rs5thyears

Workshop Season in Newbern

The brand-new 5th-year class arrived in Newbern last month and got straight to work with this year’s lineup of Fall Workshops. We dove into two new projects, the 18×18 House and the Rural Studio Bathhouse.

Our first workshop visitor, friend, and consultant, Kiel Moe, is one of the new Professors of Practice specializing in mass timber at Auburn University School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Planning (APLA). Kiel helped us get our bearings on different types of mass timber, what it can do, and how we might use it to build a new bathhouse for the Pods, our dormitories on site at the Morrisette campus.

Two more APLA faculty, Assistant Professor Emily Knox and Associate Professor David Hill, joined us from Auburn, to dive into all things landscape architecture. They pushed us to think differently about what a “building” is and asked us to consider the broader site, with dirt and vegetation as space makers.

Next, we were put to the test by Cheryl Noel and Ravi Ricker, who visited from Chicago, Illinois, to help us specifically with this year’s house project. The house will only be 18 feet square, so we dug into the building code to understand what stairs can do for such a small house. Cheryl and Ravi asked us to mark out full-scale mock-ups of some of our best plan ideas, and afterwards we explored each one to see what the spaces might feel like.

Architect John Forney came from Birmingham, AL, to turn all preconceptions on their heads. He worked with us to really break apart the bathhouse project and think about how it may be situated across the Morrisette campus. John also challenged us to flip our 18’ x 18’ houses upside-down and see what switching the first- and second-floor program might do.

Our final visitors came all the way from Seattle, Washington! Kim Clements, Joe Schneider, and Jake LaBarre got into the details with us, drawing and sketching rapid-fire to round out our workshops. They helped us start to imagine what our projects might look like and how much space they’ll really take up by mocking up heights and imagining the vertical spaces.

Now we’re ready to get to work! Stay tuned for the next post when we introduce the teams and more details about the new projects!

Truss Us, Things are Stair-ting to Frame Up

Welcome back! Patriece’s Home is finally starting to look like a house! With the foundation work complete, the “leftovers” team started to move on up.

Before framing, the students installed the termite flashing, anchor bolts for their front porch column, and sill gaskets to reduce air infiltration between the slab and the pressure treated base plates. 

Then the walls flew up! The team, along with Steve Long (5th-year studio faculty), finished framing the exterior walls and interior bearing walls in two hot Summer days. All of the walls were secured and braced, then the students began making headers for the porch walls and interior closet wall. Looks like this team has liked “stick”ing around Hale County!

And what’s THAT?!? BOOZERBEAM™ out of Anniston, AL, donated a 3.5” x 9.25” x 10’ glulam (glued laminated wood) beam for the team to use as the header in their kitchen! Two students drove to Anniston to pick it up and it works perfectly. A HUGE thank you to the fine folks at BOOZERBEAM™!

As the students were nailing in the top plates that attach all the walls together, the truck arrived with their roof trusses! The team then wrapped their framing in their bottom layer of ZIP sheathing.

The next day the team waved goodbye to Patriece’s children on their first day of school and had a successful morning putting up the trusses! After six hours working on scaffolding, and thanks to the help of Shane Jackson and his crane, the students got to climb down and surprise! It’s a house! The home now stands tall and dignified. Patriece’s kids had a great surprise when they came back at the end of the day. 

Since that glorious day the team has been putting blocking in the six foot gap in the trusses and within the exterior walls to so they can begin sheathing the building. The Patriece’s Home team is drying the home in as they get reinvigorated with a new fall semester and new class of Rural Studio students! 

Dirty Work

The Patriece’s Home team is getting dirty in this Alabama heat. Quite literally! After ten months of research and design the team is ecstatic to begin learning through building. 

But first some final checks! A meeting with Joe Burns help the team perfect their column and bearing wall details. He also helped the students design the edits for their attic truss to create more upstairs storage.

The team did not break ground on their site, instead they brought about 84 square yards of engineered dirt to make a leveled spot for their slab on grade foundation. The turndowns for the slab were also dug the same day as the dirt delivery and re-grading by Tyler from T & C Excavating. The site work was off with a bang thanks to Tyler! All that new dirt was then covered with hay and the team spread grass seed to ensure their site progress didn’t erode away. 

The team then began the sequential process toward pouring their slab! But first what needs to go in the slab. The students rapidly learned how plumbing works and designed their utilities to penetrate through the slab into the home’s interior. Eventually the team made trenches for the pipes and electrical conduit when they figured out that the trencher runs backwards instead of trying to drag it forwards. The PVC pipe and fittings were then placed and leveled to unsure they protrude from the ground in the correct spot, then glued together, and finally buried underneath the foundation. 

They immediately began building the formwork for the concrete, leveling and securing it with metal stakes and kickers. They then packed in dirt behind the formwork, or backfilled it, to ensure concrete doesn’t spill out of the forms from the underside of the wood and sprayed the ground for termite protection. 

When the forms were almost completed the team used Rural Studio’s beloved Bobcat to bring in gravel, spread it with shovels, then used the trusty site level create a level bed for the concrete. 

The team tucked the gravel bed in with a sheet of thick plastic, the foundation’s vapor barrier and secured the plastic to the underside of the formwork’s boards. Now for metal reinforcement! Rebar was cut, staked, bent, and tied together along the turndowns of the slab. A final layer of metal mesh was pieced together and sat across the slab interior. 

However, the actual final layer was the epic three layer tarp the team draped over the whole foundation to protect it from filling up with Hale County’s summer rains before their concrete pour date. 

The anticipated day arrived! Patriece’s Home team worked with our concrete contractor Clyde Fields to do their foundation and porch pours in one day. Because it was the hottest day of the summer about hours after the slab was floated the concrete was set enough for students pulled off the formwork around the porches and screw in expansion joints. The team then poured their porch slabs, allowed then to set, and sprayed them off to expose the pea gravel aggregate!

Their one and only concrete pour day was a huge success and the team is now ready to be out of the ground and go vertical! Check back to see Patriece’s Home start to take shape.

the finished concrete have sprinkler that sits on top of them and keeps the surfaces wet

Make A List, Check It Twice

Welcome to Summer in blazing Hale County, Alabama! The heat and humidity have set in and the team is hard at work preparing to break ground. Before we can start, we have a few things to smooth out: details, deconstruction, and a mock-up. 

The next steps are to begin expanding the current foundation footings and replacing the columns. First, we will need to deconstruct some of the pavilion as it currently stands. In order to understand the deconstruction/reconstruction process better, we have created a storyboard of the process, sketching out each step, while also showing where each piece of equipment will be on site at each stage.

students working
The team sketching out the construction process

In preparation, we have been regularly meeting with our structural engineer, Joe Farruggia, to finalize structure calculations. We also recently met with JAS Design Build (Seattle, WA) to get feedback on the framing model that we have been utilizing to understand the process of framing our structure and had a visit from architect Dan Wheeler (Chicago, IL).

Meeting with the JAS Design Build team about framing strategies

JAS Design Build’s team confirmed that we are on the right track and offered some suggestions on how to manage a cantilever using lookouts that extend out to help reach the “knife’s blade edge” detail. Meanwhile, Dan challenged us to study how the steel skirt at the base of the column will come together and how the lighting design of the base relates to the overall concept.

Reviewing designs with Dan Wheeler

Soon we will construct a large-scale mock-up (which is a right-of-passage here at Rural Studio) that helps the team practice details at a one-to-one scale. We have begun to finalize the details of the finished roof and ceiling materials. The mock-up gives us an opportunity to test the metal and new details, while also practicing pouring concrete footings, building a column, and testing lighting.

Tune back in next time for an update from the team. Until then, stay hydrated, it’s hot out here!

Summer Shenanigans

The Patriece’s Home team, affectionately known around the Studio as the “Stairs Team,” just hasn’t gotten enough of Hale County! Now college grads and no longer students, Adam, Laurel, Daniel and Lauren picked right back up and finished their details mock-up as “leftovers.” The team is using their mock-up to test metal shade devices for windows and the articulation of their wood-clad porches.

After hunting through differing foundation types for their home, the team talked to Tyler from C & T Excavating Inc. and is now moving forward with a plan to sculpt the site with engineered fill for their slab-on-grade foundation.

Patriece’s Home has been focusing on the landscape opportunities in their home’s design. They are not only using natural, space-making tools to ground the house on the site, but to shape and protect areas of outdoor activity, such as play, sitting, parking, and driving. The team Zoomed with Emily Knox, a landscape architecture professor from Auburn University, to discuss their design for siting home, how the landscape design can extend across the whole site, and both existing and potential “materials” (trees, shrubs, grasses) for the site.

Thankfully, the team had their mock-up and details ready to be reviewed because our friend and consultant Dan Wheeler (from Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago, IL) showed up again! Dan had an intense design discussion with the team about the wood cladding on the interior and exterior of the home. He left the group with lots of tips and a positive direction toward establishing a character for the wood details. Let’s see what the team decides!

And because the team is itching (literally, the mosquitoes are waking up) to start work on site, they completed their batter boards for their excavation date set in two weeks! They will be in the business of purchasing, perfecting, and tying loose ends as they eagerly await this date. So wait for the next blog post when the team will be playing in the dirt!

Until then, here is a gallery of some Hale County summer shenanigans!