2020 20K Home

The 100-Year-Home

Since returning from spring break we have been quarantining here in Greensboro and working on our project documentation to pass off to the next generation of Rural Studio students who will pick up where we left off and continue the work of designing and building affordable homes for the rural south. In addition to the technical documentation drawings, we put together documentation summarizing the ideals of our project and the thinking behind the design decisions:

The “100-Year Home” is a model for housing affordability in rural areas of the Southeastern United States.  The design’s goal is to create a durable, buildable, and efficient home within a tight budget. The home provides a framework for expansion and adaptation over time, allowing the home to be modified by its occupants as their family’s needs change and as the home is passed down through generations – becoming a vehicle for wealth creation. 

The home is designed in response to the specific conditions of the rural Southeast. This region is heavily impoverished, with limited access to resources or means for economic mobility. Due to the area’s economic, cultural, and geographical conditions, residents tend to form “kinship clusters” whereby members of an extended family live in close proximity, either in a series of small structures, or by adding to a home over time. This additive strategy results in sprawling homes, occupied by a large extended family that allows the family to share resources and live within a tight-knit support network. The major issue with these expanding homes is that to expand upon an existing structure (typically with a pitched roof and raised floor) the family must tie into the existing floor and roof structure. These connection points prove problematic over time as water penetrates the structure and begins to deteriorate the home from the inside. 

Our goal with this project is to provide a framework for this type of incremental expansion and adaptation over time as the family grows and changes. The strategy is straightforward: we provide a big, independently supported roof and a big slab with a simple one-bedroom home underneath. As the needs of the family change, the partitions underneath the roof can be added and subtracted at will without compromising the water-tightness or structural integrity of the building. 

Saturated Survey

The same week we passed stress test and received formal approval to build, we were able to complete our site survey. The good news is our site is relatively flat and surrounded by a seasonal creek on two sides; the bad news is the area most appropriate to build was also quite saturated.  Weeks prior, Newbern experienced unprecedented amounts of rain which was unfortunate for other projects but allowed us to experience our site in a worse case scenario for water permeability. 

Steve helped us negotiate the area to survey along with teaching us how to properly handle the transit and adjust stakes to find square.  We then plotted the data and began laying out our home on the site.  A key factor in our design is the “L” shape porch which allows for optimal sun exposure for passive heating/cooling and outdoor connection. 

Up until now we have been designing without a site, so our plan will need to be flipped, with the expansion porch facing south and the long front porch facing west, looking towards the neighbors pastoral property and sunset. 

Stressed and Tested

February was crunch time for the design process as we geared up for our “Stress Test” presentation. We began to refine our façade concept, material choices, and detailing. Always balancing the initial condition of the home with the potential for expansion and adaptation over time.

rendered elevations, sectional perspective, and exterior view showing proposed materials

Our presentation prompted a lively discussion about the decision-making process for design. The critics urged us to continue to push our expandability concept by detailing the house to allow for the owners to easily modify in the future. We discussed how to design these details both to facilitate future construction processes and to provide clues to the owner about how to expand.

exploded axon showing sequencing

After a long day of presentations, we all gathered to hear the verdict… and we were given the green light! We were urged to consider the 1,000 foot view of the 20K and to keep in mind that our home is one point within the context of the larger research project.

The next day we were introduced to our site and our clients! (Margie and Andrew). We are beyond excited to get to know the clients and to begin surveying and preparing the site for construction.

Devin exploring the site

Pole Barn Research and Review

Hello from the 2020 20K Team!

Based on our design development thus far, we have decided to incorporate a pole barn structure into our 20K Home design this year. In order to learn more about these type of structures and who is already building them in our community, we set off to do more research.

Typically, pole barns in this area are constructed using treated 6×6 wood posts and trusses composed of metal tubes, with either wood or metal purlins. We started talking with local contractors and manufacturers to get a better sense of pricing, construction options, details, and construction timeline.

After talking with Allen (one of the local pole barn contractors) he invited us to shadow him as he put up a 40′ x 120′ pole barn with his crew. On the first day the team installed all of the posts and cast the footings. We also helped them as they prepared for truss installation by establishing a datum to measure from.

On the second day: the team chopped the tops off the posts to level them, bolted the two halves of the truss together, and then raised them up atop the posts. It was helpful for us to observe the process and ask questions of the guys who do this every day. They’ve been an invaluable resource in helping us understand the possibilities and limitations of pole barn construction.

In conjunction with our research, we are continuing to design. We’re focusing on the “L” scheme with porches on two adjacent sides. We’re now diving further into the sectional implications of putting a small house under a big roof. We’re investigating different facade and insulation strategies and diving further into the details.

Devin & Charlie displaying their drawings and truss sample at last Friday’s review

Beginning Design

In considering the programmatic layout for the 2020 20K, we started by analyzing the programmatic layouts of the existing one-bedroom 20Ks and comparing their spatial organizations with our project goals. We liked the logical flow from public to private areas of the “Long Linear” schemes (such as Dave’s), however we felt that the narrow width limited the programmatic possibilities. In contrast, the “Horizontal Bar” schemes allowed for a longer front porch, increasing the area of this valuable outdoor living space. The “Squarish” plan is the most efficient; however, these homes feel smaller than the others when viewed from the outside because they lack a long façade.

In conjunction with our 20K analysis, we also selected a few precedence to study. The three that we settled on were: The Chamberlain Cottage by Marcel Breuer & Walter Gropius, The Sea Ranch Cottage by William Turnbull & Assoc, and Andrew’s Home (architect unknown).

After testing these programmatic layouts in plans of different dimensions, we arrived at a layout inspired by the Sea Ranch Cottage. This plan was not only the most efficient layout but it also provided for the most interior flexibility (allowing for an additional bedroom to be carved out of the living/dining room in the future).

Testing programmatic layouts and dimensions
Situating the plan within the pole barn

By using the post-frame construction method, we are able to build a larger roof and slab structure than previous 20Ks. Although we are still building a one-bedroom 20K, our plan is to situate the home within a larger structure that will allow for easy expansion in the future. Given the constraints of around a 500-600 square-foot home, situated within around a 1000 square-foot superstructure, we began to design the exterior space. From our visits to past 20Ks and other homes in the area, we set some parameters for the width of the exterior space (with a minimum of 6’ to allow for a comfortable sitting porch, and a maximum of 12’ to allow for light to penetrate into the home). With these parameters in mind, we looked at various ways in which our plan could fit within the larger superstructure, settling on two schemes to investigate further, what we call the “L” scheme and the “Front/Back” scheme.