construction

Those pour, pour foundations!

Live from on top freshly poured foundations, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project Team! This week the students, with a little help from their friends, completed their Test Building foundations. This included installing rebar and pouring concrete. Let’s get straight to those action shots, huh?

Rebar Retreat

First, Livia’s all time favorite activity, the cutting of the rebar. The team cut sections of rebar for the bottom rebar mat, the top rebar mat, and the vertical pieces that hold the two together.

Next, it’s install time. Comprised of number 5 rebar, the bottom mat is a regular grid. The north-south and east-west pieces are joined with rebar ties. The vertical pieces were hammered into the ground at a consistent elevation. This elevation is 1” lower than the future slab surface. These vertical pieces support the top mat, comprised of number 4 rebar. The top mat only runs between future column locations.

With the rebar installation completed, the TMBV team prepared for the concrete pour. Rowe built bridges to span the foundation excavation holes. The bridges will be used to shovel and trowel the concrete in the middle of the foundations. Jeff helped test bridge durability. Livia prepped her waterproof suit, she’s quite messy and will need to be hosed down with the shovels at the end of the day. Cory practiced his elevation calling as the master of the transit.

The Big Pour

If you find yourself wondering, why do these cute, little buildings need such an intricate foundation? Well, while the volumetric form of the Test Buildings appear small, they are actually quite monumental. Reaching 25’ tall and lifted 7′ 6″ off the ground, the test buildings experience substantial overturning forces which are counteracted by the foundations.

“We get by with a little help from our friends!”

With shovel-armed 5th-years, Steve long calling shots, and Andrew Freear on the chute, the pouring began. Everyone helped move the concrete around the excavation hole until it was about level with the grade pins. Grade pins are orange-painted, vertical pieces that are set to 1/4″ under the slab surface height. When the concrete reaches the grade pins evenly, Rowe and Cory began taking elevation measurements.

In order to deem the elevation, “Good!” the students meticulously move and smooth the concrete. Next, troweling begins once several spot measurements meet the elevation mark. While Livia and Jeff began finishing the surface of the west foundation, the others moved on to the east foundation. Pour, level, rinse, repeat! It is actually a good idea to rinse your shovel in between uses it isn’t ruined by the concrete…

Like most concrete pours, the fashionable ones at least, the TMBV ordered 10% extra concrete. However, the concrete suppliers do not typically take back the extra if it isn’t used. Because all that concrete has got to go somewhere, the TMBV team built formworks that match the size of the concrete scrap they already have. Therefore, they will have plentiful pieces for the design of their Cooling Patio. In the meantime, the mini-slab acts as an executive parking spot for Andrew Freear’s sky-blue Honda FIT.

The Finished Products

Completed east and west foundations
Reserved for Andrew Freear (spikes to be installed later)

Would you look at that—two beautiful foundations ready for curing. And an extra mini slab! The TMBV team could not have completed this feat without the help from the 5th-year students and faculty. The pour went smoothly with no catastrophic events! Next up, construction-wise, the team will install drainage and the steel structure. As always, thanks for stopping by and stay tuned!

f i n

Workshop #6 Jake LaBarre

With his extensive background in construction and carpentry, Jake LaBarre has been teaching students how buildings come together and how to detail them since 2011, even acting as 3rd-Year Visiting Assistant Professor at Rural Studio for a year. Jake lives in Seattle, teaching a design-build studio at the University of Washington, and he currently works at Building Work.

The Detailing and Construction workshop, taught by Jake LaBarre, taught students how to begin detailing buildings. The intent of the workshop was for students to gain a better understanding of constructability through the examination of the order of operations in detailing. In order to achieve this, the workshop examined past Rural Studio projects to learn why and how they were detailed. In order for students to even think about creating their own details, they first needed to understand how other buildings were detailed and why those decisions were made.

This workshop acted as a complement and follow-up to the earlier Contemporary Structures, by Emily McGlohn. Firstly, it provided a better working understanding on typical components used in building assemblies. More importantly, Jake stressed the importance of not relying only on flat two-dimensional drawings of wall sections using three-dimensional drawings but to use three-dimensional drawings as well. This became clear to students when they constructed drawings of axons for the same buildings they had previously drawn sections for in the Contemporary Structures workshop. Students realized just how much information was not included when just shown in section. By drawing out how materials come together, the kinds of fasteners that were used, and the three-dimensional thicknesses added another layer of information about how the buildings were constructed.

Students gained the confidence to know where to start detailing. It became clear that before beginning any project that they should first do thorough precedent research. With so many details out there—even just in the catalog of Rural Studio projects where previous students spent a great deal of time figuring out the detailing—so there is no need to start from scratch.

Workshop #3 Emily McGlohn

Birmingham, AL native, Emily McGlohn, currently runs the 3rd-Year Studio in Newbern. She has quite a long history with Rural Studio participating as a student in both the 2nd-year and 5th-year studios, and after graduation spent three years as “Clerk of Works.” Before bringing her expertise on building performance and hands-on education back to Newbern, Emily spent several years working in Virginia and teaching at Mississippi State.

The Contemporary Enclosures workshop, taught by Rural Studio 3rd-Year professor Emily McGlohn, primarily focused on learning from past Rural Studio projects by studying them through wall sections. This allowed students to identify the reasons why Rural Studio has gone from the inventive use of simple materials in projects to using common commercial materials while building an understanding of performance, specifically through thermal-, air-, and moisture-barriers, as well as learning about detailed construction. By examining the progression of Rural Studio projects and comparing R-values, students saw the greater attention paid to building performance that has occurred over the years and the variety of building types that have been tested.

It’s important that students confidently design for our subtropical humid climate, to know things such as when to use a vapor barrier versus a vapor retarder. After having looked at so many Rural Studio projects at a surface-level, students had the opportunity to study them in-depth through drawings, archived documents, photos, and in person. The drawings that students produced ended up being more accurate and detailed than the construction documents. Through this process, students gained both a more intimate knowledge of how buildings come together piece by piece and a familiarity with a myriad of different construction types and building materials. It became clear to students that while earlier Studio projects may appear more creative and unique, more recent projects have the ability to be easily maintained by its owners and replicated outside of Rural Studio.

Students gained the tools to design for the mixed-humid climate that they live and work in, making these performance strategies a priority in their designs.