Myers’ Home

A Test and a Toast

With a slab all squared away and the school year wrapped up, it’s about time for Myers’ Home team to start realizing some of the above-ground details. At the Studio, this means constructing a 1:1 mock-up of the corner with the most complicated detailing.

Rain Day? It’s OK!

What to do on a rainy day? Mock-ups are just the thing! If the site is too mucky, head to the Fabrication Pavilion. Toting their tools from the trailer on site they set up for a few days of dry, covered work. On the business side of things, the team is waiting on an order of dimensionally stable cypress. They will be constructing a separate mock-up of the shop-built window units for the home. Keep those ears open for news of these hooligans hitting the woodshop for a pre-fab frenzy!

First step, framing the faux corner. They build the base of the mock-up using the same methods as a full-sized stud wall. Madeline and Judith assembled some very small headers and Riley cut piece after piece for the scaled-down trusses. Full-sized trusses will be 24 feet wide and roughly 13 feet tall, with Myers’ Home clocking in at just over 23 feet total. What can they say, it’s a two-story!

Zipped and Flashed

They then fasten on the ZIP sheathing system and tape all the seams up. The Studio has moved away from OSB sheathing and home wrap in recent years and adopted ZIP sheathing in turn. The panels themselves are weatherproofed and thick tape that is rolled tight seals the edges. The system covers both walls and roof and is is one of the clearest ways this team has been able to maintain the protected “shell” of Myers’ Home.

Riley and Judith took a jaunt up to Sloan Metal in Warrior, AL, with a pit stop in Tuscaloosa to grab their flashing order at Metro Metals. Trailer in tow, the mock-up roof metal and a few test sheets for siding were clinched and toted back to Hale. The flashing details have been designed in support of the tight shell, unbroken by rafters and durable over time. The low-eave detail has a 2-inch overhang and J-bead corners keep the edges clean.

Pick a Color, Any Color!

Actually, pick one of two colors. The team has narrowed down to Ash Grey and Burnished Slate, two neutrals that both have a lovely degree of reflection. As it goes, and not to brag, but the site is just beautiful. Wide fields to the east and west, high trees surrounding that cast dappled light. It really doesn’t need much more added to its palette. The team began looking at neutrals and complimentary colors and settled on the these two grey tones to test.

Riley going at it

Cutting the corrugated panels to size, they decide to forego fastening the siding so that panels could be changed and tested. With Pig Roast imminent, the mockup was moved out to the site to be able to test both options throughout the day.

Changing the siding to stopwatch and audience eyes at Pig Roast!

Most surprising has been watching them throughout the day, the colors both seem to shift through morning and afternoon between warm, cool, and highly reflective of grass and sky.

Still Reading? Let’s Have a Party!

Pig Roast dawned, a beautiful Tuesday in Hale County. An in-house event, but livelier than ever, the small band made their way from project to project with some delicious pit-stops around town. Congratulations to Horseshoe Courtyard, a fantastic kick off the day’s festivities and a bubbly surprise! With the jessamine blossoming the crew toasted the year, the work, and the people and enjoyed a sweet morning snack from the new local bakeshop, Abadir’s Pastry

Then the gang caravanned to Newbern for the ribbon cutting of third-year project, Ophelia’s Home. Can’t forget a stop at Sweetbriar Tea & Coffee, parked across from Spencer House for the morning! How exciting to see two years of work at its end. What a joy for the teams who’ve had their hands on this project, those who have followed its progress, and of course, Ms. Ophelia!

Four semesters of students have worked on Ophelia’s Home, congrats on completing!

Back to Morrisette House for a barbecue lunch and a trip across the yard to the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation team’s site. After a rousing discussion of scientific breakthrough and imminent pods all gathered at the Fabrication Pavilion to marvel at their complete mock-up! A job well done, Myers’ team can’t wait to see more of Morrisette Campus’ newest—and tallest—addition.

Fun for all ages!

With short run up Hwy-61 the group stopped at Rev. Walker’s Home to hear about their progress as of late. These pole barn pals have their slab in-ground and working hard at getting their roof up next! Looking forward to the coming weeks where the big barn will take shape.

Sweet and Sweaty

The final stop of the day was good ol’ Myers’ Home site. All braved the sweltering mid-afternoon rays to offer their feedback and encouragement as the three team members move into framing the home! The team offered a presentation of the “shell” method and a NASCAR-worthy switch of metal siding panels on the mock-up.

With all projects squared away back to the Great Hall it was for a dinner of fried catfish, hushpuppies, and slaw from neighboring Newbern Mercantile! The evening was capped with a few words and annual traditions from fearless leader, Andrew Freear, a lecture from Jackson, MS-based architect, Roy Decker, of Duvall Decker, and a big, big bonfire complete with s’mores!

While certainly not a normal year, the folks on this team are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend the year in Hale and work every day with their minds on the run and boots in the mud. Many, many thanks to the Rural Studio family—faculty, staff, friends, parents, and neighbors—for the love and support. After their graduation celebration back in Auburn, these three are running full steam ahead to a summer in sun swinging hammers!

Myers’ Home team, graduates back in action and cruising for a roof!

Square Up for Concrete

After weeks of weather-watching, schedule-shifting, and dirt-digging, the day arrived. Slab day! Let’s cut to the chase, she’s a beaut. Would you just look at that big hunk o’ concrete!

Myers’ Home Team after a long pour day

But how’d Myers’ Home team get here? That clean, final slab contains quite a few parts. The layers within the slab are gravel, a vapor barrier, rebar, and wire mesh. These all had to be installed along with plumbing and electrical chases before calling in the concrete order. Not to mention the formwork that holds the whole thing together while it cures!

Peak Form

The batter boards that went up all those weeks ago set the lines for formwork. The form boards are tacked with metal stakes every two feet, leveled, plumbed, and secured with kickers and wooden stakes every four feet. This solid edge allows the team to dig their 8″ wide turndowns with crisp and clear dimensions. The turndown is a small ditch that strengthens the edges of the slab which are taking the brunt of the gravity load of the home.

Riley loading up the wheelbarrow for another round of gravel

The site was a touch too muddy to bring in the big guns (the Bobcat) for gravel moving. So gravel moving was done the good old-fashioned way with wheelbarrows and shovels. Cheers to the Studio’s new Operations Manager, John Allen, for joining the student team on quite the pre-summer scorcher! The old gang and their welcome extra hands then spread the gravel with shovels and rakes, tamped flat and firm, and checked for level with the site level.

A site-sized sheet of thick plastic, the vapor barrier, covers the gravel and sprayed for termite protection. With all this tamped down and taped up it’s time to get into the metal game!

Rebar is skewered throughout the turndown and run lengthwise around the edges. Metal mesh is then carefully moved, it tends to be wiggly, and cut to size to set on chairs across the slab area. These elements reinforce the slab for tensile strength after the pour.

Water Under the Drive

Meanwhile, the team was also trenching for water lines for, long-term, the home’s water supply and, more short term, a spigot to water their new concrete. The Ditch Witch, a walk-behind trencher, is a gem of a machine. Once you get her started, she can dig a line like no other! After completing most of the trench and chiseling through a few unexpected brick foundations by hand, the team finished a long Slab Pour Eve with a complete and working hose.

The Promised Pour

But at last the morn arrived! The first concrete truck pulled up right on time (wow!). With expertise of local concrete masters Clyde and Jimmy, the team had their slab placed in a jiff. The team was able to help float edges and directing the placement of the small excess load. As Clyde continued to finish and polish the surface, the team prepared to pop their markers for control joints. These prevent large-scale cracking in the slab over time.

Clyde returned the following morning to cut control joints with the demolition saw. The team took turns to water the slab morning, noon, and night in the days following.

This means these three students are just about ready to start framing! Stick around to see the mockup they’ve got in the works for all those durable details and some sweet and sweaty Pig Roast moments!

Mains, Drains, and Automobiles

Myers’ Home team is on the run! They’re setting utilities, laying plumbing, and picking up materials as construction ramps up!

Rainbows and lightning galore

These folks had a review last week with Jake LaBarre to refine the building set contents. (Kudos to Riley, emerging expert in construction drawing formatting!) These are drawings that the team references during construction for just about everything. With updated documents in hand, they’re dodging rain and wind for spots of sun on site.

Meeting with Jake LaBarre, from Newbern to Seattle!

Power Trip

To power their saws, charge up those drills, and keep the tunes playing the team had to set up a temporary power pole. With Judith driving the trailer as Bobcat Delivery Girl and Madeline manning the joysticks on site, the pole was set and power nearly ready to connect.

Pipe dreams? Not so much.

Before the foundation slab can be poured, utilities are run, gravel leveled, and formwork is set. To begin work on utilities, more batter boards were constructed in order for the plumbing and electrical to be properly placed. These boards sit between the batter boards which mark the footprint of the home, they mark where pipes will emerge from the slab.

The team marked the utility lines on the tamped earth and began trenching for, first, plumbing and, above that, electrical conduit.

Next, they simultaneously begin dry fitting the joints and noting the lengths of pipe needed in the trench (cut a little long!). Throughout this they sloped the pipe in the trench and checked with the site level to ensure proper drainage.

Seal the deal

Following a successful drainage test, the team began assembling and gluing small length pipes, the shower run, washer, and toilet. After that, they dry-fit to the main drain. They triple-checked the pipes, marked for re-fitting, and primed purple. Finally, the team began sealing with the bright blue plumbing glue.

Madeline and Riley marking and gluing pipe segments

With everything in place, they began re-leveling and aligning the pipes with the position of future stud walls. As sunset approached the trenches were finally re-filled and the new utilities tucked in for the night.

One slab, comin’ right up!

The final steps before that long-awaited concrete truck’s journey to Newbern are gravel and formwork. The home’s footprint will be completed in two pours, one upcoming for the 24′ x 40′ interior, and another for the 8′ x 40′ porch slab.

The house, as of late.

In the coming days, the team will be cutting and setting the formwork for the slab and ordering gravel to level the area before the blessed arrival of sweet, sweet concrete. Hang tight to get the scoop! Over and out.

I Just Gantt Do It, Captain!

Want to get the low-down on details for Myers’ Home? Look no further! These kids have broken ground, but that doesn’t mean their work stops in studio. The team has focused attention on details the last few weeks with site work interspersed.

Details are drawn full scale, reviewed, drawn again, and again

Draw it big!

In true Rural Studio fashion, every inch and corner is designed with intention and iteration. While the first aim is to keep the home warm and dry, these layers can meet all sorts of ways. It’s these joints that will also give the house a language. It can read as planes, solids, thin, thick, anyway through the treatment of joints and surfaces.

Drawing details full scale allows the team to grasp the size of the materials they’re specifying. The team can trace vapor and water barriers through the wall sections to find gaps.

Breaking the Shell

Myers’ Home is a protected shell, as such any punctures must be deliberate. The exposed edges created when the shell is pierced are strengthened against environmental elements. To evaluate the layered seals to the punctures, the team has drawn every opening connection in the home.

Myers’ Home team is currently designing a window system that is more durable and efficient than common windows in this context. This system will combine a fixed window for lighting, smaller fiberglass operable window for ventilation, and a window AC unit with a universal sleeve.

Ventilation, light, and AC concentrated to puncture points

Grouping these elements reduces punctures in the shell to single pre-fabricated unit that will be produced with precision in a shop, like cabinetry. A shop-built cypress “box” will hold the pieces together and be far more dimensionally stable than typical stud framing.

A review of the shop-built window system with Dan Wheeler

The team reviewed these details with Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns Architects and adjusted accordingly. Next up, mockup! The students will build the refined window unit in the shop with the intention that it be used in Myers’ Home. Another 1:1 mockup is being designed as a small scale replica of the home’s details. It is a reference library where the team will test flashing, siding, and roof details.

The Big Move

To begin regular site work Myers’ Home team needs to know just what they’ll be doing each week. This means writing and updating a Gantt Chart, the comprehensive calendar of the project’s construction.

A weekly schedule annotated by the team
Myers’ Home Gantt chart in Red Barn, edited by week with site work and order details

They also must identify just what tools they’ll need. Building process is drawn from surveying through drying in — when the home is enclosed and weather-sealed. And in cartoon form!

Meanwhile, tools have been inventoried and assigned to newly organized tool trailers. If nothing else, a team can control the state of its tool trailer.

Myers’ Home is leaping into a fresh Hale County spring with high hopes! Until next time.

Madeline, Judith, and Riley: jumping for joy.

Excavation Sensation

Hale’s frozen over! Since then, it has melted, soaked, dried, and soaked again. Classic Hale County. But Myers’ Home team broke ground in the fury of it! You may have heard it here first, folks.

Putting a shovel to the ground takes a lot of prep. First they got the dirt on site conditions. This involved first surveying the area. Though not before saying hello some new, sorry moo, neighbors.

Survey the scene…

To begin, both Myers’ Home and Rev. Walker’s Home teams went to Steve Long’s Survey School at Newbern’s own Morrisette Campus to learn the site level basics.

All learned to set the transit to read site elevations on the story pole — the measuring stick. On site, they will draw a grid to measure points and build a topography map. This team went with 80’ by 90’ at 10’ increments for their site grid.

Recording the first corner of the measured grid on site

A well-informed student home-builder tests their soil strength with the pocket penetrometer. Riley and Judith dug four holes on Myers’ Home site at intervals around the footprint. They then took density measurements at descending points spaced 6” apart. The penetrometer is plunged into the wall of the soil and a reading is taken in tons per sq. ft.

Riley digging a 32″ hole for the pocket penetrometer

The team recorded bearing capacity and observed conditions of the site. This informed a plan for excavation and soil replacement. To make this home stable, they’re building an island of engineered soiled. This raft will be a solid bed of engineered dirt, reliable red soil with a definitive bearing capacity.

After speaking with Joe Farrugia, Rural Studio’s consulting engineer extraordinaire, a plan was in place for site excavation and refilling.

Batter up, batter boards!

The team had to place batter boards though before site excavation. At first glance, batter boards are unassuming scrap pieces. The builders level these to near-perfect tolerance around the site. They hold squared strings marking each edge of the footprint of the building.

With the guidance and helping hands of batter board guru, Steve Long, Judith and Madeline set boards for the excavation crew arriving the very next day!

Can you dig it?

The following morning, the local excavating team made their appearance at sunrise. They removed over 2′ of dirt from the area marked by batter boards. Eight (eight!) truckloads of strong engineered soil then arrived, placed in 6″ lifts in the hole. This new dirt was smoothed to ideal home-building elevation (well above the water table) and left to settle as another wave of rain rolled in.

Ready for the next window of sun, this team will be tamping the new soil, trenching for plumbing and electrical, and preparing for THE SLAB.