Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research

The Return of Zelda

As construction continues, the team is also spending their spare time (ha!) scaling up in the horizontal and vertical sock tests. Each increase in scale comprises of another variable added to the test. This testing method isolates the effects of each variable. The horizontal sock test has moved up in scale to a new test box the team lovingly refers to as Zelda – you may recognize her from earlier air infiltration tests, where the team was experimenting with different laminated timber assemblies. Zelda adds the element of these laminated panels in a forced-air system in comparison to the previous solid wood panel. With the laminated panels, the team will also be testing different hole spacings for the Breathing Wall to try and find the most optimized geometry for the Test Buildings.

Jumping even larger in scale, the team is constructing their test cell. This cell serves as a way to test a full-scale Breathing Wall in isolation. The cell is the same dimension as the future Breathing Wall Mass Timber test buildings, but the floor, ceiling, and three of the walls are standard stud-framing with hyper-insulation. The Breathing Wall is added to one side of the cell for testing. This eliminates the variable of the mass timber construction so the team can use this data to compare with their final test buildings. One of those buildings will test the whole Breathing Wall Mass Timber system, while the other will be only mass timber to serve as a control. Like the rest of their experiments, these steps should allow the team to understand the impact of each variable and strengthen their understanding of the whole system!

Stay tuned for a fully insulated vertical sock and test buildings!

Always adding to our material palette,

The Itchy Insulators

Soundtrack: The Scientist | Coldplay

Continuing to Poke Holes in Things

The research team has spent the past few weeks constantly shifting between testing and building which keeps things exciting around here. With the floors for the two test buildings in place, the team spent about three weeks preparing each piece of wood for the walls and ceiling. Over 700 pieces of wood were cut, labeled, drilled (4000+ holes), and stacked. For a while, the team operated each day under the fabrication pavilion like a well-oiled machine. Each team member had their job: book-matching boards, clamping templates, drilling holes, stacking finished pairs. By the end of those weeks, the team could prep an entire wall (~80 boards, 400 holes) in a little over a day!

Stay tuned for mass timber walls!

Cleaning saw dust out of our ears,

The Rural Studio lumberjacks

Soundtrack: Chop Suey | System of a Down

And Suddenly, Floors!

Upon returning to Newbern, the team continued the metal theme and spent the first day back coating all of the metal elements of the pod with a clear lacquer finish to prevent weathering while maintaining the unfinished look of the metal. Then they made the switch back to working with wood.

With all of the wood for the floors prepped and ready to go, installing the floors was a simple and quick process. Of course, before the wood could be placed, the world’s most substantial termite shields had to be installed. The termite shields comprise of ¼” steel plate welded into a box and are designed to complement the massiveness of the mass timber and concrete foundations.

After the termite shields were siliconed in place, the wood for the floors was placed, a process which took about fifteen minutes. Then the wood was roughly aligned so that the threaded rods could be inserted. Once the rods were in place and lighted fastened, the wood received its final alignment. By far the most time consuming part of this process was tightening the threaded rods as, even with our preliminary tightening, the wood still had subtle warping and cupping that needed to be squished out. The floor installation overall took about five hours, four of which went into tightening the threaded rods.

Stay tuned for the rest of the pod coming after Christmas.

Building is getting serious,

The Fabulous Floor Folk

Soundtrack: Construction Site Song | The Kiboomers

Steel Fabrication

The steel for the spreader angles and plates has been delivered and the team has been working on fabricating those pieces. The plates and angles will run along the walls, floors, and ceilings edges in order to evenly spread the load throughout the wall/floor/ceiling when the threaded rods are tightened down. Each plate and angle has to be cleaned, holes torched, and then coated with a sealant to prevent weathering. Once the steel is finished, the team can begin processing the wood for the walls and ceilings using those plates and angles as templates. 

As the pod begins to become a reality, the issue of properly staging the construction process to be as efficient as possible is becoming an important topic. To that end, the team decided to fabricate the trusses before beginning to build the pods so that the roof can be immediately installed once the walls and ceiling are in place to prevent the wood from being exposed to the environment for any length of time. It is to this end that Jim Turnipseed and Turnipseed International have been extremely helpful in this process. Not only was all of the steel for the project donated but the team was also able to use Turnipseed International’s welding shop to fabricate the trusses and other steel elements of the project. It was a welcome break from the wood processing to learn about steel and how to weld.

The whole process only took about 5 days. The team spent the first two days cutting down all the members of the trusses, the purlins, the runners, and the plates. The next day, with the help of the men working at the shop, they laid out the truss design on the warehouse floor and welded together a jig. This allowed the team to easily slide the members of the truss in place then weld together each joint. 2 days later, 11 trusses were completed and transported back to Newbern!

Stay tuned for updates as the team returns to Newbern and puts this steel to good use!

Already missing the shop,

The Metalworking Massers

Soundtrack: Dirty Paws | Of Monsters and Men

Horizontal and Vertical Sock Tests

Wondering if the team still masquerades as scientists? Don’t worry, the science lives on. Throughout the construction process, the team has been running horizontal sock tests day and night; four tests a day, every day but Sundays! They have completed a series of small scale horizontal sock tests and are currently working on their first peer reviewed paper. This paper will present their findings on the suitability of wood for Breathing Walls, as well as their initial findings on their vertical sock tests.

Vertical sock testing is the next step in the testing series. As the team scales up the tests, a new variable is added. This series of tests will introduce buoyancy ventilation to the system rather than use forced air with the blower door fan. The sock, currently set up in the team’s living room, is an 8’ tall insulated cone with sensors at the top and bottom logging pressure, temperature, air flow, and humidity. They are currently calibrating this test and hope to finish up the series before Christmas! After that, they’ll move on to laminated panels and eventually to testing the full-size building currently in construction.

The team is off to the big city (Birmingham) again soon to trade off with the Horseshoe Hub Courtyard team in the metal shop. They’ll be taking a rare break from wood and fabricating trusses and other steel components, so stay tuned for updates.

Full of hot air,

The Testing Team

Soundtrack: The Scientist | Coldplay