Here Comes the Leftovers

Students walk across the street

Since the team’s last blog post, a lot has happened. All of April was spent preparing for Pig Roast and the Executive Reviews that followed. The team focused on refining our thesis to fit our goals. We tried to bring the level of detail of the whole house up to as high a standard as possible. There always seems to be another layer of detail to dive into as we learn more about the project.

One to one detail drawing of whole house section.

These big upcoming reviews naturally meant that we needed to spend more time on how the house feels, inside and out. We are having a good time zooming out of detail land and drawing through how the elevations may look and what kind of interior finishes we want. We have some general criteria for making these decisions, but we are approaching a time when seeing how these things look in real life is becoming ever more important.

We also finally have a site! Due to the nature of our project being non-site-specific, it made sense to spend a certain amount of time designing the house without the bias of knowing where our version would go. We are excited to dive deeper into the site, analyzing every inch. Our site is fairly flat undeveloped land, surrounded by trees. Also, it is located right off the road in downtown Newbern. With the downtown projects so close by, we have a high bar to live up to!

Model of house photoshopped onto site photo

We still have to explore through drawings, models, and research before we can try building. Even so, a mock-up is on the horizon. While the finishes are important, the most critical parts of the building process are what need to be tested with this mock-up. The processes of building, moving, installing, and protecting these cores throughout that duration is the real focus of our thesis, along with how all of that process will impact the house.

Pig Roast!

Enough about the preparations. We had a great Pig Roast Weekend! Both 5th-year teams worked hard, and we all felt our presentations went well. It was a beautiful day, and the wind blew our drawings away only once—nice! We tried to have some fun and act out our building process. A little improv went a long way. In the end, it was great to celebrate with friends and family, and the event at Chantilly was unforgettable.

Did someone say leftovers?!

After all that fun, we had to go to Auburn for the much less fun but equally (in some ways) important Graduation. So that’s it. We are adults now who have all the answers to everything. There is nothing we are unprepared for in the real world because now we have a degree. All jokes aside, it has been a pleasure to spend our final school year at Rural Studio. We are so thankful for our time at Auburn and beyond excited to start our time as leftovers to continue the hard work.

Students pose together at graduation

Best Footing Forward

Collage of slab to core connections

Welcome back to the CLT Core House team blog! It has been a busy month filled with details and deliberation. As the title suggests, we have been focused on our footing design, particularly on the connection of our heavy and bulky CLT core to our concrete slab. We wish it were as simple as just “screwin’ er’ down.” However, because the slab will be on grade at ground level, we’ve found it difficult to design the right detail. We have worked through many kinds of solutions, all of which we eventually dropped for either being too complicated or too messy.

While working through footing details, we have identified the need for our core to be a six-sided box that arrives on-site wrapped like a present with a bow: something that you only unwrap once you are finished with the dirty business of finishing a house. Also, we know we want our concrete slab to be finished in one pour to avoid the orchestration of getting a concrete truck and team on site multiple times.

Our latest strategy—single-pour slab and a completed box—may not seem like much, but it eliminates most of our previous hurdles. As we both design the core and develop the process of moving and placing it, we are focusing on making sure others can easily replicate our work in the majority of rural contexts. The footing, our most recent detail, is hitting most if not all of our criteria and we continue to examine and refine it. What’s funny is that the final connection is only screws, so we may just be screwin’ er’ down after all.

Section of bathroom core footing

In Other News,

We have been steadily working in various other areas of the project. We are drawing elevation options, both interior and exterior and considering where our porches should be and what they look like. We are also asking ourselves what the human comfort scheme is, which is the heating and cooling of the house, and what passive strategies we could employ.

We have also been in the business of testing the spatial aspects of the cores and taking field trips to Rural Studio projects and places.

This point in the project is exciting. Hopefully, in the next blog, you will see a mock-up and some details that are finally nailed down, pun intended.

Welcome to Our SHED Talk

The C.H.O.I.C.E. House team recently had the opportunity to explore another kind of emergency shelter that we frequently see in the rural South: a shed. The goal of this quick project was to purchase a pre-manufactured shell to retrofit into a comfortable living space for a single occupant to inhabit for a one to two-year span. While the program and length of stay is different from the emergency shelters we will construct in partnership with C.H.O.I.C.E., it’s our hope that the knowledge and experience we gain from the retrofitting process will help inform design and construction decisions of the C.H.O.I.C.E. housing. All of this isn’t just for us and our experience though, we’re lucky enough to be working on this for a friend of the Studio who’s in need of a warm, dry place to live immediately before winter settles in.

To kick off the shed exploration, we did a deep dive on what’s available on the market for pre-manufactured structures from places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and local shed dealers. The information was organized into a matrix to compare sheds based on materials, costs, delivery, amenities, and more. Prices ranged from $2,000-$15,000, and delivery timelines were 4-12 weeks.

matrix of shed options

Since we needed the shell delivered ASAP, we turned to local shed dealers who would sell us an off-the-lot shed that was available for immediate delivery. We found a 12’ x 24’ pre-owned shed with a partially finished interior from a dealer in Philadelphia, MS.

Once the shed was delivered, we began the process of designing a floor plan suitable for a single occupant. After multiple iterations, we landed on the “bathroom box” scheme. In this plan, the bathroom acts as a divider between the living space and the sleeping space on either end. We anticipate our client will occasionally have visitors, so we felt it would be nice for the sleeping space to have some level of privacy from the living space.

floor plan of shed

With the shed delivered and the plan decided, we hit the ground running on the retrofitting process. We started by stripping the interior down to the studs in order to finish insulating and rough-in for plumbing and electrical lines.

After that it was time to re-sheath the interior walls, frame the bathroom box, and sheath the bathroom walls.

Then came the gruesome activity of insulating the floor…

Once all the walls were in place, the next items on the checklist were to install the bathroom and kitchen fixtures, ceiling lights,get ready to plumb on site, caulk any gaps, and paint! The interior walls and ceiling got three fresh coats of white while the door, window trim, and bathroom walls were coated in a natural light green color. The final task was to paint the floors dark grey. Then, the shed was ready to be moved to site!

At 7:30 a.m. on the Friday before winter break, a wrecking truck arrived at Morrisette campus to load the retrofitted shed and drive it 12 miles down the road to the site. The process of lowering and leveling went very quickly and the shed was set in place in about 20 minutes. The whole delivery went very smoothly, and it was a very exciting morning for everyone involved!

As a team, we are very honored to have been given the opportunity to work on this extra project this semester. It was an amazing learning experience that will be a tremendous help as we move forward with the C.H.O.I.C.E. emergency shelters. Many thanks to everyone who helped us finish this project so quickly, especially our instructor Steve Long; we couldn’t have done this without your dedication and guidance!

Raymond working at night

Thanks for coming to our Shed Talk!

I Just Gantt Do It, Captain!

Want to get the low-down on details for Myers’ Home? Look no further! These kids have broken ground, but that doesn’t mean their work stops in studio. The team has focused attention on details the last few weeks with site work interspersed.

Details are drawn full scale, reviewed, drawn again, and again

Draw it big!

In true Rural Studio fashion, every inch and corner is designed with intention and iteration. While the first aim is to keep the home warm and dry, these layers can meet all sorts of ways. It’s these joints that will also give the house a language. It can read as planes, solids, thin, thick, anyway through the treatment of joints and surfaces.

Drawing details full scale allows the team to grasp the size of the materials they’re specifying. The team can trace vapor and water barriers through the wall sections to find gaps.

Breaking the Shell

Myers’ Home is a protected shell, as such any punctures must be deliberate. The exposed edges created when the shell is pierced are strengthened against environmental elements. To evaluate the layered seals to the punctures, the team has drawn every opening connection in the home.

Myers’ Home team is currently designing a window system that is more durable and efficient than common windows in this context. This system will combine a fixed window for lighting, smaller fiberglass operable window for ventilation, and a window AC unit with a universal sleeve.

Ventilation, light, and AC concentrated to puncture points

Grouping these elements reduces punctures in the shell to single pre-fabricated unit that will be produced with precision in a shop, like cabinetry. A shop-built cypress “box” will hold the pieces together and be far more dimensionally stable than typical stud framing.

A review of the shop-built window system with Dan Wheeler

The team reviewed these details with Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns Architects and adjusted accordingly. Next up, mockup! The students will build the refined window unit in the shop with the intention that it be used in Myers’ Home. Another 1:1 mockup is being designed as a small scale replica of the home’s details. It is a reference library where the team will test flashing, siding, and roof details.

The Big Move

To begin regular site work Myers’ Home team needs to know just what they’ll be doing each week. This means writing and updating a Gantt Chart, the comprehensive calendar of the project’s construction.

A weekly schedule annotated by the team
Myers’ Home Gantt chart in Red Barn, edited by week with site work and order details

They also must identify just what tools they’ll need. Building process is drawn from surveying through drying in — when the home is enclosed and weather-sealed. And in cartoon form!

Meanwhile, tools have been inventoried and assigned to newly organized tool trailers. If nothing else, a team can control the state of its tool trailer.

Myers’ Home is leaping into a fresh Hale County spring with high hopes! Until next time.

Madeline, Judith, and Riley: jumping for joy.