new clean site, 3rd-years began prepping for the next week’s of work by building an on-site pin-up board as well as covering any exposed materials in preparation for another weekend of rain. Neither the rain nor the COVID-19 guidelines can dampen the spirits of the eager 3rd-years as they start the semester full of excitement and anticipation.

Students and instructors pose on site after a long day of work

Fabrication Pavilion

During what students and faculty loving refer to as “neck-down week,” a group of 3rd-years spent the week cleaning the fabrication pavilion and the yard in front of Morrisette House. While cleaning might not seem like the most glamorous task, it was a necessary task. The satisfaction that came with seeing a clean, beautiful pavilion was well worth the work. With an organized campus, the students are ready to start building.

The Last and the First

Like most everyone, we remember exactly where we were on Friday 13, March 2020, the day of the nationwide shutdown. The Front Porch team was on a field trip to Nashville, Tennessee to participate in the 2020 Tennessee Housing Conference and catch up with our friends from USDA, Fahe, Hope Enterprise Partners, Mountain T.O.P., and Eastern 8. In addition, we connected with Fannie Mae’s Disaster Recovery Group, who were traveling to town to perform a damage assessment following the recent tornado that tore through intown neighborhoods just the week prior. We also participated in working meetings with our partners from Affordable Housing Resources, who are building four Rural Studio 20K Houses on Wharf Avenue in Nashville’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood in collaboration with NeighborWorks and Regions Bank. Little did we know this would be our last face-to-face meeting with any of our partners for over four months.

Group photo with Front Porch team and additional partners at TN conference
March 2020 Tennessee Housing Conference

Working directly with the City of Nashville’s innovative zoning policy that allows for the development of a “Horizontal Property Regime“ (HPR), Affordable Housing Resources received tentative approval to build two individually-owned, single-family units on each lot, thus allowing for a denser utilization and lower land cost per unit. Though slowed a bit by the shutdown and transition to remote working, Affordable Housing Resources continued to work in the intervening summer months to successfully move the Wharf Avenue project forward through zoning, permitting, and approvals.

Fast forward to August, and just as Rural Studio is getting students back to Newbern and beginning to open our community and housing projects back up in Hale County, the Front Porch team has also been given approval to get back on the road for essential research travel. And just in time, too, because we are excited to say that Affordable Housing Resources broke ground on the Wharf Avenue Project in late July! Since that time, the team has made two site visits to Nashville, our first face-to-face visits since March. Under the oversight of Barbara Harper Latimer, owner of Honeybee Builders, the project continues to progress quickly, with two-and-a-half of the first four houses framed.

It’s been a long road, and we have a way to go still, but we are extremely fortunate to have persistent partners like Affordable Housing Resources seeing the project forward in this very dynamic time. We are excited to finally have new houses coming out of the ground in Nashville, and we look forward to keeping you updated on our progress there, as well as in our other locations around the Southeast.

A Long and Productive Summer

It’s been a long, sweaty summer, and even with continued help from some of the teaching faculty (Steve, Emily, Chelsea, Mary, and Xavier), our farm manager Eric has been very busy.

Eight harvest tubs are arranged, each with its own crop: red mini bells, mini eggplant, jalapenos, orange mini bells, Asian eggplant, tomatoes, yellow mini bells, and okra

We made several large harvests of commodities that went into long-term storage: garlic, onions, butternut squash, and potatoes. For every one pound of seed potatoes that Eric planted back in February, we harvested 14.5 pounds of fresh, organic potatoes back, which is a great return.

Many of the summertime crops, such as beans and squash, have also been very productive, with many still yielding, like tomatoes, mini bell peppers, mini eggplant, Asian eggplant, and okra.

With autumn just around the corner, our long-term crops of peanuts, parsnips, and leeks are continuing to develop and grow.

With the return of students, we have just begun to harvest our edible summer cover crop of pinkeye purple hull peas.

And finally, the perennials and flowers that Eric planted earlier in the spring, like asparagus, have been very productive.

Lab to Barn, Science to Design

Live from Rural Studio Red Barn, it’s the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project Team! The team, though they might come to miss the cat interns and the AC, is so excited to be back on campus. For health safety measures, the team has an entire studio room to themselves which also acts as a convenient hiding place from Andrew Freear. The TMVRP Team is being as safe as possible as they sorely missed Newbern and the Rural Studio staff and faculty. This week the team will cover their pod design process while bombarding you with design iteration images. Enjoy!

As the Wood and Concrete Chimneys chug along, quite literally, the TMBVRP team have been designing their test buildings. Like the Mass Timber Breathing Wall team’s nearly completed test buildings, the TMBV test buildings apply their research at a small building scale. After some initial testing, the TMBV test buildings can be used as 3rd-year accommodations. The Studio calls the funky dorm rooms for 3rd-years on Morrisette campus “pods.” In true Rural Studio fashion, the design of these pods is an iterative process, but must always be grounded in what is necessary for the experiment. Now, science experiments are not only driven by the hard data we might get out of them. Many experiments are experience-based, especially when trying to describe a phenomenon to the public. Think about going to a science museum, touching the electrified ball and your hair shooting up from your head. Static electricity makes a lot more sense to you when you experience it rather than if you had read data and looked over graphs explaining it. The design of the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation pods revolves around both data and experience production. A main objective of the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project, while being rigorously tested for data currently, is for inhabitants to experience the comfort of the cooling and ventilation effects. Let’s journey through TMBV Pod design as the team tries to focus on both experiment and experience!

When massing the general size of the pods, the team can use the Optimal Tuning Strategy app. From the app the team knows the amount of surface area needed for the thermal mass, the thermal mass thickness, and the size of the ventilation openings based on the information they input which is how much ventilation, temperature change, and height the pods need. General massing schemes are quickly generated from these design parameters. The team is creating massing schemes for two to three pods, one with concrete thermal mass walls and one or two with wood ones. These massing schemes also explore whether to share walls in a multi-unit pod or separate the pods to highlight the material difference within. As long as these massings can fit the app outputs, a 3rd-year, a bed, and the sensors we need for testing that’s all of the design work to be done, right? Nah. While these are sleeping quarters for students, they are also examples to the public of how spaces that utilize thermal mass and buoyancy ventilation can feel.

To create a peak TMBV experience, the team is elevating the pods! This will allow for a gathering space underneath the pods where anyone can sit and enjoy the cool air being naturally pumped out of the spaces above. The TMBVRP team calls it, the “Cooling Patio.” Here, students, faculty, or clients interested in the system can experience the effects of TMBV without lingering too long in a 3rd-years dwelling. It also highlights one eventual goal of the work; naturally cooled public spaces enjoyed in the Black Belt. The Cooling Patio is located underneath the buildings because the TMBV system operates in downdraft during the day. This means during the day the air is pushed out of the lowest opening as opposed to at night when the air is pushed out of the highest opening. Therefore in a typical building, you would not need to elevate the structure above the ground, you simply need a low and a high ventilation opening. The TMBV Pods’ ventilation “top and bottom” openings are so literal for both the quality of the experiment and the Cooling Patio.

Why the pod is elevated may now be clear, but why do some of these drawings have such tall chimneys? The exaggerated Chimneys are an experiential detail like the elevation of the spaces. They are not necessary for the experiment or the TMBV strategy to work. A typical building would not need tall Chimneys to utilize Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation, just as they would not need to be elevated. The tall chimneys are specific to the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project Pod as they highlight the ventilation created by the passive strategy. This is another detail, like the cooling patio, that will work as an experiential demonstration of the research. Increasing the overall height of the structure, beyond what surface area is needed, highlights the ventilation aspect of the system. The elongated chimneys do not increase the amount of air ventilated through the spaces, it does increase the speed of the air as it exits the spaces. The faster the air exits the interior space into the cooling patio, the cooler the patio space will feel. Think of it as the difference between being hot with a fan and without. Moving air always increases the cooling effect and therefore the cooling experience. This increased airspeed will help with explaining how Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation works as visitors and users will be able to clearly feel the cool air rushing out. Now, the design is focused on three main outcomes: replicating the experiment so TMBV works effectively at building scale; providing a comfortable and useful space for sleeping and demonstrating; and creating a space below the buildings in which people can gather and experience the strategy working for long periods of time. What comes next is siting and about 1,000 other details.

Siting began by looking at various locations around the Super Shed and the existing pods. The Team began exploring the pods as stand-alone buildings. Next, the team explored how they could utilize the roof and structure of the Super Shed. While investigating stand-alone sites, the team also did some surveying of the Super Shed. Both options have benefits. A stand-alone structure would allow for greater height, not being capped by an existing roof, so a more generous cooling patio space and higher airspeed into that space. The existing roof of the Super Shed, however, would provide constant shade and rain protection making it a very similar environment to the Chimney Experiments in the carport at HomeLab. Both have experiential and experimental benefits that the team is still exploring.

The Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Team has a lot of hard work ahead, but nothing makes it better than being back in the Red Barn. Seeing the old and new faces of Newbern, even from a social distance, is exciting and motivating. Thanks for Tuning in!