The Mass Timber Breathing Wall Research team has been in quarantine for the past several months, but they’ve kept themselves busy. The summer was spent finishing up experiments, carefully documenting data, and finally writing and submitting a paper on their research to a scientific journal for peer review. The team is currently waiting to hear back from the journal, but keep an eye out for a future post with details!
Now that a new semester has begun, the team is back on site (following COVID-safe protocols!) and finishing up the two mass timber test buildings on Morrisette campus. After sitting under a tarp for a few months, the pods needed a little TLC. But one of the benefits of stacked timber construction using threaded rods is the ability to take the building apart again – which is great for test buildings that may need to be altered in the future. The team (plus our volunteer, honorary teammate, and Rural Studio graduate student, Charlie Firestone) unstacked, re-braced, and re-stacked the walls and ceilings for both pods over the course of two weeks.
Once all of the wood was up, steel plates and angles were threaded on along the ceiling and floor to evenly distribute force from the threaded rods. The walls were tightened down, and lag screws driven through the thinner North and South walls to pull the corners tight. A layer of sill seal (a compressible gasket) in all of the joints ensures that any gaps or irregularities are sealed. Finally, a couple coats of spar urethane sealant protects the pine from moisture and mildew.
Switching material palettes for the roof, a steel space-frame spans over and between the two timber ‘boxes’ to support the corrugated metal roof. The team fabricated all of their trusses last year in Birmingham (thanks again to Turnipseed International and the guys at the shop!), so they were ready to go up as soon as the wood was sealed. It was a long morning in the Hale County heat, but with the help of Prof. Steve Long and the Bobcat everything went up smoothly. Purlins were welded in place, and corrugated sheet metal will be going up soon!
Since the days get so hot here in the summer, afternoons have been spent doing prep work for the next day and finishing interior details. The lofts (which are centered over the space to prevent asymmetric airflow) were installed, resting on ledgers which run along the east and west structural walls. Railings and ladders – fabricated from 1” steel tubes – were screwed in place.
The last few tasks are installing the roof metal, doors, a metal grate walkway that runs along the front of the two buildings for access, and lighting and electrical. Stay tuned for updates on the paper, and finishing details on the two test buildings!
The Master Builders
Soundtrack: We’re Still Here | For Giants