C.H.O.I.C.E. House

Make Good C.H.O.I.C.E.S.!

Surprise! The C.H.O.I.C.E House is complete! For the past couple of months, we’ve had our heads down and our eyes on the prize, but the team couldn’t leave Hale County without one last update. Keep reading to see how we’ve been, what we’ve done, and where we’re going!

high view of site

Picking up where our last update left off: shortly after drywall, both our team and Patriece’s Home team set an opening date, August 26th! That meant one final Hale County summer, culminating in a packed porch party to celebrate two teams, two projects, and two years of work. So, we certainly had to get to it on-site.

In July, we focused our efforts on wrapping up our exterior and landscaping strategy. In keeping with the units’ ADA compliance, we developed an accessible route to both the units and washer dryer volume using a poured sidewalk and driveway. A big “Thank you!” to our neighbor and local concrete finisher, Charles Woods, for his crew’s help on these last two pours. Also outside, we planted three trees—a trio of black gums that we hope will provide color, delight, and most importantly, shade, in the years to come. Finishing out the courtyard space, we reused the old sidewalk pieces to create a boundary between the current courtyard and the “mowable meadow,” the portion of the site designated for strategic expansion as C.H.O.I.C.E. and their housing programs grow.

As August arrived, we moved back inside to start all of our finishes: flooring, tiling, shelving, trim, you name it! We also welcomed a bonus member to the team. Davis’ fiancé, Elisia, joined us from Oregon for the final six weeks of the project. To keep the momentum going, the team split up to focus on different finishes. AC claimed the built-in shelving and appliance nooks, Davis took on installing the floor tile and LVT with Elisia, and Hailey learned how to tile two showers in a matter of days! 

The final work week very serendipitously aligned with the time-honored tradition of “Neckdown.” In our last full week on site, we were fortunate to have over a dozen of the new students hard at work. With the countdown to our opening on, the new crew helped us touch up paint, tidy up the units, and set up for one heck of an opening on Saturday. If that wasn’t enough of a group push to the finish, we even had some very special helpers fly all the way from Vancouver, Canada and Kansas City, Missouri. Thanks Jackie and Caitlyn!

We then wrapped up the week (and two years!) of hard work with a joint project opening. Nearly 200 hundred friends, family, and community members showed up and braved 100+ degree temperatures to celebrate with us, packing the front porch to enjoy Newbern Mercantile BBQ and an excellent veggie spread from Abadir’s. It meant the world to us to see those we hold nearest and dearest all in one place to watch us cut the ribbon on a project that we know Emefa and all of C.H.O.I.C.E. will use well as they continue serving their clients and community. Even better, we got to open right alongside our friends on Patriece’s Home team!

people on porch

So, what’s next? In the coming days, the team will pack up and move on to our next chapters. Hailey is taking her talents to Spain, where she’s working as a Language and Cultural Assistant at a school in Madrid. Raymond is sticking around Hale County for a while to work with the Studio. As for Davis, he’s Portland bound, though you might soon hear wedding bells for him and Elisia on a vineyard in Virginia. And AC? For now, she’s heading West!  

Thank you again to everyone that joined us on this journey the past two years. Words cannot express how grateful we are to this place and every single person that’s ever been a part of it. Until we see you all again, make good C.H.O.I.C.E.S.

-AC, Hailey, Davis, + Raymond

student team on site

Doing the Most Post-Roast

It’s been a busy month on site at the C.H.O.I.C.E. House. Read ahead to see how we are stepping up and rocking on in our push to the finish. 

 As always, we wrapped up the academic year earlier this summer with a Pig Roast toast. We spent the day celebrating the graduating students and sharing our progress with friends, family, and visitors, far and wide. After a few fireworks and some much-appreciated words of encouragement, we got right back to it, kicking off our second Hale County summer. We’ve broken up our days into inside and outside tasks, starting our mornings outside and working our way in to beat the heat.

The first order of business outside was to build and pour the concrete for our steps. The cascading steps have concrete bookending both sides, and the first step is concrete as well. Like all previous pours, this process included building formwork, setting it, and layering up a sandwich of dirt, gravel, vapor barrier, rebar, and mesh.  

Next, we braced ourselves to climb up into the porch trusses and finish our porch bracing strategy. The goal here was to create a triangle of 2x4s that tied the porch trusses to each other and then back to the units. 

Meanwhile inside, a local contractor hung our drywall over the course of a week, setting us up to jump right in to painting and finishes in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, we met with civil engineer and friend, Adele Schirmer. Working with her, we developed a strategy for directing water away from the units and towards an existing drainage ditch.

Continuing our slate of meetings, engineering consultant Joe Burns stopped by our site to confirm some final structural questions, while our professors, Andrew and Steve, along with David Hill (APLA Associate Professor and Graduate Landscape Architecture Chair), helped us talk through some landscape questions that arose in response to our civil engineering conversations with Adele.

Between meetings (and summer thunderstorms), we installed metal siding. Save for a few front porch fixtures, our exterior envelope is complete!

Back inside, the units are painted and ready for trim and fixtures.

As our opening fast approaches, we’re calling in all the help we can get. Meet the team’s newest member and resident morale booster: Miss Cauliflower!

very cute kitten wearing overalls

How does it feel to be this close to the finish line? Ask Davis.

davis looks unnervingly happy

Sun and Steel

Raise the roof! The C.H.O.I.C.E. House is finally dried in. After several days of dodging rain, pollen, and morning dew, the team wrapped up our roof assembly with 64 panels of charcoal gray metal. Of course, we couldn’t have done it without 5th-years Meagan and Ashley, John Marusich, and our resident roof cognoscente, Andrew Freear.

With the installation of the ridge vent and bathroom vent done, our heavy hat is officially complete, meaning we can turn our attention inward and onward to preparing for drywall installation. 

hailey installing roof vent


The biggest pre-drywall tasks are plumbing and wiring, both of which are well underway. Plumbing involves running hot and cold lines to the showers and food prep sink, as well as installing vent pipes in those same spaces. We’ve also run lines to the washer and an outdoor spigot. The plumbing process is like a puzzle. When solved correctly, you get a hot shower and clean dishes! Wiring rough-in, on the other hand, is something akin to weaving al dente spaghetti through a popsicle stick loom. One bright yellow cable at a time, we’re connecting circuits of switches and receptacles and fixtures, around 40 in total. The results are shocking! 

Once these larger tasks are complete, we’ll be able to finish pre-rocking, framing our interior soffits, installing our ducts, and tiling the showers. One might say we’re really “springing” forward. Until next time, when we’ll be sheet-rocking and rolling. 

davis installs sheet rock

Tripping Walls

And we’re back! After a very merry break, the team has returned to Rural Studio and we are ready to get the new year rolling. With little time to waste, the we finished framing the interior walls. Now, we can experience the living, sleeping, and bathing space live, in person, and in three dimensions. Exciting stuff! Once the walls were up, we went back and installed blocking. These small, horizontal pieces of wood placed between the studs will support things like grab bars in the bathroom and cabinets in the food prep space. We also added extra blocking in unit two so that C.H.O.I.C.E. can have two fully accessible units in the future if needed.

As soon as the walls went up, we turned our attention to the doors and windows. With some extra elbow grease from 5th-year student, Ashley Wilson, and a little bit of Steve Long’s Know-How, all of the windows and doors were fully installed in just a couple of days!

A couple more cans of window sealing foam and we’ll officially be dried in! And with that, we’re ready to start plumbing and wiring. Back at the drawing board, Davis has been working on some lighting studies to set the mood for our electrical plan while simultaneously putting plumbing in order with a shopping trip for supplies to follow soon after.

Next time y’all hear from us, we’ll be high and dry. Roof metal installation is coming soon! ‘Til then: keep making good C.H.O.I.C.E.S!

We Don’t Want to Freeze

Around these parts, Kermit isn’t the only green guy movin’ right along! Keep reading to see how our team’s been preparing the units to leap into winter.

main units viewed from street

First things first—both the units and the third volume are fully sheathed! Having a fully enclosed “shell” to work in offers a couple advantages: As it gets colder, we can focus our efforts inside the units and away from winter wind.

In addition, we’re planning to take a couple weeks off at the end of the year to celebrate the holidays and spend time with family, so having a waterproof layer of sheathing protecting our wood framing offers some peace of mind during our hiatus.

We also had the privilege of receiving our first big group of visitors since last May’s Pig Roast. Each December, current 3rd- and 5th-years present their work to external reviewers for an end-of-the-year critique. To kick off the day, students, faculty, reviewers, friends, and family alike caravanned to our site for a quick look at our headway. Some of our visitors hadn’t seen the project since it was still on paper, so it was exciting to share our progress.

AC presents to visitors

Getting right back to work, we installed the fascia and wrapped it with metal flashing. The width of the fascia gives the appearance of a thickened roof plane or “hat” that reveals itself under the porch as an assembly of thin layers. How’s that for a detail you can hang your hat on?

Moving inside, we poured both units’ showers. With those last two pours, all of our interior concrete is done. That means as soon as we return in January, we can dive right into framing our interior walls. 

Now, the team is signing off for a much needed break. Make good C.H.O.I.C.E.s, and we’ll see you all in January.

holiday card from the team