Live from Turnipseed International, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project! The students with the help of Flo, Luis, and Javier, and the guidance of Jim Turnipseed finished the steel fabrication for the TMBV Test Buildings. In just two weeks, the whole crew built the structural columns and bracing, the stair stringers, the elevated walkway, and all the handrails.
The student team cannot thank Jim Turnipseed enough for his generosity in donating all the material, space, and time to complete the steelwork. Also, lest we forget, the student team would have been lost without the world’s greatest metalworking guides: Flo, Luis, and Javier. The TMBV team will never forget their time at the shop or the remarkable people who made it all happen!
With the bracing attachment tabs welded onto the columns, the next step was attaching the top and bottom plates. Most importantly, these plates serve as the connection points from the column to the building and to the ground. After drilling the holes for the anchor bolt and threaded rod connections in the plates, the team built a jig that helped place the columns in the center of the plates.
The team tack welded 8 points on the column to plate connection after centering and clamping them. This secures the plates to column enough so that they can be rotated for the permanent welds. Because the columns hold up the entire buildings, the team triple welded the plates to the columns. They ain’t goin’ nowhere! All 8 columns, 4 per Test Building, were moved out of the shop when complete.
Stairway to Heaven
Next up were the stair stringers. Unexpectedly, these babies turned out to be the most complex structure of the bunch. The stringers are composed of 6″ x 3.5″ steel angles. The graduate students had to cut this angle precisely so that the bottom sits flush on the ground and the top meets flat against the 5″ x 5″ steel angle of the elevated walkway. Cap plates, with drilled connection holes, attach to angled cuts so that the stair can be bolted in place.
Each stringer has seven 1.5″ steel angles welded on the inside face, acting as support for the stair treads. The placement of the tread supports needed to be perfectly mirrored between both stringers to avoid a catawampus stair experience. Therefore, the stair tread placement for both stringers was laid out and checked before any welding began. Then welding began!
After welding the treads, it was time for the students to begin the stair handrail. The height of this handrail from the stair stringer is very important as it aligns with the center bar of the walkway handrail. The students rigged yet another jig to ensure the handrails were built as drawn.
The handrails are composed of 1″ tube steel. Therefore, on the open bottoms of the handrails, a cap plate was welded. All welds on the handrails were ground to perfection, enjoy the details below!
And, somehow, the stair handrails did not match up perfectly with the drawings. No big deal though, the graduate students took to their drawings and adjusted the height of the walkway handrail mid bar. Next, the stair handrails needed to be attached to the stringers. This was the most straightforward weld of the stringer, once the placement of the handrails was mirrored on each stringer. The team finished the stringers after a lot of mental math and problem-solving!
Now on to the walkway! The elevated walkway frame which hangs in between the Test Buildings is created out of 5″ x 5″ steel angle. The cut metal grate pieces sit on top of the frame to create the walking surface. The side of the frame will be attached to the buildings with lag screws and therefore needed many holes drilled into it. First, the graduate students cut the angles into four pieces which were to be welded into the walkway frame. Before assembling the frame they drilled the holes for the lag screw connections.
After hole drilling, the team temporarily assembled the frame using lots of clamps. This allowed them to make sure the frame was square before welding. To weld the four pieces together the frame had to be rotated using a crane, all the students, and their teachers. Like the columns, the frame was tacked and then triple welded to fill all gaps and guarantee a strong connection. Below are snapshots of the frame being welded while being held vertically by the crane.
Each of the four handrails, which guard the elevated walkway, is slightly different from one another. Of course, they are,… it’s Rural Studio! However, the team created a jig that moved to accommodate the different lengths of handrails but kept the top and center bar locations in place. This way all four handrails were made to the same heights. Having practiced with the stair handrails, the team flew through these welds. The handrails also have end caps to seal the bottom of the square tube.
Before welding, the square tube was cut with 45-degree angles so that the handrails have nice, mitered connections. After welding, the team ground all the welds. Javier and Flo doubled checked all their welds were full and if they weren’t, it was back to welding. With the handrails completed, it was time for a very different task. Moving all the steel onto the trailer.
Load it up!
On the team’s last day at the Turnipseed International, Rowe drove the student truck and 18′ trailer up from Newbern. With lots of help from Flo on the forklift, the steel was loaded into the trailer so it could be driven to the galvanizer. Galvanizing the steel is a process in which a protective zinc coating is applied to prevent rusting. The team and the crew at Turnipseed International parted ways with plans to have a barbeque in celebration of their work sometime soon!
Load it down!
Finally, the steel parts were retrieved from the galvanizer in Birmingham and brought back to rest under the Fabrication Pavilion. The Bobcat was used to remove each column from the trailer as well as the stair stringers and walkway frame.
With all the steel bits and bobbles waiting patiently under the roof of the Pavillion, the team is preparing the raising of the columns. The columns, with bracings, must go up before the SIP panels arrive so they can be attached on top. after the steel walkway and stringer will be nestled between the SIP shells of the Test Buildings. Stay tuned to see how the crazy kids get it all done!