Howdy from the Moundville Pavilion team! Recently, we were on a nonstop train ride as our final official semester of college came to a close with Pig Roast festivities, Executive Reviews, and graduation. And soon, construction will begin! Woohoo!
Rural Studio’s Annual Pig Roast was a hit! The team presented the final design to friends, family, and alumni. Thank you to all who came out and celebrated with us and a very special shout-out to Hank Koning and Julie Eizenberg for speaking at our Pig Roast graduation ceremony.
Executive Review Part 2
Following Pig Roast, the team had their final Executive Review with Justin Miller, Rusty Smith, David Hinson, Emily McGlohn, and Judith Seaman. The reviewers provided much-needed feedback to help move the project forward as we prepare for construction.
In addition to all the celebration and reviews, the team has been meeting with the Studio’s structural engineer, Joe Farruggia, to finalize the column design, and Bill Zahner, of Zahner Architectural Metals, for some advice on aluminum panel systems that are appropriate for our ceiling and roof.
April has arrived which means the heat is beginning to creep into sunny afternoons, pollen has layered every outdoor surface, and the Moundville Pavilion Team is making decisions. In recent weeks, we have met with visiting architects and lighting consultants and have begun to get into the nuts and bolts (literally and figuratively) of how to detail the elements of the pavilion
Open for Spring
After Executive Review, we started to find a middle ground between the form and function of the column design. We had Pete Landon and Cameron Acheson from Landon Bone Baker Architects out of Chicago, IL, out for a review of the team’s work.
They helped the team focus on the longevity of the roof surface; since the pavilion will reside in a heavily forested area, a durable surface is critical to withstand decomposing pine straw and potentially fallen branches.
Turning on the Lights
Since the pavilion is located in the campground and the space will likely be inhabited after dusk, the team has been researching lighting strategies in order to provide safety and usability at night.
In addition to modeling some hidden fixtures options, the team met with lighting designer, Thomas Paterson (Lux Populi in Mexico City, Mexico) who explained possible lighting methods that can relate to the concept. Most recently, we tested lighting schemes on-site.
After finalizing more details within the roof and ceiling structure, it was time to start working on a large-scale framing model. Next up, is the annual Pig Roast Celebration!
Howdy from the Moundville Pavilion team! The design has continued to evolve quickly throughout the past couple of weeks as they have been heavily focused on constructability and modifying the design of the columns. The team also got the chance recently to participate in Moundville Archaeological Park’s Knap-In, an annual stone tool makers event where visitors can learn about flint tools and how they’re made.
Columns and Ceiling
After the team clarified the design concept, new iterations of columns began to emerge that focused strongly on the overall intent of the project and its place within the site. The team looked at the columns in elevation, large-scale models, and renderings.
In conjunction with the column design, the team has also been exploring ways to give tolerance to the ceiling assembly along with the method of attaching the finished surface material to the underside of the trusses. With the decision to deconstruct the current partially built pavilion, the team has the opportunity to realign the upper or lower ridges and two of the four planes that make up the form. Aligning the upper ridge allows for smoother and faster assembly of the direct-bearing roof structure and gives shelter during the construction of the ceiling. The team also decided to add lumber to the bottom cords of the trusses to align the two lower planes. The overall goal is to allow for the most efficiency and tolerance when reconstructing the trusses.
All of this work and response to recent guest reviewers culminated in an Executive Review, the event formerly dubbed “stress test.” The annual stress test examines each projects potential and feasibility to continue into the summer. Justin Miller (Head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture), Rusty Smith (Rural Studio Associate Director), and Emily McGlohn (Rural Studio Associate Professor and leader of the 3rd-year studio) met with the team to see where the project currently is and where it is heading.
Rusty and Justin encouraged the team to consider an overlapping clip system for their ceiling and to see how we could simplify the design of the column to find a stronger balance between functionality and concept. At the end of the review, the team was challenged to build a full-scale mock-up of the final column design, complete with the roof structure, to show at the annual Pig Roast celebration at the end of the semester.
Keep on Pushing!
In response to the feedback, the team is continuing to explore the column design, testing the suggested ceiling construction method, and mocking-up how the structure will be assembled.
Check back soon to see where we head next as we begin to prepare for Pig Roast!
In our work, understanding why we build a home in a certain way is key in addressing the fundamental challenges of affordability. And while it is certainly important to ask, “what does a house cost to build?” it is perhaps more useful to consider what a house actually affords.
In other words, what impact might we have on the creation of more attainable housing if we could begin to consider the total cost of homeownership in the overall financial equation? Stated more directly, we have found that many low-wealth homeowners are not primarily challenged because they cannot afford their monthly mortgage payments. Instead, they are more often at risk of missing a payment and perhaps even losing their home because of one or more of the four following circumstances.
First, a homeowner may have an unexpected energy bill. In our part of the world, our homeowners may have an energy bill of $35–45 a month in March and April, and an energy bill of $350–400 in July and August.
Second, a homeowner may have an unexpected maintenance or repair bill. We live in an area of highly volatile climatic activity. Maintenance and repair due to storm-related events and the long-term displacement they often cause play a significant role in the financial security of our homeowners.
Third, a homeowner might have an unexpected healthcare event in their lives. Where you live matters, and living in substandard housing is one of the best-understood negative social determinants of health.
Fourth, a homeowner may face various forms of income disruption. Many rural homeowners rely predominantly on part-time work, shift work, and seasonal work to make ends meet. Additionally, they live in complex kinship networks in which everything is shared, from housing, transportation, and income to food, eldercare, and childcare. Any disruption in these community networks can be disastrous for generations of a family.
So, in addition to managing the upfront cost of construction of the home, it is even more important and impactful to understand how the actual performance of the home in four key areas—energy efficiency, durability and resilience, health and wellbeing, and the strengthening of community networks—all contribute in profound ways to financial and economic security.
Working with our builder partners and homeowners, the Front Porch Initiative provides the information, knowledge, and know-how around each of these instrumental areas to help them make informed decisions regarding both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of building performance, allowing for a clear decision tree that considers the cost and value of action, as well as the hidden cost of inaction.
Below, you see five variations of Joanne’s Home built in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.
One of the important aspects of this iterative research is our ability to build multiple versions of each home in various climatic conditions and with different performance objectives as necessitated by our housing partner’s particular circumstance. Taken together, these homes become “Test and Learn Laboratories,” and this iterative process of evaluating both the cost and value of building performance criteria lends itself to a highly customizable process and yields a wide variety of housing options and variations.
Each house we build offers the opportunity to study different issues of efficiency, resilience, wellness, and community building. One of our research questions focuses on finding the balance point between the front-end construction costs of improved performance and the back-end performance consequences in each of these areas. In our next post, we will share a case study of two versions of the product line homes (seen below), and how we use our homes to explore the pluses and minuses of different building standards in their delivery— specifically, we will take a deep dive into the intersection of energy efficiency and resilience, and we will share some of the surprising things we have learned along the way.
Spring has sprung, which means Spring Break is quickly approaching! But before we hang up our overalls for a much needed break, we’ll be cranking up production on the Moundville Pavilion project in preparation for the mid-March Executive Review.
A big part of our decision-making process has been based on the refinement of the project’s concept. We went back and looked over our initial reading and analysis of the site and the previous team’s design to better articulate why we were making our decisions.
Our concept starts with the desire to not be an object on the landscape, and instead be more a part of the landscape by taking cues from the surrounding forest and blending in. By doing so, we give reverence to the site and work to draw the eye away from the pavilion and instead focus it on the surroundings. The pavilion is also all about the gradient that is found in a forest of trees, going from a heavy, sturdy base, to a light canopy that reaches to the sky and lets light touch the ground below.
Reviewers, Mock-ups, Drawings, Oh My!
The design has been gradual and ever changing in conjunction with the last revolving door of reviewers we’ve hosted for the month. We had a short visit from Larry Scarpa, from Brooks + Scarpa based in Los Angeles, CA, who gave a lecture and questioned the team on how the project can be more cohesive from top to bottom. Mike Newman of SHED Studio and Katrina Van Valkenburg of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CHS), both based in Chicago, IL, provided input on the column design dilemma and asked the team to build quick and easy mock-ups of all of our column ideas to better understand their implications.
Finally, we had Dan Wheeler from Wheeler Kearns Architects, based in Chicago, IL, come out and take a look at how the project’s details have been progressing. Dan encouraged the team with his knowledge of the various ways we can detail the pavilion and how to embody the points of our concept. Dan led a charrette asking the team to take a step back and draw the overall concept with relation to the park, while also zooming in to the various ways we can have the column details emphasize the heavy-to-light design.