Howdy from the Moundville Pavilion team! The design has continued to evolve quickly throughout the past couple of weeks as they have been heavily focused on constructability and modifying the design of the columns. The team also got the chance recently to participate in Moundville Archaeological Park’s Knap-In, an annual stone tool makers event where visitors can learn about flint tools and how they’re made.
Columns and Ceiling
After the team clarified the design concept, new iterations of columns began to emerge that focused strongly on the overall intent of the project and its place within the site. The team looked at the columns in elevation, large-scale models, and renderings.
In conjunction with the column design, the team has also been exploring ways to give tolerance to the ceiling assembly along with the method of attaching the finished surface material to the underside of the trusses. With the decision to deconstruct the current partially built pavilion, the team has the opportunity to realign the upper or lower ridges and two of the four planes that make up the form. Aligning the upper ridge allows for smoother and faster assembly of the direct-bearing roof structure and gives shelter during the construction of the ceiling. The team also decided to add lumber to the bottom cords of the trusses to align the two lower planes. The overall goal is to allow for the most efficiency and tolerance when reconstructing the trusses.
All of this work and response to recent guest reviewers culminated in an Executive Review, the event formerly dubbed “stress test.” The annual stress test examines each projects potential and feasibility to continue into the summer. Justin Miller (Head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture), Rusty Smith (Rural Studio Associate Director), and Emily McGlohn (Rural Studio Associate Professor and leader of the 3rd-year studio) met with the team to see where the project currently is and where it is heading.
Rusty and Justin encouraged the team to consider an overlapping clip system for their ceiling and to see how we could simplify the design of the column to find a stronger balance between functionality and concept. At the end of the review, the team was challenged to build a full-scale mock-up of the final column design, complete with the roof structure, to show at the annual Pig Roast celebration at the end of the semester.
Keep on Pushing!
In response to the feedback, the team is continuing to explore the column design, testing the suggested ceiling construction method, and mocking-up how the structure will be assembled.
Check back soon to see where we head next as we begin to prepare for Pig Roast!
Spring has sprung, which means Spring Break is quickly approaching! But before we hang up our overalls for a much needed break, we’ll be cranking up production on the Moundville Pavilion project in preparation for the mid-March Executive Review.
A big part of our decision-making process has been based on the refinement of the project’s concept. We went back and looked over our initial reading and analysis of the site and the previous team’s design to better articulate why we were making our decisions.
Our concept starts with the desire to not be an object on the landscape, and instead be more a part of the landscape by taking cues from the surrounding forest and blending in. By doing so, we give reverence to the site and work to draw the eye away from the pavilion and instead focus it on the surroundings. The pavilion is also all about the gradient that is found in a forest of trees, going from a heavy, sturdy base, to a light canopy that reaches to the sky and lets light touch the ground below.
Reviewers, Mock-ups, Drawings, Oh My!
The design has been gradual and ever changing in conjunction with the last revolving door of reviewers we’ve hosted for the month. We had a short visit from Larry Scarpa, from Brooks + Scarpa based in Los Angeles, CA, who gave a lecture and questioned the team on how the project can be more cohesive from top to bottom. Mike Newman of SHED Studio and Katrina Van Valkenburg of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CHS), both based in Chicago, IL, provided input on the column design dilemma and asked the team to build quick and easy mock-ups of all of our column ideas to better understand their implications.
Finally, we had Dan Wheeler from Wheeler Kearns Architects, based in Chicago, IL, come out and take a look at how the project’s details have been progressing. Dan encouraged the team with his knowledge of the various ways we can detail the pavilion and how to embody the points of our concept. Dan led a charrette asking the team to take a step back and draw the overall concept with relation to the park, while also zooming in to the various ways we can have the column details emphasize the heavy-to-light design.
The last couple of weeks have been busy for the Moundville Pavilion team, with the revolving door of visiting guest reviewers, a mock-up, and structural meetings.
With the arrival of our pool tarp material, it was time to utilize the partially built pavilion and to mock-up the ceiling form. With the help of our fellow 5th-year Hailey Osborne, we made quick work of the mock-up which ultimately provided some much-needed perspective on the experiential quality of the proposed form. Seeing the slightly dull material for the underside of the pavilion confirmed the team’s desire for a more reflective surface that will blend the pavilion in with the surrounding environment.
With the continuation of our meetings with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, the design began to evolve with the structural needs of the pavilion. Replacing the columns meant the opportunity to question the design of the columns, including their connection to the trusses as well as the ground. The first decision the team made was moving from a 3-ply system to a 5-ply system, causing the columns to widen and subsequently blend more with the surrounding tree trunks.
Secondly, the team decided it was important to make all of the columns vertical, contrasting with the previous design that incorporated angled bracing members. This vertical design provides a more porous plan from covered to uncovered areas and takes away the provisional nature of the diagonals. By taking out the original A and V column system, the necessary lateral stability was absorbed into the roof form, enlarged footings, and stiffer columns.
Over the previous weeks, Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Roy Decker (from Duvall Decker Architects in Jackson, MS), and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners in New York City, NY) spent time discussing and providing constructive insight on the design. Duvall Decker helped the team think about the connection points of the columns and their constructability. This conversation led the team to develop a steel connection between each truss and column that allows for less risk of misalignment.
Tod Williams and Billie Tsien zoomed out from the details and urged the team to strengthen the conceptual ideas of the project. This clarified the goals for the design and propelled the team forward with confidence in the direction the design was headed. We left ourselves with one question: How can you be of the surrounding landscape, without being the surrounding landscape?
The Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project (TMBV) graduate students have concluded their work and time in Newbern, AL. In their wake, they leave a published, peer-reviewed paper and two research-ready buildings.
In the course of their graduate year, the TMBV project dove deep into the results of their initial small-scale experiments, culminating in a research paper published in the Journal of Physics: Conference Series as a part of the 2021 CISBAT Hybrid Scientific Conference. At the same time, the team designed and constructed two Test Buildings. The cooling and ventilation effects spurred by the optimized thermal mass will be studied throughout the next year, providing ground truth data for the system at a building scale.
The paper: A synopsis
The open-access research paper entitled, “Synchronized coupling of thermal mass and buoyancy ventilation: wood versus concrete” was published in November 2020 in the Journal of Physics Conference: Series. This was an effort involving the entire TMBV research team including Salmaan Craig, Remy Fortin, Sebastien Asselin, Kiel Moe, David Kennedy, and Andrew Freear. The paper describes small-scale experiments that test the accuracy of sizing parameters which suggest how to optimize the coupling of an internal thermal mass—which allows a building to store heat and thereby avoid major temperature fluctuations—with natural ventilation cycles, regardless of the material or the scale of the building. The results suggest the sizing parameters may be valid for early-stage design. They also show that biomaterials, such as wood, can perform as well as conventional thermal mass materials, such as concrete.
Why is this important? Typical, mechanical thermal comfort systems pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, raising the temperature even more. They also cannot perform in power outages during weather events caused by the ongoing climate crisis. Therefore, using regenerative materials, such as wood, to mitigate rising temperatures without reliance on the power grid suggests sustainable thermal comfort with less burden on the environment. That is an ongoing aim of the TMBV Research Project, and these initial results are an encouraging step. Before such lofty goals can be reached, the TMBV Test Buildings will provide more insight into the capabilities of the system.
The buildings: A summary
As stated above, the TMBV Test Buildings examine the coupling of thermal mass and buoyancy ventilation as a reliable thermal comfort system at the building scale. Currently, the buildings are set up for these first large-scale experiments and will later be fitted out for housing. The buildings are designed to be flexible spaces for ongoing experiments as well as dwellings for 3rd-year students. Therefore, the buildings balance valid experimental conditions, the realities of construction, and the basic needs of college students. One Test Building is powered by a plywood internal thermal mass and the other by concrete. Both buildings are designed to achieve the same performance parameters for temperature dampening and ventilation rate despite their material differences—i.e., the surface area and thickness of the material.
The buildings are the first Rural Studio buildings constructed primarily out of Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs). Towering over the Supershed on Morrisette Campus they hover 8′ off the ground. Underneath the buildings is a gathering space nicknamed the “Cooling Porch.” During the day it is meant to collect cool air flowing out of the buildings, providing a place to enjoy the systems en masse. Air travels here through the extended chimneys, which increase ventilation speed and denote the building’s function.
With such tight buildings, dependent on accuracy, the team showed out on all the details. From three-week welding sessions to mapping out patterns of old sidewalk scrap to calculating the discharge coefficient of rooftop vent caps, this team investigated every inch. Feel free to peruse the TMBV blog to see the process, but for now here are the results.
The team: An abridgement
What a journey! These kids, ready to learn how to craft a beautiful building, were not expecting a crash course in thermodynamics, experimental design, and scientific discourse. It was an incredible opportunity to do both. Blending design, construction, and scientific rigor was an extremely unique and fulfilling educational experience. And the TMBV team sharing that experience across North America!
Rowe, the TMBV team’s certified best and most patient construction instructor, has moved to Bozeman, Montana, to join Love | Schack Architecture.
Jeff, a master of power tools and 3D modeling, is taking time to further his coding and woodworking skills.
Cory, a most relaxed, renaissance man, is enjoying his stint at the Ghost Residency with MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited, in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
Livia, the heart and volume of the operation, has settled in Austin, Texas, working with Rural Studio Alums at Thoughtbarn.
A huge thank you to the faculty and staff of Auburn University Rural Studio, the teams’ student colleagues, the project consultants (including Joe Farruggia!), the donors and teachers of Turnipseed International, and “Crane” Shane of Sweetwater Construction LLC for your time, knowledge, and support. Most obviously and ardently, thank you to the TMBV research conglomerate Salmaan Craig, Andrew Freear, Steve Long, David Kennedy, Kiel Moe, Sebastien Asselin, and Remy Fortin for the stellar work and dedication. It took a village!
This lot loves Rural Studio and all of its people. Hope to see y’all soon.
Reporting from Hale County, the Moundville Pavilion 5th-year student team members—tasked with designing and building a pavilion and surrounding landscape on a historic Native American settlement site—are back after a restful holiday season and are ready to roll. While we were away, the team met with Joe Farruggia, Rural Studio’s Engineering Consultant and Visiting Assistant Professor, via Zoom and assessed the integrity of the existing pavilion structure. Due to the structure being left alone for so long and not being a fully tied system, the current columns and steel plate connections need to be replaced with a more robust design. Joe shared his plan for replacing the columns and plates and led the team to start developing new dimensioned drawings to work from.
Zooming in, Zooming out
Once we all got back to Hale County, the team started digging deeper with a more zoomed-in approach to designing. This led to creating new detailed drawings, playing with furniture design, and rendering a 3D model to play with materials in a more accurate way. The detailed drawings include the edge condition and the exploration of an outdoor suspended ceiling plane that mitigates the current misalignment of the bottom ridge of the trusses. The ceiling material should be something that reflects the surrounding landscape while also helping to bounce light into the space underneath.
To kick off the Spring semester the Studio had its traditional “Neckdown” Week, in which students, staff, and faculty worked together in an intensive volunteer week, tackling small projects across the county. The team had a group of helpers out on site moving plywood off of the scaffolding to prepare for upcoming mock-ups and construction. Some pieces were no longer usable due to water damage, but we managed to save 63 pieces for future use. A huge shout out to the 3rd-years and our fellow 5th-year Daniel Burton for helping us!
Next up (literally): A ceiling mock-up on site to test out the proposed ceiling material.