Right now the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation team is all about concrete and cypress. They’ve been busy creating and installing the shiplap jointed, 1-1/8″ thick concrete internal thermal mass panels. These panels line the walls of one of the Test Buildings and create the designed cooling and ventilation effects. With Jeff at the helm of formwork building, they’ve completed three out of four panel pouring phases. The panel-making process is separated into phases, so most of the formwork can be used more than once, eliminating waste. Formwork, or molds, are fabricated with precision in the woodshop. The team installed phase 1 before Cory began his journey to Nova Scotia to participate in a residency with McKay-Lions Sweetapple Architects Ltd. Congratulations Cory, we miss you already!
Also on the agenda as of late; exterior finishes! With weather-proofing complete, the team has taken to installing the cladding part of the ventilated cladding system. This system is completed with 8″ and 6″ cypress boards which are protected with Cabot® Bleaching Stain. The stain also helps the wood age consistently in the sun. With Livia cutting and Jeff and Rowe installing, the cypress siding is flying up!
Unseen are the myriad of other little things the team is finishing up such as electrical and grading. The team is keeping the momentum up so stay tuned to see the buildings fully wrapped!
Live from Fall 2021 Neckdown Week, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project Team (TMBV)–and helpers! This week, the team accomplished a variety of tasks with the help of the 5th and 3rd-year students.
First on the agenda, the team completed the Cooling Porch ground surfaces. This included packing crushed ground surface concrete pieces and building the stairs. The Cooling Porch stairs were comprised of stacked concrete pieces cut from the foundation pour excess. David Hill, professor in Auburn’s School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Planning, got in on the concrete saw action! Continuing on the stair action, the team also installed the steel stringer and handrails for the Test Building entry. After pouring a concrete footing for the steel stair, Rowe came back and welded on all the treads.
With all the groundwork in the Cooling Porch finally complete and three sets of stairs built, the TMBV team is calling this Neckdown week a huge success. Thank you to all our helpers this week! Next up, thermal mass concrete panels–stay tuned!
My my, dear reader, it has been some time hasn’t it? Welcome to my latest journal recounting the design and progress of Reverend Walker’s Home. I can assure you the silence has not been due to any lack of activity, rather the opposite. Upon completion of the large pavilion structure, my crew has moved underneath to begin constructing the enclosed volumes that inhabit the space between slab and roof. You can be sure that they are grateful for the sheltered workspace that defends them from rain and sun. They have no excuse to not be working. Myself, I have found it a most suitable location for napping. There’s much to catch you up on, dear reader, so let’s begin with a recap of the design of the Reverend’s Home.
Reverend Walker’s Home is a response to the rural phenomena of home addition, which you can read about in an earlier journal. It aims to provide a forgiving space on a strong foundation to facilitate successful addition. The home is a kit of three parts: a slab, a roof, and two enclosed volumes. One volume is the main living block with all necessary program. The smaller volume is a partially unfinished space furnished with utility stub-outs.
The intentionally disparate items are intended to imply a process of addition… first the slab, second the roof, third the enclosure, and so on and so forth. Although the home encourages clients to design and extend the enclosure according to their lifestyle, it is completely livable as-built. Crew member Paul likens the Reverend’s Home to a “hook to hang one’s hat on”. Ultimately, it is built as a minimal enclosure with a luxury of porch space. The porch could exist as outdoor living, or be infilled.
As of now, the roof and slab are done. The only piece of the kit left is the enclosure.
As a part of our vapor barrier system, we used a DOT approved slab seal to ensure that moisture can neither seep into the slab or move up through it into the home. Before sealing, the slab was pressure washed and left to dry for 48 hours. This stuff is very hydrophobic and water now squeegees right off.
Before diving into framing the units underneath the roof, we needed to ensure that our details were going to work. We do this by building 1:1 mockups. In ours, we tested framing and flashing details, as well as a full-scale mockup of our custom window design. You might recall that our team has designed a window system made of a fixed glass pane and an operable ventilation hatch. By doing the mock-up we were able to refine details and systems which will make a better final product.
Satisfied with our details, we’ve moved on. To make things easier in the future, we decided to go ahead and attach our treated sill-plates to the slab and build the sub-floor. We used powder-actuated and pneumatic tools for the plates. The sub-floor is r-7.5 rigid insulation between sleepers with plywood on top. Following the installation of the floor, we were ready to frame.
There you have it, dear reader, the current state of Reverend Walker’s Home. It’s certainly beginning to take shape. With my thoughtful leadership, I have brought us to this point and will continue to ask my crew to go above and beyond. I am confident they will not disappoint me. My next order will be for them to put up sheathing and wrap the house, after which I will banish them to the woodshop to build all the windows and doors. Alas, I could go on forever, dear reader, if only it wasn’t my nap hour. For now, I must retire to the captain’s table and rest my weary paws.
Live from within the newly completed Cooling Porch retaining walls, it’s the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research project team! We’ll take you through the evolution of both north and south wall and all the earthwork in between. If you stay tuned ’till the end you’ll see Cory’s latest artistic venture; a short film titled, “Le Grevier.”
North Wall: Complete!
After laying and leveling the dry-stacked concrete highway barriers, the team backfilled gravel and earth against the wall. Directly behind the walls are drains that are wrapped in landscape fabric and covered with gravel. This protects the drains from getting clogged with Hale County Clay. Behind the gravel, the team piled and compacted earth. They are reusing the dirt excavated for the building foundations. This process repeats for each course, refilling the initial dig. The Cooling Porch is still a hole in the ground, but it’s becoming a far more precise hole in the ground.
Voila! The joints, pattern, color, and textures of the north wall turned out fantastic. The team was astonished by the uniformity of the wall and the blending of the different blocks despite using reclaimed materials. On to the south wall!
South Wall: Complete!
The process of constructing the south wall was essentially the same as the north wall. Small concrete footings were poured wherever the retaining wall went off the building foundations. The team also completed the installation of the drainage. The space began to form right in front of their eyes!
The team feels the space looks exactly as they drew it–which is both slightly surprising and super satisfying. All the measuring, drafting, and double-checking produced a beautiful pit. And, bonus, the reuse of materials is a surefire way to build with the environment in mind and luckily these concrete highway barriers turned out to be the perfect durable, stackable material. The backfill and dug-out stairs makes getting around site a whole lot easier. It’s all coming together!
Thanks for following the progress of the soon-to-be chilly demonstration space! Stay tuned for SIPs construction and laying the ground surface in the Cooling Porch. Now, for your enjoyment, follow the life of a scoop of gravel in Cory’s feature film, “Le Grevier.”
Le Grevier: Directed by Cory Subasic starring Wheelbarrow, Shovel, Bobcat, and Gravel with a special appearance by Livia Barrett as “Gravel Girl.”
Live from the Cooling Porch, it’s the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project team! Recently, the students focused on the demonstration space beneath the Test Buildings known as the Cooling Porch. Specifically, they began constructing the retaining walls, made out of old concrete highway barriers, which allow the space to be sunken and trap all the cool air rushing out of the Test Buildings. Let’s get into it!
Mock it up!
To test the structural rigidity, building method, and pattern of the varied in size concrete blocks, the students landed on tying the blocks into the packed earth behind the wall by placing pieces of expanded metal mesh between the block courses. The blocks are dry-stacked, using only their weight and the mesh to stay in place.
The expanded metal mesh makes the wall sturdier, but also allows the students to slip the straps theyre using to move the blocks out after placement without untying the straps from the Bobcat forks.
The students originally planned on using concrete blocks as the benches, but they could not find enough reclaimed materials. The solution? Insert flat steel between the concrete block courses which can hold a lightweight material for sitting. The final material is still up for grabs, but for the mock-up, the team used leftover oak from the woodshop. After nailing down the building process of the retaining wall and bench, the students made sure they had each block and its future location documented. Unfortunately, to complete the design the students needed five more 4′ 3″ X 10″ x 10″ concrete blocks. Good thing they’re pros at a concrete pour!
Prep it up!
To prepare for building the retaining wall, the students dug trenches for small footings. These concrete footings will prevent the wall from settling and becoming unstable.
After pouring the footings, it was time to create formworks for the needed concrete blocks. These were constructed from extra lumber, ZIP sheathing, and rebar. The rebar, leftover from the Test Building foundations, was crafted into cages and hung from the formworks.
With all this prep going on, the research team was also fine tuning their strategy for evaluating airflow in the Test Box small-scale experiments. They are currently working on revising an article for publication which details the results of these experiments and the potential for internal thermal mass design. In particular, Cory, along with Jeff and collaborator Remy Fortin, have spent months nailing down the proper equations for the airflow taking into consideration friction. Thanks to Russian physicist, Idelchik, he finally found an equation which matches the parameters of the TMBV experiments.
Meanwhile, Rowe and Livia revisited metal working, welding angles for the steel bench supports, and cutting metal mesh.
Put it up!
At long last, the retaining commenced! Something different about the actual wall and the mock-up wall is the addition of gravel backfill and landscape fabric. The landscape fabric and gravel cover the column bracings and drain, which runs behind the wall, to prevent corrosion and blockage from the hardy Hale County clay. However, the metal mesh than has to pierce through the landscape fabric so it can be buried in the earth behind. Hot take: expanded metal mesh and landscape fabric is the worse material combination ever.
To let out some steam on a very steamy day, they brought out the concrete saw and sledge hammers. The team needed to shorten just one 8′ x 8″ x 8″ by about 2′. Cory and Jeff showed the mailability of reclaimed cementitious materials.
Three courses up and the TMBV team could not be happier with the result! The pattern and the finger joinery at the shifting walls is just what they wanted. Best of all, she’s quite sturdy. The team will keep you updated on the progress of the wall so, as always, stay tuned!