Live from inside the TMBV Test Buildings, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research team! This week the team assembled the structural and insulative envelopes of the Test Building in record time. Instead of traditional timber framing, Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) create the Test Buildings structure. After installing the SIP floors, the students assembled the remaining panels into walls, ceilings, and chimneys. This allowed for each structural plane to be craned into place. Just like a giant Leggo set! The panels were adjusted by two students in an articulating man lift and secured in place using special SIP screws. The joints where walls, floors, and ceiling met were made water and airtight with SIP sealant. In under 11 hours total, all eight walls, two ceilings, and four chimneys came together to create two sturdy, insulated shells. In the coming month, the team will weather-proof the buildings in order to begin installing the thermal mass interiors.
A little bit of Prep!
Building One: 6 Hours
Building Two: 4 hours and 45 minutes
With both buildings assembled, the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research team is drinking in the rewards of their hard work. This construction method takes a lot of prefabrication and intricate planning to go so smoothly. The team loves the relations of the buildings to each other, to the Cooling Porch, and to the Morrisette Campus. They will be keeping up the momentum so make sure to stay tuned!
Live from atop multiple completed surfaces, it’s the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research team! They’ve been busy staying grounded and flooring onlookers! The team has nearly completed the Cooling Porch and fully installed the Test Buildings floor and walkway. Let’s get right into it!
Making a Mosaic
After properly stacking the Cooling Porch retaining walls, the TMBV team filled the enclosure with 4″ of gravel. This gravel covers the drain and also acts as a leveling surface for the concrete sidewalk scraps. If it hasn’t been mentioned yet, the final ground surface in the Cooling Porch will be a mosaic of reclaimed concrete sidewalk scraps. These scraps come from a newly replaced walkway in Newbern and will act almost as flagstones.
In order to create this mosaic, the crew labeled and documented the exact size of every piece of sidewalk scrap. They took photographs of the each sidewalk piece with a ruler on top. Next, they sized each one proportionally in the 3D modeling software, Sketchup, where they placed pieces within the cooling porch walls. Afterwards, out on-site, the team laid out all of the sidewalk scraps and prepared to place them in the Cooling Porch.
Finally, one of the three big lifts to erect the SIPs structures is complete! Before Shane of Sweetwater Construction LLC could lift the Test Building floors and walkway into place, the team had to assemble the SIPs. Each floor is comprised of three SIPs panels, two embedded LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beams, and 2′ x 12′ lumber to cap the ends. The embedded beams allow for the cantilever from the 4 columns.
Underneath the Fabrication Pavillion, the team lifted the SIPs atop the gooseneck trailer where they assembled the different parts and pieces. The embedded beams are coated with SIP seal which ensures a waterproof joint. They are also nailed to the panels. The 2′ x 12′ caps have attached joist hangers to accept the LVL beams.
With both floors complete, it was time to lift! Shane with the crane pulled the gooseneck trailer down AL Highway 61 to the other side of Morrisette Campus. On-site, in place, and ready to lift, take a look at the process below!
The whole process took only 4 hours, but many, many months of prep work and design. Stay tuned to see the TMBV test building go up just a fast and hopefully just as smooth!
Live from behind one of the largest deliveries in Rural Studio history, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation (TMBV) Research project team. For months the research team has been working closely with Insulspan, a company that manufactures custom Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). Together they finalized the design of the SIPs which will make up the entirety of the TMBV Test Building structure and enclosure—while providing experimentally valid insulation. This week, the team received the SIPs and organized them under Rural Studio’s Fabrication Pavilion to prepare for construction. In a couple of weeks’ time the panels will be assembled atop the steel columns like a giant 3D puzzle.
SIP, SIP, Hooray!
The TMBV team originally sent the drawings seen below to Insulspan; breaking up the Test Buildings’ design into panelized pieces. The team will assemble all the pieces that make up each wall, the floor, and the ceiling. Then, Shane of Stillwater Machine LLC will crane the structure into place.
Thankfully, that same Shane with a crane was in the neighborhood when an 18-wheeler full of SIPs showed up a day earlier than expected. To get the panels off the truck Shane, his two young assistants, the TMBV team, Steve Long, and Andrew Freear got to work screwing in blocking and threading the straps. The team and helpers attached small lumber pieces (blocking) to prevent damage to the SIPs as the straps cradled the panels and lifted them off the truck.
How to Move a Building; in Pieces!
This delivery happened to take place right before a classic summer deluge. So, the SIPs were tarped and left outside the Fabrication Pavilion for the weekend. After the passing of the storm, it was time for the team to figure out how to get the panels under the Fabrication Pavilion for better protection. The Fabrication Pavilion roof is actually made of Insulspan SIPs as well. SIPs covering SIPs!
To move the panels, the team attached the lifting brackets provided by Insulspan. Then, to get the largest panels under the Fab Pav, the team used straps and the Bobcat custom, “Bob Crane.”
As the team transported the panels they also organized them. The vertical stacks group the panels by building, remember there are two, and by structure i.e. floor, ceiling, wall, or chimney. It is far easier to find the panel you need and access it when the panels are stacked this way. Also, the order of assembly was taken into consideration when sorting the panels. The floors will be assembled first on the 24′ trailer with the gooseneck attachment and then transported to the site. Next, the team will do the same thing for walls and ceilings. As far as moving the panels around under the pavilion, the students managed to do a lot by hand. With the help of an old, sturdy cart, they found in a storage barn they got everything into place and braced up.
In order to construct the floors, walls, and ceilings on the gooseneck trailer, the team had to extend the platform using TJIs donated to the Studio long ago. TJI stands for Trus Joist® TJI® Joists, they are essentially an I-beam manufactured out of engineered lumber. The TJI platform also allows the student to get underneath the panels during assembly.
With a whole lot of willpower and cart strategy, the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Team shuffled all the SIPs into place. Stay tuned for the Test Building assembly—those panels will be going up in the sky!
Live from behind a stack of full-scale detail drawings, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project Team! Lately, the team has been investigating all details inside and out. Starting out with material pallet and ending up at chimney flashing, the team is kicking it into high gear.
Unsurprisingly for a project so focused on the interior systems, it was difficult to make decisions regarding cladding. Initially, as seen in previous models shown above, the team experimented with separate cladding systems for the chimneys, Cooling Porch ceiling, and exterior walls. For iteration 1 of the test building design included a timber open-joint cladding system wrapping every surface. Next, for iteration 2, the cladding system wrapped only on the exterior wall faces of the buildings and the adjoining chimney faces. However, thin sheet metal covered the roof, cooling porch ceiling, and the chimney faces which touch those surfaces.
The consistent cladding of iteration 1 appealed better to the monolithic nature of the SIPs structure. It also reinforced the importance of the chimneys to the buildings as a whole from the exterior. From there the team began to test if the timber was the correct mono-material for the test buildings. Seen above are renderings testing different materials for the cladding, columns, retaining walls, and benches. It is important to view these materials as they interact in the Cooling Porch. While sheet metal and polycarbonate cladding options may look more monolithic, timber is a low carbon material that better represents the heart of the project. In some cases, timber as a building material acts as a carbon-sink meaning it stores and processes more carbon than it produces. This of course relates strongly to the passive goals of the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research.
Recycled Retaining Wall
Now the team is settled on the timber cladding, but they are not convinced of the retaining wall and bench materials. These aspects want to be a more earthen material as they rise from the ground towards the test buildings. After investigating rammed earth and concrete, the team wanted to find something more stackable. Concrete and rammed earth are beautiful, but they require formwork which requires more time. Something stackable will give the team more flexibility as well as members are movable.
Thankfully, down here on Highway 61 road work is being done to remove a load of 8″ x 8″ x 8′ stackable concrete barriers. The TMBVRP team is getting their hands on some of these reusable members and are calling around to local highway departments to find more similar materials. If they find enough, they will have a durable, stackable, and reusable material for their Cooling Porch. They can also use the old sidewalk pieces as a mosaic, ground material for the Cooling Porch. Above are drawings showing the use of these recycled materials.
Structure and Detailing
For the past three weeks, the team has been meeting consistently with Structural engineer Joe Farrugia. He is guiding the team through lots of math to size their columns. While the gravity load on the columns is extremely manageable, the wind load is more difficult. The test buildings height means they will face more wind load than a structure this size typically experiences. However, Joe is confident that the structural system the team has chosen is doable with the correct column sizing.
While the team is attempting to draw every detail of the test buildings, they’ve found the trickiest spots to be around the chimneys. Making sure water moves off the roof consistently and air moves behind the ventilated screen is crucial. The TMBVRP will spare you the pain of walking through each flashing bend and board cut. Struggles emerge when the chimneys converge with the angled roof, but it’s very doable with lots of thinking, drawing, and redrawing. Then Andrew Freear and Steve Long, come in to save the day because how you’ve redrawn it five times is still wrong. Lots of covered wall reviews later and the TMBVRP team is on their way to compiling all the details in a digital model and drawing set.
Looking forward to keeping this momentum going, the TMBVRP can be found in Red Barn from dawn to dusk. Feel free to bring by some late-night snacks but for now thanks for TUNING in!
Now that the pods have been given forms, it’s important to figure out how we can make them stand up. To accomplish this, we are comparing three different structural systems to find the best method. We are considering Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), and more conventional stick framing systems.
All of these systems require slightly different assemblies, and we drew many wall sections to begin to understand them.
These forms also require unconventional joints at odd angles, so we did studies of how to join corners, whether with panelized systems such as CLT and SIPs, or stick framing.
By the end of these studies, and with the help of a review from Hank and Julie of KoningEizenberg Architecture, we began to realize that these forms were too complex, and could be simplified without forgetting our experimental requirements. This led us to a form we’re calling the “Rowhouse”.
We will continue investigating structural systems using the Rowhouse form. We are currently investigating using the SIPs systems, as they offer a high insulating value while integrating structure. Our next steps will be designing the thermal mass panels that will live in these structures.