20khome

In Hale County

Yep! We’ve been here the whole semester! It’s time, dear reader, to spill the beans on our comings and goings, our hopes and dreams, our successes and failures, and our project. Come on in, make yourself comfortable. Pour a hot cup of tea, listen to our story. The tale of Rev. Walker’s Home project team is only the beginning.

Field with cows in Hale County
A common sight in Hale County

Our journey, as 5th-year Rural Studio students, begins in Hale County, in August. The county is a sparsely populated, tapering rectangle in West-central Alabama. The foothills of the Appalachian Mountains find their end in the northeast corner of the county. The densely forested rolling hills of the northeast quickly give way to the astonishingly flat plains known as the “Black Belt.” This area is named for the rich soil that is optimal for cultivation. Greensboro is the centrally located county seat populated by 2,291 residents. Ten miles south of Greensboro on Alabama Highway 61 is Newbern, home to Rural Studio headquarters. In Newbern, the beloved Red Barn, can be found. Red Barn, the workspace where the us Rural Studio students put pens to paper. We spend a lot of time in Red Barn, and its leaky windows and visibly tilted walls endear us to it.

Rev. Walker’s Project Team hard at work in Red Barn

The beginning of each semester at Rural Studio is marked by “neck-downs.” Neck-downs defines a time dedicated to maintenance of studio grounds, small projects, and the assistance of teams whose projects are in the construction phase. This Fall, neck-downs included repairing facilities at Perry Lakes Park in neighboring Perry County, assisting the Horseshoe Hub Courtyard team on their site, and taking care of odds-and-ends on Morrissette Campus. Typically, neck-downs lasts one week. This year, it was extended and incorporated into our studio schedule. Some of the work is ongoing and gives us moments throughout the week to put away the pencil and pull out the shovel. “healthy bodies, healthy minds” our captain, Andrew Freear, likes to say.

Simultaneously with the site-work around the area, our entire 5th-year student cadre worked to further the exploration into post-frame structures and formulate a thesis. The idea, first proposed by the 2020-2021 outreach master’s team, uses a post-frame structure to reduce construction cost and timeline. Our charge is to take the system and the efforts of the outreach team and expand on it in two didactic ways. We started by touring past projects around the county, exploring ancient barn structures, and documenting local building trends.

Becca enjoys Michelle’s Home

Taking note of the trend in the area to expand one’s home as means and needs allow, the 5th-year thesis project’s has developed into two expansion approaches. One strategy is a home underneath a large roof, provided by a post-frame structure, on an expansive foundation that will enable an owner to quickly add enclosure without compromising structure. This is Rev. Walker’s Home strategy. The other is a home that encourages interior expansion and customization by bringing the post frame structure into the envelope of the home. This is the Myers’ Home strategy.

Diagram of Reverend Walkers Home
Reverend Walker’s Home

Our team is designing and will be building Rev. Walker’s Home. This team was chosen in an age-old ritual, of which here I will not tell. We like to think of ourselves as hardworking, strong-willed, opinionated individuals who can even be considered fun. I am, of course, the leader of this motley crew. My name is Taterhead the Cat. I enjoy drooling on unexpecting scratch-givers and surveying my land, which Rev. Walker’s Home will occupy. I am a skilled delegator. My leadership style is strict yet fair, and I expect only the best work from my team.

The Site Cat being scratched by student
Team Leader: Taterhead the Cat Purrveyor of Wisdom

Here’s the rest of them: Becca, George, Paul and Addie. Becca has a three-legged cat named Rocko and is the maker of the fantastic yellow hats seen above. George is just a dude with no distinct personality traits. (Editor’s note: This is an unfair representation of George, a very impassioned individual.) Paul likes to spend his time collecting objects from the ground. He likes sheds. Addie has a dog named Pat. She drives the biggest truck in Hale County.

Pictures of the four student team

It will not be an easy path to walk with this lot. Their refusals of scratch-giving will be met with reprimand. But rest easy, dear reader, for I am at the helm and will guide the ship to clear waters. My hope for this journal is to provide a clear account of our journey to the edge and back, and to bring you along with us.

Until next time – Taterhead.

From One Home to Another

Due to Covid-19 pandemic the 3rd-years shifted their project from building 20K Ophelia’s Home to an online exploration of 20K Turner’s Home. Before the 3rd-years left Rural Studio to head back home, they were able to finish framing and sheathing all of Ophelia’s Home walls.

After a triumphal day of putting all the walls up, the 3rd-years headed off to Spring Break! Unfortunately, once the 3rd-years found out the were unable to come back to Rural Studio, the wall had to be taken down and covered by a tarp for protection until the site is reopened.

The 3rd-years began their experimentation with how 20K Turner’s Home could be modified and were challenged to make changes that included Turner’s Home in the product line. The program included the ability to add 300 to 400 square feet to the original home, change the form, reorganize internal space in order to accomplish, and add the quarter bedroom concept from Ophelia’s Home. The 3rd-years started off by reading the book designed by the original Turner’s student team and began evaluating the plan to make changes. Soon after, they adapted sections, elevations, wall sections, and floor framing to their designs. Once doing these, a series of perspectives and diagrams were created to explain the new design. Everything was compiled into a final presentation and reviewed with a number of the Rural Studio faculty.

Being fortunate enough to spend the time at Rural Studio that we did, all 12 of us were certainly heartbroken to leave so early. With high hopes of getting our long list of tasks done after spring break, it was sad to hang up our boots and open up our laptops. This is not to disregard the fact that we, along with everyone in Newbern that we know of, are all healthy and safe. It can be easy to overlook in this time where we sit inside and are told to wait, having to see each other now only as a thumbnail. We were lucky enough to make it halfway through the semester and reaching the point of putting up her walls, and we have learned so much along the way.

We hope that their work is useful for the future of Rural Studio and will be constructed for Ophelia to enjoy.

Wow look at these fine folks of 3rd-years! Sad to see them go, and sooner than expected, but now their train rides on to a new path. Hope to see some faces back in Hale County for their 5th year. Always remember folks, be serious, but be silly!

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. 

We’ve Been Framed

Things are in motion at 20K Ophelia’s Home! Specifically, the motion of lifting walls up and framing a porch. The exterior walls have been framed and sheathed, and the north and south walls have been lifted into place.

This process was started by measuring and tracing out the stud placement on the edges of the subfloor and laying out all the timber before nailing them together. Occasionally nailing some timber to the subfloor then having to take them out was surely a great way to improve our nail-removing skills. Once the walls had been framed with the studs at 24” on center, and window and door openings were located and framed, the green layer of Zip sheathing was laid on top.

The walls were not the only thing to be framed, as the MEP team was hard at work framing up the porch which proved to be more tedious than expected. In order for the porch to create a level surface with the soon to come interior floor, the joists had to be shortened slightly to accommodate for the layer of wood that will create the porch surface.

Speaking of the porch! There was also some more development of the ideas about a solution for the porch entrance that came from a review with Andrew Freear, Elena Barthel, and assistant director of Tulane’s design build program Emilie Taylor Welty. After much discussion of the three options, which are angle, north, and tongue porch, the 3rd-years were able to narrow it down to the “tongue” option. In order to reach a final porch design, this iteration will go through another process of refinement in the upcoming week.

3rd-years signing off for a jiminy split, see you folks after spring break! 

One floor all, all floor one!

It might still be raining, but the rain delay is over for the 3rd-years! It’s about time here at 20K Ophelia’s Home, but the framing of the floor above the crawlspace foundation is finally complete. As the rainy days are starting to become less frequent, there has been more time for the 3rd-years to progress forward with construction.

Enclosures team finished up the last details on the termite flashing, figuring out a neat corner solution along with the flashing dipping down to cover where the girders rest.

Wednesday was a charrette day back in studio, and the walls have never been more colorful! Ideas upon ideas were put on paper as the whole day was spent exploring options for the porch on Ophelia’s Home. The 3rd-years will continue to refine the design for Ophelia and the site.

There were a few road bumps while building the flooring because we discovered the foundation was not completely square and is now a ~soft~ trapezoid. Having to work around a funky foundation, the framing team became pros at leveling and squaring the floor framing. In order to make sure the floor was entirely level, they carefully worked to correct the rim joists by pushing them towards the crawlspace in some spots. Once the shimming and squaring was done and checked (and checked again, and maybe redone in a few places, then checked some more) it was smooth sailing to place in the rest of the joists and blocking.

To cap off a busy week , sub floors were put into place on the joists. The floors might be blue, but the 3rd-years sure weren’t as they finished up with a layer of waterproof paint that matched the much anticipated clear sky above.