Workshop #4 Salmaan Craig, Kiel Moe, David Kennedy

Kiel Moe is currently a professor at McGill University, having taught at universities across the US and Canada. With numerous published books, Kiel is an expert in researching and understanding the ecological and socioeconomic impacts required to produce a product or service. As the “energy guy,” he challenges the Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project team to think more holistically about the life-cycle of buildings and the products used in construction.

With a background in building physics and biomimetics, Salmaan Craig teaches at and runs an independent research lab at McGill University where he strives to reinvent the way architects build. Sal, who is originally from London, is another key advisor and collaborator on the Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project team, with his keen ability to make even complicated concepts easily understood.

Auburn University professor David Kennedy worked as a carpenter and an architect before returning to academia. While completing his Master of Architecture from Harvard, where he first met Kiel Moe, David’s research focused on mass timber construction. As a key collaborator on the Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project team, David’s expertise and institutional knowledge on timber has been a huge asset to Rural Studio.

Workshop #4, the thermal mass and buoyancy workshop, was designed to inform students on how to conduct architectural research and to be able to incorporate it into their future projects with a balance of technical research and design. It was divided into two parts, one led by current Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project master’s project team, and the other by Kiel Moe and Salmaan Craig—from McGill University—and Auburn professor David Kennedy.

The Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project team, who have spent a year conducting and refining research on mass timber, were able to convey aspects of their research and important conceptual elements like mass timber and the breathing wall, as well as water-bath models, which use human comfort and air flow as a means to teach about buoyancy—a concept for which its architectural application was obscure to students prior to the workshop. In the second half, the trio of professors imparted important concepts like energy, properly proportioned thermal mass buildings, and buoyancy ventilation. Another crucial takeaway from Kiel’s and Salmaan’s research was the impact that buildings have ecologically, socially, and politically. Students saw the need to look at the life cycle of buildings more holistically and to understand the flow of materials used in construction.

Much of the information was technical and foreign to students, but through the expert teaching of workshop leaders, and by applying technical terms to their experiments, students were able to absorb a great deal of new information. The workshop has opened up new methods for experimentation, research, and exploration as they move forward into their own projects.