Myers’ Home

Square Up for Concrete

After weeks of weather-watching, schedule-shifting, and dirt-digging, the day arrived. Slab day! Let’s cut to the chase, she’s a beaut. Would you just look at that big hunk o’ concrete!

Myers’ Home Team after a long pour day

But how’d Myers’ Home team get here? That clean, final slab contains quite a few parts. The layers within the slab are gravel, a vapor barrier, rebar, and wire mesh. These all had to be installed along with plumbing and electrical chases before calling in the concrete order. Not to mention the formwork that holds the whole thing together while it cures!

Peak Form

The batter boards that went up all those weeks ago set the lines for formwork. The form boards are tacked with metal stakes every two feet, leveled, plumbed, and secured with kickers and wooden stakes every four feet. This solid edge allows the team to dig their 8″ wide turndowns with crisp and clear dimensions. The turndown is a small ditch that strengthens the edges of the slab which are taking the brunt of the gravity load of the home.

Riley loading up the wheelbarrow for another round of gravel

The site was a touch too muddy to bring in the big guns (the Bobcat) for gravel moving. So gravel moving was done the good old-fashioned way with wheelbarrows and shovels. Cheers to the Studio’s new Operations Manager, John Allen, for joining the student team on quite the pre-summer scorcher! The old gang and their welcome extra hands then spread the gravel with shovels and rakes, tamped flat and firm, and checked for level with the site level.

A site-sized sheet of thick plastic, the vapor barrier, covers the gravel and sprayed for termite protection. With all this tamped down and taped up it’s time to get into the metal game!

Rebar is skewered throughout the turndown and run lengthwise around the edges. Metal mesh is then carefully moved, it tends to be wiggly, and cut to size to set on chairs across the slab area. These elements reinforce the slab for tensile strength after the pour.

Water Under the Drive

Meanwhile, the team was also trenching for water lines for, long-term, the home’s water supply and, more short term, a spigot to water their new concrete. The Ditch Witch, a walk-behind trencher, is a gem of a machine. Once you get her started, she can dig a line like no other! After completing most of the trench and chiseling through a few unexpected brick foundations by hand, the team finished a long Slab Pour Eve with a complete and working hose.

The Promised Pour

But at last the morn arrived! The first concrete truck pulled up right on time (wow!). With expertise of local concrete masters Clyde and Jimmy, the team had their slab placed in a jiff. The team was able to help float edges and directing the placement of the small excess load. As Clyde continued to finish and polish the surface, the team prepared to pop their markers for control joints. These prevent large-scale cracking in the slab over time.

Clyde returned the following morning to cut control joints with the demolition saw. The team took turns to water the slab morning, noon, and night in the days following.

This means these three students are just about ready to start framing! Stick around to see the mockup they’ve got in the works for all those durable details and some sweet and sweaty Pig Roast moments!

Mains, Drains, and Automobiles

Myers’ Home team is on the run! They’re setting utilities, laying plumbing, and picking up materials as construction ramps up!

Rainbows and lightning galore

These folks had a review last week with Jake LaBarre to refine the building set contents. (Kudos to Riley, emerging expert in construction drawing formatting!) These are drawings that the team references during construction for just about everything. With updated documents in hand, they’re dodging rain and wind for spots of sun on site.

Meeting with Jake LaBarre, from Newbern to Seattle!

Power Trip

To power their saws, charge up those drills, and keep the tunes playing the team had to set up a temporary power pole. With Judith driving the trailer as Bobcat Delivery Girl and Madeline manning the joysticks on site, the pole was set and power nearly ready to connect.

Pipe dreams? Not so much.

Before the foundation slab can be poured, utilities are run, gravel leveled, and formwork is set. To begin work on utilities, more batter boards were constructed in order for the plumbing and electrical to be properly placed. These boards sit between the batter boards which mark the footprint of the home, they mark where pipes will emerge from the slab.

The team marked the utility lines on the tamped earth and began trenching for, first, plumbing and, above that, electrical conduit.

Next, they simultaneously begin dry fitting the joints and noting the lengths of pipe needed in the trench (cut a little long!). Throughout this they sloped the pipe in the trench and checked with the site level to ensure proper drainage.

Seal the deal

Following a successful drainage test, the team began assembling and gluing small length pipes, the shower run, washer, and toilet. After that, they dry-fit to the main drain. They triple-checked the pipes, marked for re-fitting, and primed purple. Finally, the team began sealing with the bright blue plumbing glue.

Madeline and Riley marking and gluing pipe segments

With everything in place, they began re-leveling and aligning the pipes with the position of future stud walls. As sunset approached the trenches were finally re-filled and the new utilities tucked in for the night.

One slab, comin’ right up!

The final steps before that long-awaited concrete truck’s journey to Newbern are gravel and formwork. The home’s footprint will be completed in two pours, one upcoming for the 24′ x 40′ interior, and another for the 8′ x 40′ porch slab.

The house, as of late.

In the coming days, the team will be cutting and setting the formwork for the slab and ordering gravel to level the area before the blessed arrival of sweet, sweet concrete. Hang tight to get the scoop! Over and out.

I Just Gantt Do It, Captain!

Want to get the low-down on details for Myers’ Home? Look no further! These kids have broken ground, but that doesn’t mean their work stops in studio. The team has focused attention on details the last few weeks with site work interspersed.

Details are drawn full scale, reviewed, drawn again, and again

Draw it big!

In true Rural Studio fashion, every inch and corner is designed with intention and iteration. While the first aim is to keep the home warm and dry, these layers can meet all sorts of ways. It’s these joints that will also give the house a language. It can read as planes, solids, thin, thick, anyway through the treatment of joints and surfaces.

Drawing details full scale allows the team to grasp the size of the materials they’re specifying. The team can trace vapor and water barriers through the wall sections to find gaps.

Breaking the Shell

Myers’ Home is a protected shell, as such any punctures must be deliberate. The exposed edges created when the shell is pierced are strengthened against environmental elements. To evaluate the layered seals to the punctures, the team has drawn every opening connection in the home.

Myers’ Home team is currently designing a window system that is more durable and efficient than common windows in this context. This system will combine a fixed window for lighting, smaller fiberglass operable window for ventilation, and a window AC unit with a universal sleeve.

Ventilation, light, and AC concentrated to puncture points

Grouping these elements reduces punctures in the shell to single pre-fabricated unit that will be produced with precision in a shop, like cabinetry. A shop-built cypress “box” will hold the pieces together and be far more dimensionally stable than typical stud framing.

A review of the shop-built window system with Dan Wheeler

The team reviewed these details with Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns Architects and adjusted accordingly. Next up, mockup! The students will build the refined window unit in the shop with the intention that it be used in Myers’ Home. Another 1:1 mockup is being designed as a small scale replica of the home’s details. It is a reference library where the team will test flashing, siding, and roof details.

The Big Move

To begin regular site work Myers’ Home team needs to know just what they’ll be doing each week. This means writing and updating a Gantt Chart, the comprehensive calendar of the project’s construction.

A weekly schedule annotated by the team
Myers’ Home Gantt chart in Red Barn, edited by week with site work and order details

They also must identify just what tools they’ll need. Building process is drawn from surveying through drying in — when the home is enclosed and weather-sealed. And in cartoon form!

Meanwhile, tools have been inventoried and assigned to newly organized tool trailers. If nothing else, a team can control the state of its tool trailer.

Myers’ Home is leaping into a fresh Hale County spring with high hopes! Until next time.

Madeline, Judith, and Riley: jumping for joy.

Excavation Sensation

Hale’s frozen over! Since then, it has melted, soaked, dried, and soaked again. Classic Hale County. But Myers’ Home team broke ground in the fury of it! You may have heard it here first, folks.

Putting a shovel to the ground takes a lot of prep. First they got the dirt on site conditions. This involved first surveying the area. Though not before saying hello some new, sorry moo, neighbors.

Survey the scene…

To begin, both Myers’ Home and Rev. Walker’s Home teams went to Steve Long’s Survey School at Newbern’s own Morrisette Campus to learn the site level basics.

All learned to set the transit to read site elevations on the story pole — the measuring stick. On site, they will draw a grid to measure points and build a topography map. This team went with 80’ by 90’ at 10’ increments for their site grid.

Recording the first corner of the measured grid on site

A well-informed student home-builder tests their soil strength with the pocket penetrometer. Riley and Judith dug four holes on Myers’ Home site at intervals around the footprint. They then took density measurements at descending points spaced 6” apart. The penetrometer is plunged into the wall of the soil and a reading is taken in tons per sq. ft.

Riley digging a 32″ hole for the pocket penetrometer

The team recorded bearing capacity and observed conditions of the site. This informed a plan for excavation and soil replacement. To make this home stable, they’re building an island of engineered soiled. This raft will be a solid bed of engineered dirt, reliable red soil with a definitive bearing capacity.

After speaking with Joe Farrugia, Rural Studio’s consulting engineer extraordinaire, a plan was in place for site excavation and refilling.

Batter up, batter boards!

The team had to place batter boards though before site excavation. At first glance, batter boards are unassuming scrap pieces. The builders level these to near-perfect tolerance around the site. They hold squared strings marking each edge of the footprint of the building.

With the guidance and helping hands of batter board guru, Steve Long, Judith and Madeline set boards for the excavation crew arriving the very next day!

Can you dig it?

The following morning, the local excavating team made their appearance at sunrise. They removed over 2′ of dirt from the area marked by batter boards. Eight (eight!) truckloads of strong engineered soil then arrived, placed in 6″ lifts in the hole. This new dirt was smoothed to ideal home-building elevation (well above the water table) and left to settle as another wave of rain rolled in.

Ready for the next window of sun, this team will be tamping the new soil, trenching for plumbing and electrical, and preparing for THE SLAB.

Another Stud in the Wall

As promised, the big reveal.

Following the holiday season, Myers’ Home team returned to Newbern. After the annual Spring semester Neckdown week, the students took a look back at the projects’ goals and methods. What is Myers’ Home Project achieving through design and how can it be brought to life?

Generational Flexibility

Above all, Myers’ Home design aims to serve a family over generations by providing means of expansion within a protected shell. The team is also prioritizing material efficiency, buildability, and affordability as they evaluate how to build.

Originally, Myers’ Home implemented a post-frame structural system to create the protective shell essential to generational flexibility. The post-frame method is a simple structure – poles embedded in the ground or a footing with trusses and a simple roof system spanning between. However, the team needed to change aspects of the structural system for it to become sturdy enough for a longlasting, enclosed home.

Personalized Post-Frame

To achieve the desired decade-spanning design, the team customized the poles, trusses, and roofing. The poles were set in above-ground brackets rather than driven into the soil, bolstering longevity. The trusses had become inherently more complex with the addition of an attic. And, the roof system was designed in layers for thermal comfort and durability.

Subsequently, the team diagramed the whole process of construction to understand efficiency and method. As seen above, the team mapped out each step and considered the building timeline implications. As the team reflected on the more complex system and the steps to build, they reached a new conclusion. Post-frame is a fabulous typology, however, it isn’t what Myers’ Home needs.

A New Structure Ahead

But it’s not all over, in fact, it’s just begun! The four students made a quick turn, forget whiplash, and are on their way to Stud Framing City.

Discussing new detailing in Red Barn

Most importantly, the new method is, for the enclosed attic home, quicker than the original post-frame system to build. Scrapping the footings and columns, the home sits on a simple turndown slab allowing the stud walls to be quickly erected on top. Furthermore, and in line with the previous concept of the flexible model home, the only interior walls are for the home’s core.

Also, a quick maneuver with the trusses is underway! The new truss has the same pitch but the entire porch segment is sliced off, creating a heal. A heel? That’s right, and they aren’t talking about feet.

The new and improved attic truss system

Free Porch

Without the rafters or posts to dictate its volume, the porch can boldly go where no porch has gone before. In short, the porch is now free from the overall structure of the home. Now, there is no part of the integral structure which breaks the enclosed protective shell. The porch is no longer a weak point for the generational home. This is more in line with the intentions and goals of the design.

The Zip System shell wraps and shelters the home’s interior

The team is certainly enthusiastic about the new porch design challenge. The porch could touch the house lightly, tie in with a separate system, or stand entirely independent of the home structure. With all these options, the team is narrowing their infinity to perhaps a universe or two.

To inform the porch, the house must begin to speak a language. But what part speaks? Some might say it’s the details that do all the talking. The team dove into drawing details to determine which voice should be heard loudest and followed.

Beginning to define the porch’s language

And that’s where they are now, up in Red Barn drawing details, details, details. 1:1, markers-on-the-floor, shred-‘em-‘til-they’re-right details. They’ve run all around Newbern looking at past projects and local precedents for inspiration. Research in your own backyard!

So keep an eye out, these four can’t wait to show you their corners.