ruralstudio

Week 1: All Hands on Deck!

Group of students eats lunch
3rd-Years enjoying lunch on the Great Hall!

Neck-Down Week

The 2021 Spring Semester 3rd-Year’s Rural Studio experience began with Neck-down Week. Neck-down Week is a tradition where Rural Studio students and faculty mend, clean, or maintain local parks, past and ongoing projects, and Morrisette Campus. Neck-Down is a week that requires less brain and more brawn. This week, the 3rd-year group painted, dug holes, completed farm work, laid bricks and much, much more. Neck-down is a great way to be introduced to the spirit of Rural Studio and the tradition of hard work ingrained in the Auburn University Creed.

Welcome to our Studio

Spencer House is where most of the 3rd-Year students live. It also serves as the 3rd-Year Studio, dining hall, and hangout space. Spencer is where all of the design magic happens. During this first week, the 3rd-years divided themselves into three design teams: The Interiors team, Enclosures Team, and “MEP” (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) Team. Each team has its own studio room in Spencer House. Here’s the team breakdown:

Interiors team – Drew Haley, Austin, and Sadie

Enclosures team – Logan, Juyeon, and Ashley

Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing team – Wendy, Kirby, and James

Thanks for following along with the 3rd-year experiences here at Rural Studio! Keep on the lookout for updates from our first week on site.

Reverend Walker’s Home

Hi there! Back for more, are you? Well, if you were intrigued enough to return to this humble little blog of ours, we should probably give you the low down on what Rev. Walker’s home is all about. As mentioned in our last post, our project is a continuation of the research started by the 2019-2020 outreach master’s team, who were interested in taking a pole barn structure and applying it to rural housing, as it is an efficient and easy building technique. This, combined with our own observation of trends in rural homeownership, in particular those of expansion, has led us to explore a starter home, completely separated from, but sheltered by a single-source, kit-of-parts pole barn. What is a pole barn? And why would we separate it from the structure of our home? We’re glad you asked!

Typically, pole barns use large, widely-spaced wooden posts buried straight into the ground to carry trusses supporting a large clear-span roof. What can often be found underneath is a slab on grade or merely a dirt floor. These structures can be seen all over Hale County, usually serving as manufacturing buildings, churches, or simply just for storage. Well, that’s where our challenge comes in, dear reader – to make this building type function well as a home.

components of a pole barn

Because this technique minimizes the use of materials, it can cover swaths of space previously unachievable by past 20K homes for the same price. By having the home begin as an enclosure for a single person or couple, we can dedicate the rest of our resources to providing the largest roof and slab possible, sheltering and providing a sturdy base for future expansion. This is ideal as oftentimes additions compromise the original home’s structure as multiple roof and foundation systems are tied together.

Diagram of house connections
points where additions tend to fail

By having the structure of the home completely separated from the pole barn, the owner doesn’t have to learn how to add onto a less conventional post frame home and the overarching roof can remain untouched, maintaining its integrity. The pole barn can then take the brunt of the weather that would typically age a home and can protect new connections if the house grows.

Having two independent structures also preserves the quick and easy nature of the pole barn, allowing all of the components to be purchased off-the-shelf from a manufacturer without having to fuss too much with modifying it to have residential details and tolerances. This is important to us as we want this home to be as accessible to buy and simple to build as possible.

weather cant keep us off site

This ability to put up a roof fast also gives us a dry place under which to work without weather delays or breaks (remember: “healthy body, healthy mind”), as well as covering potential expansions by the owner so there’s no need to rush.

In our scheme, the approximately 500-square-foot home is covered by a 1,900-square-foot, 5-bay pole barn. The difference in size results in a luxury of outdoor space, where at the start it can serve as a large porch – the primary social space in rural communities. The home is broken up into two volumes arranged into a dogtrot scheme – one with all the rooms necessary to make a viable home and the other left blank to be used as the owner sees fit.

Sketch of interior loft space
View of the loft from below

This not only starts to define outdoor rooms, but also implies infilling between the volumes as the first move of expansion. Additionally, the monopitch shape of the home’s roof gives clues towards expansion, hinting that one can march the same roof pitch between the volumes and come off the high side of the home to infill the front. This extra initial height in the home also provides opportunities for a loft space, which can serve as storage or a sleeping space and help with ventilation.

Rendering of Reverend Walker's Home on site
Rendering of the home on its site

If you’ve made it to the end of this long but passionate discourse about our explorations, I commend you. But for now I must leave you, as my four underlings are returning to site with greater frequency to prepare the area for construction, but with an alarming lack of extra scratches. Something must be done about this.

Image of Taterhead the site cat

Until next time – Taterhead the Cat

New Kids on the Block

Rural Studio welcomed its newest group of 3rd-year students to Newbern last week! Many precautions are being taken and there have been several rounds of testing to ensure a healthy and happy start to the new semester. This group will continue construction on 20K Ophelia’s Home. They are eager to begin and are diving into the process and planning of construction. The students are excited to keep up the great work the past cohorts completed. They are also looking forward to adding their own stamp to Ophelia’s home.

New 3rd Years sit on the steps of the Great Hall.
Top Row: Logan Lee, Austin Black, James Foo
Middle Row: Juyeon Han, Kirby Spraggins, Ashley Wilson
Bottom Row: Wendy Webb, Drew Haley Smith, Sadie McIntyre

3rd-Year Who’s Who

An Introduction with their hometowns, favorite activities, quotes, and 3rd-year superlative.

Most likely to make a Tiktok
Ashley Wilson
Wetumpka, AL
Likes to play guitar and Animal Crossing
“Bruh.”

Best mustache at Rural Studio” (self-proclaimed)
Austin Black
Birmingham, AL
Likes to cook and listen to podcasts
“…”

Most likely to clean in her spare time
Drew Haley Smith
Auburn, AL
Likes to knit, sew, and play the piano
“Hello, hello! :)”

Most likely to fix the plotter
James Foo
Marietta, GA
Likes to play video games
“Greeaaattt”

Most likely to be a ninja
Juyeon Han
Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea / Montgomery, AL, USA
Likes to bead rings and take photographs
“So sad”

Most likely to be running late
Kirby Spraggins
Southlake, TX
Likes to run and play the guitar
“I feel like Bob the Builder.”

Most likely to make a reference to The Office
Logan Lee
Decatur, AL
Likes to hike, eno, and do anything outside
“I miss my dog.”

Most likely to lock the doors
Wendy Webb
Hazel Green, AL
Likes to watch reruns of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix
“*groaning noises*”

Most likely to go home on the weekends
Sadie McIntyre      
Rogersville, AL
Likes to watch Netflix
“That’s a future Sadie problem.”

Our MVP’s

These two have quickly captured the hearts of the third-year group!

Most likely to sit for a pretzel
Roscoe
Newbern, Al
Likes to roam around town and hang out with Brinda
“Woof”

Most likely to steal items from the porch
Brinda
Newbern, Al
Likes to chew bag chairs left on the porch
“bark”

Group of students presents findings during pin-up on the porch of Spencer house.
The group already hard at work planning the course of action for Ms. Ophelia’s home.

Thanks for reading our blog! Keep on the lookout for new posts and exciting updates. We can’t wait to share our semester with you!

Brace Yourselves… or Brace Those Trusses!

Shop and History

Professor Dick Hudgens took the 3rd-year students on a trip to Tuscaloosa this week to visit Jemison Mansion. Having helped work on the house’s restoration, Dick knew all of the house’s hidden secrets like reveals of the home’s original wood. Every aspect of the house has been expanded to a larger-than-life scale to make the mansion feel more expensive and grand. Windows and doors were kept within the same scale as each other, making it’s large size seem normal without a scale figure.

Ophelia’s Home Site

The roofing team replaced the temporary truss supports with permanent ones which finished all preparations for the purlins. Purlins rest horizontally across the trusses, running northeast to southwest. A purlin was placed every two feet, stating at the tail end of the truss and ending 4″ from the truss’s peak by the roof and enclosures teams. The 4″ gap will allow for ventilation in the attic once roof metal has been drilled to the purlins. The framing team finished the front porch of the house. A small hole was left open to allow for storage under the porch, or allow for retrieval of fallen objects. A wooden “cap” was made to rest in and fill the hole. We are so excited for the front porch, seeing as Ophelia and her family like to spend a lot of time outside. The site cats were also very excited about the porch which has become there new favorite spot to sunbathe.

Raising the Roof at Ophelia’s

Shop and History

Between portraits of Russian monarchs, a stroll through a Greek themed yard, and getting to feed some chickens, Oak Hill is definitely the most unique house tour the students have had the honor of partaking in. Before COVID, the owner had thrown a Russian monarch themed party and chose to keep some decorations. One room is filled with colorful furniture, beautiful glass vases, and extravagant curtains. In another room portraits of Russian monarchs hang by string like they would have been in the 1800s.

Outside, classical Greek-styled statues stand side by side with modern takes on the statues. Some pieces are left to be “dissolved” back into nature. After the tour, the students drew an elevation of the main house and of the cabin, which we believe turned out pretty great.

Shop class has been filled with exciting new ideas and crazy curves. Steam bending, while frustrating at times, has opened a whole new world of woodworking to the students. It will be exciting to see how our curvy wood works will turn out!

Ophelia’s Home Site

To finish truss prep-work, large bolts were put through the beam to fully brace it, and the columns were given another layer of bracing. All the prep work payed off because the trusses went up fairly easily. Steve Long came out to site with the Bobcat, the studio’s skid steer loader, to provide some much appreciated help. Steve long used the Bobcat to first lift a truss, guided by 3rd-year Ethan, above the walls. Then a team of 3rd years with Professors Emily McGlohn and Chelsea Elcott directed the trusses into place and adjusted them until plumb. Temporary bracing was put on the trusses as everyone held them in place.

Once all the trusses were on the walls, and they were put in the correct spots, permanent bracing started going up. Next week, the rest of the permanent bracing will be placed by the roof and enclosure teams while the framing team starts work on the front porch! We are so excited to have the roof raised and to be finally building Ophelia’s front porch!