Current Projects

Starting the Summer at the 18×18 House

The 18×18 House team has been BUSY! The end of the spring semester came fast, bringing a big ol’ Pig Roast celebration with it. Dozens of family members, friends, and alumni crowded around the house to see what this project is all about. We had a great time sharing the work, and figured out just how many guests can fit onto two parking spaces…

Post-Roast Tasks: Roofing

After the fun of Pig Roast, the “18s” hit the ground (or the scaffolding?) running to get the roof installed. Without a watertight roof, the team couldn’t install insulation or drywall, so it was the priority. The first step was laying rigid insulation over the roof sheathing, then attaching purlins across the top. These purlins will be what the metal panels are screwed into later.

Then all the corners and edges got metal flashing installed on them. The whole roof was outlined in metal profiles to keep water OUT!

The team laid the metal roof panels across the length of the house, attaching them one by one. The back side of the roof was the easy part, but then it was time for the dormer…

Before installing the metal on the front, the team had to install the roof and the siding panels on the dormer. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a way to reach the dormer walls later. Meagan and Jake did some tricky flashing work from the scaffolding to install everything over the purlins and insulation. And then, a finished dormer emerged!

The rest of the panels went on smoothly after that. And isn’t it pretty? After it was finally done, Meagan took a break.

Insulation Nation

But no time to stop! As soon as the roof was finished, it was time to insulate. The 18s stuffed the house full of hemp wool and mineral wool batts. And then some more mineral wool. And then some more… Let’s just say there was plenty to do. Meagan had to take another break.

Closing in the Walls

The last step before drywall can be installed was to hang cement board in the bathroom. Cement board is a water-resistant substitute for drywall in showers and other wet areas of a house. The team will be tiling the walls of the shower later on, and this will provide a sturdy base for it. Julie and Meagan measured each panel, scored them with a utility knife, and broke them along the scored edges. Then Meagan took a break, again.

And drywall was delivered to the house this month! We watched as the sheets were lifted into the house through upstairs windows. It all fit inside just fine, and the house is once again crowded with materials. All that’s left now is to hang it up!

We aren’t the only ones eager to see what will come next at the 18×18 House. Watch out to see what happens as summer goes on!

Kitten in doorway
Awwwwww

Here Comes the Leftovers

Students walk across the street
DOO-DOO-DOO-DOO

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
WAR DAMN EAGLE!

Taking a Slab at It: A Bathhouse Concrete Story!

Hello dearest reader and welcome back to the latest edition of the Rural Studio Bathhouse blog!

The past few months have been a very exciting and productive period for the Bathhouse. We are very happy to share what all we’ve been up to since we last spoke!

Students pose for picture on metal deck

At the time of our last update, we had just finished all the underground plumbing and preparing the CMU foundation walls for the floor structure.

We picked up on site where we left off by moving the structural beams into their places in the foundation walls and securing them in place!

View of students looking over metal deck from below
Greetings, Earthlings!

After cutting our metal decking to size, we were able to place the decking and began securing it to the CMU walls. Our good friend, Shane, helped us out by welding the decking down to the beams.

Once the deck was in place, it was time for Spring Break, but we did not take a break from the project. We had a very relaxing week in the woodshop building all the modular formwork for the slab!

Student screws pieces of wood together
Assembling base module supports

Once it was all built, we got busy on site installing the formwork. We started off with ledger boards on the CMU walls, then installed the base support modules and plywood base, and finally pulled strings to set the upright walls in place. We then braced these walls back to the base and added plywood to the inside face, completing the formwork.

image of completed formwork
Finished formwork

When the formwork was set, it provided a nice square base to measure all the penetrations in the slab from. We started off with the holes for the threaded rods.

Next, we marked out all the electrical and plumbing penetrations in the decking and cut them out.

While all of this was going on, we also began plumbing the whole Bathhouse and installing all the electrical conduit and boxes in the crawlspaces. While plumbing was occurring, rebar was being cut to size on the ground. We used bracing attached to the formwork walls to help support the PVC sleeves for the threaded rods and the plumbing and electrical stub outs.

After all the plumbing was completed and tested, we were able to begin putting the rebar reinforcement into place.

The team tied all the pieces together to form a large rebar mat for the slab. With the rebar in place, it was time to add in the last thing, metal mesh, which helps prevent cracking within the slab. The team finished this final step just in time to celebrate at Pig Roast!

We had a great time on Friday night of Pig Roast weekend listening to all the alumni lectures and really enjoyed getting to show off our project and the progress we have made to all our friends and families on Saturday. We finished the day off with an evening of festivities, great food, and wonderful live music.

The team speaking with former Rural Studio student
The bathhouse team meeting and looking at construction photos with original Supershed and Bathhouse team member, Jacqui Hart!

After a weekend of fun, it was quickly back to work for the bathhouse team! First thing Monday morning we got Concrete! An excellent team from JM concrete in nearby Uniontown made quick work of the pour and did a fantastic job with the finishing.

team posing with thumbs-up for concrete
Thumbs up for concrete!

We are so proud to have the heart of the project completed!

As she stands now

We are so happy to share the huge amount of progress being made! Next, we will be preparing to pour all the curbs under the timber walls and beginning the process of stacking the timber modules for the walls.

The team poses in front of project

Thanks so much for reading along and we hope to provide another exciting update very soon!

– Rural Studio Bathhouse Team

Carla, Ambar, Ashley, and Logan 

Springing to the Third Annual Farm Dinner

For the third year running, we gathered to enjoy the Spring Fest Farm Dinner.

Carrot soup

The dinner spotlights small-scale sustainable agriculture, features community members exploring methods to support our local food system, and celebrates local foods with a farm-fresh meal.

The evening began with a golden hour tour of the Rural Studio Farm led by the Farm Manager, Eric Ball. Eric showed us around the Farm and greenhouse and explained the mission, to serve as a model for sustainable agriculture and student engagement, integrating educational, environmental, and social goals.

Following the tour, Emily McGlohn led everyone to the far corner of campus for an exclusive look into the new wastewater treatment system. She has piloted Rural Studio’s partnership with a statewide consortium to demonstrate the effectiveness of implementing a cluster-design sanitary sewer in rural areas, upgrading local residences with problematic septic systems to enhance rural community health.

Finally, we shared dinner in the Great Hall. The meal was crafted by Santa Fe residents, Brad Hart and Johanna Gilligan, friends and consultants of Rural Studio.

The meal started with a soup: a smooth blend of fresh carrots and ginger, garnished with chopped herbs. Next, the salad course featured farm-fresh lettuce and other veggies, tossed in a creamy herb dressing.

Set dinner table

A southern-style cassoulet was the star and main course of the evening, a hearty and flavorful dish featuring smoked pork sausage, tender white beans, chicken, and leafy greens, slow-cooked to perfection with Southern spices.

Finally, for dessert, there was an Aperol Spritz Trifle Cake, a unique dessert layering the flavors of orange prosecco cake and Aperol pudding, topped with Chantilly cream and garnished with fresh mint.

In addition to Rural Studio faculty and staff, we were thrilled to have all these friends join us. Thank you for a wonderful evening!

Barbara Williams, Newbern Library

Newbern, AL

Sarah Cole, Abadir’s & Black Belt Food Project

Greensboro AL

John Dorsey,  Project Horseshoe Farms 

Greensboro, AL

LaShanda Richardson and Sarah Hallmark, Projet Horseshoe Farms

Greensboro, AL

Jenna Hartstein & Sam Somerville, Project Horseshoe Farm Fellows and Rural Studio Farm volunteers

Greensboro AL

Jovita Lewis, Hale County Auburn Extension

Greensboro, AL

Nicole Dugat, Schoolyard Roots

Tuscaloosa, AL

Heather Knowles & Jonathan Gardner, Windy Van Hooten Teaching Garden

Gadsden, AL

Casey Hobbs, Red Bird Produce

Birmingham, AL

Emma Chapman Busby, Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN)

Tuscaloosa, AL

Ted Flato, Lake Flato Architects

San Antonio, TX

Johanna Gilligan, Brad Hart, Grow Dat Youth Farm 

Santa Fe, NM

Set table under the Great Hall

With Strong Steel and Friendship: It’s All Column Together

It’s time for another check-in on the Rural Studio Fabrication Pavilion. We have been working on column repairs, construction plans, and new structural ideas. In addition, we’ve been reevaluating our goals for weather screens on campus.

Column Construction

In the last month, we replaced the splice plates on the final sets of columns. With the help of the CLT Core House team and the 3rd-years, we were able to transport and disassemble the excess scaffolding. Now the slab is clear for the next phase of the renovation: the roof.

Raising the Roof

The main dilemma of repairing the Fabrication Pavilion roof is what the new structure will be made of. The roof acts as a diaphragm that links all the trusses in the Pavilion together, allowing them to act as one. So, the new roof needs to be strong and able to span the distance between each truss. It must also achieve our aesthetic goals for the project. After working through full-sized detail drawings with our professors and guest consultants like Dan Wheeler, we concluded that our best option for ceiling material is structural metal decking.

The Shear Possibilities

As we consider the design of our western extension, our team has decided to expand on what Rural Studio has learned about bypass construction from the original Pavilion. Rather than making the structure out of large, heavy pieces, we will use an aggregation of smaller steel members joined with through bolt connections. Using smaller pieces to create a larger system will make the construction process easier for our team. This method will also allow us to make consistent column connections to other parts of the structure, such as the roof and weather screen.

We plan to remove the Fabrication Pavilion’s western shear wall to open up the space around the loading dock. As a result of this decision, the new steel structure needs to be rigid enough to replace it. After a conversation with our structural engineer, we have begun using ENERCALC to refine our ideas, especially through testing the shear capabilities of each of our structural column schemes. This testing has resulted in the design of a vertical column truss that can handle the building’s heavy wind loads.

Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen

Over the past month, we have been working through a variety of weather screen designs. We have evaluated each idea’s materiality, rain protection, and resultant light quality. Recently, we have been experimenting with schemes that cover a larger portion of the south side of the Fabrication Pavilion. This approach will provide protection from our most aggressive rain as well as create a ‘theater of construction’ that can be seen from Morrisette House.

Stay tuned to see what is to come, and see you at Pig Roast!