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.
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.
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).
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.
Devin Denman graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in City and Regional Planning and minor in Sustainable Environments. She has been living in San Francisco for the last ten years and most recently working as an owner’s representative on public housing rehabilitations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Although she thoroughly enjoyed working in the field, she found herself continually frustrated with the system. Devin was also longing for hands on experience of actually building instead of watching the process. After one too many lunch rants about bureaucracy and red-tape, a friend convinced her academia might be a positive direction to take her passion for housing affordability.
Charlie Firestone graduated from Cornell University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Architecture. Since then, he’s been practicing in New York City as a designer and project manager for Matiz Architecture & Design. His work in New York primarily involved interior renovations for universities and other non-profits throughout the city. Charlie came to Rural Studio to pursue his master’s degree with the hopes of learning how to participate in public interest design, integrating design-build into his practice, and reconnecting with academia. Charlie is passionate about social justice and he is excited and honored to be working on a project to help provide affordable, beautiful, and durable housing to the under-resourced population of the rural South.
The 20K project started 15 years ago with the aim of providing affordable, efficient, durable, and buildable homes for low-income residents of the rural South. The goal of the project was to provide an alternative to the only option currently available in a similar price range: a used manufactured (mobile) home. Mobile homes are not only manufactured out of state (and therefore not feeding back into the local economy) but they also will only degrade in value over time (rather than increase in value as well-maintained stick-built houses will).
The “20K” label arose from the original price tag established in 2005 as the total price of a house that someone in the lowest income bracket (living on government assistance) could afford to make a mortgage payment on. The actual price has increased over time, but the name and the goal of designing homes that could be purchased by anyone, have remained the same.
Over the years, Rural Studio has continued to develop and test various designs for one and two bedroom models of the 20K Home, investigating different aspects of the issue each year – from nailing down an appropriate material palette, to testing different foundation and platform methods, to developing a handicap accessible model, to pushing the envelope with sustainability practices.
This year, our mandate is to go back to the basics. Our
first task is to go through the budget with a fine-tooth comb, to update the
original study from 15 years ago and to nail down exactly who the 20K client
is, what they can afford, and what developments from the past models we can
incorporate into our 20K design and stay within a strict budget.
Over the course of a year, we will research, design, and
build a one-bedroom 20K home. The plan is to break ground mid-spring with final
completion by mid-summer 2020. Currently, we are in the weeds of research and
process design. The plan is to address our list of principles/goals/questions,
which we have divided into three categories of focus: Cost, Performance,
Program – all under the umbrella of maintaining a rigorous budget in the spirit
of the 20K legacy. The beauty of the 20K is in its simplicity. Adding more is
easy, but not always the best solution.