18×18 House

Get MEPped

Spring has sprung on the 18×18 House site! And with the grass, flowers, and leaves on the trees, new things are springing up inside the house too…

After installing their Pella windows at the start of this semester, the team kept moving with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing rough-ins, or MEP for short. That means pipes and wires!

First up were the drain, waste, and ventilation pipes. The PVC had to be cut and sections fitted together, leveled to slope downwards everywhere, and then taken apart to be glued BACK together. It took some trial and error, but Julie was on top of it.

After drain pipes were glued and checked for leaks, the team moved on to water supply lines. These had to be run to the outside of the house, where eventually the main line will be connected to the water meter.

Student with water line

Inside the house, flexible pipes snake through the walls to a few places. They eventually reach the locations of everything that will use water: the bathroom sink, toilet, shower, kitchen sink, washing laundry, outdoor hose, and refrigerator. Some of the spaces were tight, but once again, Julie saved the day.

Then we ALSO checked all of those pipes for leaks, but this time using air pressure.

Student reading air pressure

Meanwhile, we were also filling the walls with wires to run electricity throughout the house. Wires need to run to every single outlet, switch, and fixture, which can get complicated in a compact space like the 18×18 House.

But fear not! Meagan kept track of all the circuits, which all worked when tested! Phew.

And if that weren’t enough to keep everyone busy, the team has been finalizing some new flashing details for the exterior of the house. The 18×18 House will have about two-thirds of its cladding bumped out by a couple inches to add some dimension to the metal siding. Jake’s on that one!

Look at him. We’re all so proud.

Student with flashing mock-ups

And the FINAL thing the team has done to date… interior finishes! As the insulation and drywall stages approach, the “18s” are deciding on flooring, stair materials, railings, you name it.

The spring evenings in Hale County are setting the 18×18 House aglow every day. Keep an eye out for more changes as spring turns to summer, and as the team gets closer to the finish line!

They’re Cutting Holes in the Walls!?

Cat perched on barrel

Hey there! That’s me—the barrel-diving black cat. So, I’m what you might call a new cat on the block. I’m just a few weeks old, and I live in Greensboro. That’s me there, on the barrel, looking for lunch.

And I’ve noticed some people who come around every day and do weird things. I think they call themselves “18×18” or some nonsense like that. Not too long ago, they went away for a while. And they left this thing they were working on. It looked like this…

Sheathed house

But they came back! And they’ve been cutting holes in the walls?! And now their “thing” looks like THIS…

Sheathed house with windows

I don’t know why they’d cut apart what they just made. But it looks like they follow the same steps every time. First, they cut out a hole…

Then they put extra nails around the hole…

Student using pneumatic nail gun

Then they put sticky stuff all around the edges. Two different KINDS of sticky stuff. It looks REALLY sticky.

After that, they put a piece of glass in the hole, over the sticky stuff. This part looks really complicated. They add little pieces of wood on the inside part of the glass, they see if its frame is level and square, and then they put just a couple nails in from the outside. But before they put more nails in, they open the piece of glass! It looks like they’re testing it.

They put in the rest of the nails, and THEN, to finish it off…they put even more sticky tape over the edges of the glass! I don’t know why they would need the hole to be sealed up so well. Nothing is ever going to get past that piece of glass!

I don’t get it, but they seem really excited about the holes in their project. They said one time that Pella Windows and Doors donated all of the windows for this house! That was so generous of the company. The team is feeling very thankful for that donation!

And you’ll never believe what they’ve started now! I gotta keep my eyes on these people. Even more weird stuff…

Rough plumbing in stud wall

Topped Out, Drying In

The second half of the fall semester has flown by for the 18×18 House team!

Jake, Julie, Meagan, and Naomi have been flying through framing. Watching the house take shape from the second-floor walls, the gables, and the stair has kept the entire process exciting.

To build the house, the team had to design a couple of special elements to help with construction. As they moved up through the floors, they had to build temporary wall and floor structures. These gave the team platforms to stand and work on, and also helped support the habitable attic before the roof was framed.

Of course, framing the roof meant lifting the ridge beam into place! Naturally, a celebration was in order for the topping-out of the 18×18 House. But no time to slow down! Now come the dormer walls and rafters. Building the dormer was icing on the cake, something the team has been excited (and nervous?) about for a long time. But with it built, the house finally looks like they imagined!

Next comes sheathing. The 18×18 House is well on its way to being dried in for the holidays. The team isn’t losing steam as the semester ends, and the new year will bring new milestones! Watch out for the next 18×18 blog to see where 2024 takes them!

Leveled Up

Last time we saw the 18×18 House team, they were putting shovels into the ground for the first time. Three months later, the project has leveled up! 

The team first got their formwork ready for the concrete pour. This started with them digging their turndowns and trenches and then pulling strings, setting up formwork, and setting the plumbing pipes and electrical conduit.

The next step was putting down gravel, vapor barrier, and rebar. Then came the day everybody had been waiting for—the concrete pour! The team watched as Meagan cried tears of happiness when the slab was finally in place.

Once the slab was set, it was time to get to work. The team ordered and organized on-site to help them work as efficiently as possible.

Before the walls went up, the team laid down, some the termite flashing and sill gaskets to reduce air infiltration between the slab and the pressure-treated base plates. 

After just two days, the exterior walls of the first floor were up and braced, then the team began to build and tilt up the interior walls from inside the house—a task that required lots of careful maneuvering due to its size.

They moved some scaffolding to the site and set it up around the house as to prepare to move upward.

Now the team is working on framing the second floor and building the stair. The joists have already been installed, and the team is gluing and nailing down the subfloor.

With the second floor platform installed, the team got a great view of the sunset down the hill, and they can’t wait to see that view from the very top. Stay tuned to see what the 18×18 House team does next!

Off to a Groundbreaking Start!

With fall arriving, it’s time to check in with the 18×18 House team and see what they’ve been up to! 

In the final weeks of summer, the team began to split their indoor and outdoor time as they made plans to get the building started on site. 

While consolidating all their construction drawings into one primary set, the team built two final mock-ups. Working on each mock-up taught the team a lot about which details worked and which didn’t. The “doghouse” mock-up helped the team try out siding details they were interested in. The “dormer” mock-up helped them understand how best to put the roof together before building the real thing.

Sadly, the tree on their Greensboro site had to be removed—a tragic loss for every designer involved. But with its absence came new possibilities, so the team met with landscape architect (and Auburn APLA Associate Professor and Graduate Landscape Architecture Chair) David Hill to discuss their ideas for new site planning strategies and opportunities. 

All of their hard work led the team to Dirt Day! Twelve trucks of engineered soil were brought to the site to even out some of the slope and create the pad that the house will be built on. 

The team got to work immediately afterward prepping the site, and then they set up batter boards and string. They officially broke ground this week: they got shovels in the ground for the first time to start digging the turndowns where the foundation will be poured soon. Stay tuned to see what happens next!