Blog

Over and Out

It’s curtain call on the Myers’ Home, construction that is. The team wrapped up just in time for the holiday season and towed away the trailer and all. The keys have been given to the clients. The team can’t wait to hear how the house functions in action. But how about a dive into those last few weeks on site in Newbern?

Flex Walls, Finally

One of the primary aims of the Myers’ Home was to provide a formwork for varying generation needs. The team explored this concept by building the “shell” house with no spatial divisions outside of the “core” volume. With this method, a client could hypothetically walk through the full-scale model of the home. With full experience of the space, they can decide where they’d like bedroom divisions from several schemes.

These “flex walls” are stud walls constructed in place, rather than tilt up, and anchored with a few masonry screws. They are paneled with sanded and primed plywood and fasteners are entirely visible. These details allow the walls to be more easily altered or removed years down the road. If the family is in need of a new room configuration, these walls can handle it.

Bits and Bobs

Of course, at the end of every building project there is what’s called a “punch list.” It’s a list of the remaining tasks to ready the house for turnover. On this list for the Myers’ Home was a few coats of finish to the butcher-block countertops, making the stair handrail, caulking the last of corners, tightening up door hardware, and sealing the interior and exterior slabs.

Porch Conclusions

Another final task was to complete the lower row of siding on the front exterior face of the home. A quick task that certainly visually completes the house quickly!

With all bents in place and secured, we begin raising and securing purlins. Then, we welded the purlin mats at the same time as the bents and installed them as single units by bay. Riley took the reins and began welding up a storm while the others clamp and shimmy the pieces to level.

Finally, we wrapped up the roofing, a quicker job than expected. After just a day and a half the team completed the final line of siding and the porch roof. The panels went on with slightly more precision than the main roof. The tapping screws needed to catch the 1-1/4″ purlins, so measuring and pre-drilling of the sheets and purlins were required.

With a final coat of sealant to the interior slab and porch pavers, the house was ready for move-in!

That’s a Wrap

Madeline, Judith, and Riley are on to new endeavors, though questionably bigger and better than this one.

Start spreadin’ the news! Riley is kicking it in the Big Apple, starting work at MADE Design/Build in Brooklyn, NY. With an in-house woodshop and IKEA next door he’s sure to be up to his ears in miters and meatballs.

Judith is sticking around Newbern and joining the teaching team as 3rd-Year Instructor/Coordinator. She’ll be working on Rosie’s Home with Emily McGlohn and the new batch of 3rd-year students. Hale County just can’t seem to shake her off!

Madeline has hit the road to Bozeman, MT, where she’ll be working at Minarik Architecture. She’s pleased with her new snowboarding opportunities and excited to get into conscious and contextual residential work. Stay thawed up there!

The team could not be more grateful for the support of Rural Studio faculty and staff, student colleagues, consultants, donors, and friends. It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. This is the Myers’ Home team signing off.

Soup Roast!

As the semester came to a close, Laura and Peter worked hard to prepare for this year’s Soup Roast, which is Rural Studio’s final review event to conclude the fall semester. While Laura worked on the drawings, Peter created a ½-inch scale model of the post-frame roof design.

For their Soup Roast presentation, Laura and Peter presented at Rosie’s site with the model, construction documents, and actual dimensions marked out on site to show where the roof is going.

The team received feedback on the roof placement, dimensions, and how to move forward with the project from the visiting guest reviewers. Peter and Laura had the privilege of having Kim Clements, Joe Schneider, and Nicole Abercrombie of JAS Design Build and Jake LaBarre of BuildingWork, who all traveled from Seattle, WA. The Studio was also joined by several Auburn CADC faculty: David Hinson, Rusty Smith, Mackenzie Stagg, and Betsy Farrell Garcia. Their insight on Rosie’s Home was useful, and will impact how the 3rd-year studio continues in upcoming spring semester.

Electives Come to a Close

The wooden library carts and children’s table built in the Woodshop class project with Steve Long were completed, and the finished products look fantastic!

For the final History class with Dick Hudgens, the students visited the Thornhill Plantation home in Greene County, AL.

At Soup Roast, Peter and Laura showed off their sketches and the watercolors they completed in history class.

This semester’s electives have greatly helped the students look at details more carefully, whether in sketching, painting, or woodworking.

Passing the Torch

The 3rd-year team recently had some of the trees removed on site, clearing the way for earthwork, engineered soil, and post-frame roof to be put into place. For now, the roof structure is on track to be built in early January, right before the next group of 3rd-year students arrive for the spring semester. Their job will be to develop the floor plan and start building.

Thanks to the great leadership by Emily McGlohn and Chelsea Elcott. Stay tuned until next semester!

Ingredients for Stair Soup

Patrice’s Home has been diligently refining their plans (and sections and perspectives) to decide what scheme of a closable adaptable unit in a home works best. The team affectionately renamed their shotgun scheme to the “Hotdog” and the wrapping scheme to the “Hamburger,” and it was apparent before reviews began that the Hamburger scheme is what the team wants to continue with! 

The Hamburger has a corner porch that is an easier approach to place on a variety of sites while also condensing its main circulation in one path through the home’s center. The team has also taken the Myers’ Home team’s approach to rooms without names and applied it to their own definition of adaptability. Now the team is designing rooms that change names, so some living and bedrooms that are easy to rearrange without demolition or constructing immovable fixtures are designed so they can comfortably flip their program as the homeowner needs. 

A plan view of the team's hamburger scheme shows landscaping leading to a gable end approach. A closed door in the center of the plan shows the ground floor can be separated into two halves.

On the Tuesday of Soup Roast, the reviewers discussed the nuances of how the home will be used and pointed out to the team where their project could use some development. And to be even more helpful, the reviewers stayed in Newbern to do a workshop with the team. They got into the details of how eaves (or no eaves) could be detailed, the successes of the dormer, and encourage the team to get a closer view of their design by drawing all the interior elevations of the building. 

As the team continues to work through the Christmas break, come back in 2022 to see them jump into finer details of the project!

Partners in Purpose: CADC’s 2021 Legacy Award

Both Rural Studio’s Front Porch Initiative and and the College of Architecture Design and Construction (CADC) share the common commitment to making a positive impact on the world. Informed by Auburn University’s Strategic Plan, we are committed to 1) enhance health and well-being, 2) build resilient communities, 3) shape intelligent solutions, 4) create a more secure world, and 5) promote opportunity and equity through education. And as we tilt into the holidays each year the CADC recognizes students, staff, faculty, and partners that share these commitments at our annual College Awards Banquet.

The CADC Industry Legacy Award recognizes organizations that share these goals and have demonstrated a sustained commitment in working with the CADC to meet them. This year we were delighted to host Maria Evans (Vice President of Community Investment and Development), and Tim Carpenter (Senior Director, Disaster Recovery & Rebuilding), in recognizing Fannie Mae for their ongoing commitment in developing innovative solutions to one of society’s most pressing, multi-dimensional social crisis: the lack of equitable access to high-performance, affordable housing. Together with Rural Studio, Fannie Mae is committed to eliminate the barriers to efficient and resilient homeownership in the communities that need it most but can most often afford it the least.

Left to Right: Vini Nathan, CADC Dean; Christian Dagg, APLA School Head; Maria Evans, Fannie Mae Vice President of Community Investment and Development; and Rusty Smith, Rural Studio Associate Director
Maria Evans, Fannie Mae Vice President of Community Investment and Development

1)   Along with the Front Porch Initiative, Fannie Mae Is committed to enhancing health and wellbeing.

Healthy housing is prevention, and prevention is the key to long-term wellbeing. By working to directly address the insufficient housing needs often found in low-wealth communities, Fannie Mae seeks to provide the liquidity and the incentives necessary to borrowers who incorporate health-promoting design features into their homes, ultimately working toward health and wellness outcomes for all homeowners regardless of their financial circumstance.

2)   Along with the Front Porch Initiative, Fannie Mae is committed to build resilient communities.

Fannie Mae is committed to creating better outcomes for those facing or affected by disasters. With the increased frequency and severity of disasters affecting communities nationwide, Fannie Mae is focused on engaging with with disaster-affected communities to forge partnerships and to learn about local needs. Their Disaster Response Network assists homeowners and renters affected by disasters by providing no-cost financial counseling so they can return to normal faster.

3)   Along with the Front Porch Initiative, Fannie Mae is committed to shaping intelligent solutions.

Fannie Mae seeks out thought leadership and leads the market in uncovering insights that drive business efficiencies, improve the borrower experience, and provide a deeper understanding of critical housing topics. Fannie Mae engages its industry partners to seek solutions to the housing challenges of our time and in the future.

4)   Along with the Front Porch Initiative, Fannie Mae is committed to creating a more secure world.

Chartered by the US Congress to deliver liquidity, affordability, and stability to the US residential mortgage market and promote fair access to mortgage credit, Fannie Mae’s mission demands that it address these complex environmental, social, and governance issues. In these challenging times, expanding equitable access to safe, energy efficient, and durable housing is the key to securing economic well-being for individuals and families—and is central to securing vibrant communities. As an important part of this mission, Fannie Mae is committed to improving environmental sustainability and durability in the homes they finance, as well as in the communities they serve. As the largest green bond issuer in the world, Fannie Mae offers the only mortgage loans backed by new-construction, single-family residential homes with ENERGY STAR® certifications.

5)   Along with the Front Porch Initiative, Fannie Mae is committed to promoting opportunity and equity through education.

Fannie Mae is dedicated to improving access to affordable homes for all families across the country. To do so means expanding access to reliable homebuyer and renter educational resources to help an increasingly diverse generation of homebuyers and renters make informed decisions. It also means fostering an inclusive workforce and industry that better reflects the diversity of the people it serves. Fannie Mae’s focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in both homebuyer education and workforce development in the home finance and construction industries is instrumental in delivering on this critical need.

Left to Right: Vini Nathan, CADC Dean; Tim Carpenter, Fannie Mae Senior Director, Disaster Recovery &
Rebuilding; Betsy Farrell Garcia, Rural Studio Front Porch Initiative Research Professor; Collette Garcia;
Rusty Smith, Rural Studio Associate Director; Aubie; Maria Evans, Fannie Mae Vice President of
Community Investment and Development; Mackenzie Stagg, Rural Studio Front Porch Initiative Research
Professor; and Christian Dagg, APLA School Head

Working together, Fannie Mae and Rural Studio’s Front Porch Initiative are dedicated to creating positive environmental, social, and economic outcomes for families and communities through responsible homeownership. By spotlighting and celebrating our collective values and shared commitments with Fannie Mae, the Front Porch Initiative aims to inspire other organizations, regardless of their size or scope, to join with us in driving positive change, and creating a better future, and a better world.

Photo credit: AU CADC Communications

Bit by bit, day by day

Everything is officially clad! The plywood is cut! The benches are designed! The Cooling Porch is secured! The wiring is installed! The door is installed!

Rowe and Jeff are ticking big items off the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project checklist. Let’s take a look at what the graduate research team has completed in the last month.

Clad

The Cooling Porch ceiling and Bottom Chimneys were clad last as they did not need the articulating man lift to reach. Now that the entire Test Building is clad with bleach-stained cypress, their form reads less like floating boxes and more like floating funnels. While the main function of the chimneys is to increase overall stack height and therefore air velocity within the system, they also signal movement to onlookers. Two wood-clad heat silos at your service!

Cut

Another TMBV jig on the books, this one helps break down large pieces of plywood with precise cuts. Jeff and Rowe designed and built the jig to make all the cuts necessary for creating the plywood thermal mass panels. Like the concrete panels, the plywood conforms to the slanted ceiling of the Test Building. There is also substantially more plywood panels as they cover the walls, floor, and ceiling of the interior.

Secured

Next up, the Cooling Porch finishing touches. Steel plates for future benches were installed in the construction of the Cooling Porch walls. However, the bench material was undecided. The team chose to use the same metal grate used on the stairs and walkway for these breezy benches. Over the next couple of weeks, the benches will be installed and reinforced with a bracket.

Last up for the Cooling Porch, a little tripping hazard prevention. The top course of the Cooling Porch walls were dry-stacked but untethered to the ground. To keep the course in place, the team used Tap Con masonry screws and small metal brackets to link the top course with the rest of the wall.

Powered

As future dwellings and experiments, the Test Buildings need power for people and sensors. The buildings are wired through chases in the SIP, accessible from floor outlets to keep the walls clear.

Last on our list of tasks completed is the installation of the doors! The test fit showed a bit more blocking needed, but the end result looks great!