designbuild

Hey, batter batter!

This week, Steve taught us some tips and tricks on setting up batter boards. These batter boards will be used not only as a guide for excavating but also for setting the rebar reinforcement and pouring concrete. The strings that are pulled from stake to stake mark the edges of the footing and the middle string helps to delineate the center, where the screens will connect to the concrete. After the lines were taut and centered, the ground was spray-painted as a reference for digging, and the string was rolled back.

In a day the footing trenches were excavated! Most of it was dug with a mini excavator, but in areas where there were pipes, the digging was done by hand.

Caleb happy we are finally digging the footings!!

Considering the rain in the next couple of days, the team made a provisional cover with 2″x4″ and plywood that was sloped to let the rain shed off to the side. Then tarps were placed on top of the plywood so that the plywood didn’t get soaked.

Check-in next week to see how the rebar was done, and if the weather allows the concrete pour!

Isn’t it grate!

The first grate going up!

Scraps from the walkway grate used as a clamping surface on top

In order to set the grates into the exact place they needed to be, the team used a series of spacers, clamps, and crowbars. 2″x6″X10′ were cut to 9’10” to function as spacers for the brackets so that while the grates were moved around, the brackets stayed parallel to each other. 2″ C clamps were used to attach the grates to the bracket until welded, and 1″ spacers were made out of the wood to wedge between the two rows of grate. This dimension was chosen so that when looking at the grate it reads the same as the space from bearing bar to bearing bar.

View from the second floor
View to the courtyard entrance

This week, Mr.Hamilton, the brick mason finished filling-in the beam that is above the alcove opening. He laid them in an orientation that matched bricks above the windows and relates to the Flemish bond pattern in other parts of the building.

Let’s do some tests!

Hello from Reggie’s Home! In an effort to create a design that fully responds to the conditions of the site we decided to conduct some soil test to determine where the best places to grow Reggie’s desired fruits and vegetables would be. In order to conduct the test we divided our site into three parts: the front of the site, the part where the old family home stood, and the back of the site where Reggie has been cutting down privet. We collected soil from these areas and sent them to Auburn University’s soil testing laboratory to be tested. 

Box used to mail soil samples.

We have also been researching the plants Reggie wishes to grow to figure out what type of sun and soil they need, as well as what seasons the crops would be harvested. This research and the soil test results led us to determine the best place for Reggie to have a garden would be the north side of the site. With this information we were able to get a more accurate master plan of the site. 

Plant research.

In addition to researching plants available to grow on our site we also continued our research with Earth Tubes, a form of passive heating and cooling. Earth Tubes are essentially buried ventilation ducts that heat or cool the air moving through them because of the constant temperature of the soil. A big question that comes with Earth Tubes is whether or not it will work in our climate due to the humidity. Lucky for us, the Rural Studio Farm Storehouse uses earth tubes in an effort to keep produce at a constant temperature. We have been monitoring the temperature and humidity outside the storehouse and outtake of the Earth Tube to see how effective it is. After a month of recording temperature we discovered a change of temperature from 6-10 degrees. With this information we contacted Adam Pyrek, an Environmental Controls professor from the University of Texas at Austin, to consult whether Earth tubes would be feasible as part of our home design. He encouraged us to continue the research on the temperature and humidity of the storehouse and to keep in mind that Earth Tubes are ideal for keeping a small space at a constant temperature.

Diagram showing how the spaces would be divided using Earth Tubes.

With all this information we will be pushing the design of the home as well as the site as a whole forward!

Until next week,

Reggie’s Home

Neckdown part 2

The Horseshoe Farm fellows and Dr. Dorsey came out on Sunday and helped prime and scrape the remaining of the block walls. By the end of the day, most of the Beacon Alley wall was primed and a coat of fresh paint put on the other wall!

The team finished installing the new waterlines and aligning the shut-off valve boxes at the north end of the site, as well as adding a connection for a water hose during construction.

This week Luis also came down from Columbiana, Alabama, and volunteered his time with the team. Luis is a certified welder, and one of the people that taught the team how to weld at Jim Turnipseed’s shop. After the galvanization was ground off at the bottom of the bracket connection, Luis welded the plates to the tube in order to make a stiffer connection.

Mason helping deliver the cut grate to the site. Up next grate installation!

“I Say Goodbye, You Say Hello”

The end of the semester was a hustle and last hoorah for the fall semester 3rd-Year team. The students were sentimental (and maybe a little stressed) as they finished projects, and assignments and prepared to showcase their semester in one final review. And even though it felt like it was never going to happen, they got to start building a house!!

When it came time for the pour, excitement filled the air as the concrete truck back into Ophelia’s driveway. One full day of pushing and pulling and shoveling and smoothing with just about all the strength the students had to give. The 3rd-Years then drilled into the concrete footing to place and grout vertical rebar.

When the block layers came, everything went off without a hitch! The 3rd-Years got to watch the masters at work, and even help on occasion. Finally, the students then filled the allotted cells of the CMU wall with concrete and placed anchor bolts for next semester to bolt the sill on the foundation wall. And of course, cleaning up the site all along the way.

Oh, and the quilt, the magnificent quilt. The student’s final block iterations were sewn together, a quilt back was made with extra material from the naturally dyed fabric and a layer of cotton and polyester batting (yes kind of like insulation) was sandwiched between the sewn top and bottom. 

The students then basted the sandwich (quick, temporary seams) and made a PVC Pipe frame to hold all the layers together while each student intricately “quilted” area of their own block together to make one cohesive blanket. A border was made and all 13 of the students sat around the Morrisette dining table to whip stitch the edges of the quilt closed, while watching The Grinch and drinking hot chocolate. :,) 

The last class for the 3rd-Year’s History elective as a day long trip to Columbus, MS. The students ended like they began, seeing and sketching the southern vernacular with their wise captain, Dick Hudgens. They were then left to their own devises to finish their final watercolors, and they all, miraculously, finished! The pieces illustrated what the 3rd-years had learned about composition, color, fine water coloring techniques, and the influence of classical design on historic Montgomery homes. The works were displayed in the Morrissette House during the annual Soup Roast, as tradition holds.

Soup Roast bookended the fall semester 3rd-Years’ time at Rural Studio. They got to take one last tour around Hale County to see the amazing 5th-years, graduate students, and leftovers projects. Then, the finally of Soup Roast, the 3rd-Year’s presentation!

The students got feedback from their reviewers about their mechanical exhaust ventilation crawl space foundation (yup that’s a mouthful) and how they approached multiple residents moving into the product line homes. The 3rd-Years presented their ¼ bedroom or “nook” design in Joanne’s modified home through a built mock-up out of 2×6’s and pin up boards, so everyone could see and experience what the space will feel like.

Also, the final quilt was revealed! The students explained the premise of the class and had a conversation with the crowd about how this unconventional representation method expands our understanding of a project, the process of design, and cultivated empathy, in this case with Ophelia. The parade of students, architects, parents, teachers and friends then walked to the project site for Ophelia’s 20K too see the physical progress so far and meet Ophelia! The 13 3rd-Years returned to the site the next day to say goodbye and present her with the final quilt (she was surprised and very grateful). 

The next day, the students packed up the pods, said goodbye to Chastity the mouse and Cupcake the possum, then drove/ flew across the globe to get home, but left with a lot of love in their hearts for Hale County and each other. The fall students felt the honor of borrowing Rural Studio and Newbern as their home for 3 ½ months. For that, they will be forever thankful. Now Ophelia’s 20K is handed over to the spring semester students!

War Eagle to that!