Welcome to Our SHED Talk

The C.H.O.I.C.E. House team recently had the opportunity to explore another kind of emergency shelter that we frequently see in the rural South: a shed. The goal of this quick project was to purchase a pre-manufactured shell to retrofit into a comfortable living space for a single occupant to inhabit for a one to two-year span. While the program and length of stay is different from the emergency shelters we will construct in partnership with C.H.O.I.C.E., it’s our hope that the knowledge and experience we gain from the retrofitting process will help inform design and construction decisions of the C.H.O.I.C.E. housing. All of this isn’t just for us and our experience though, we’re lucky enough to be working on this for a friend of the Studio who’s in need of a warm, dry place to live immediately before winter settles in.

To kick off the shed exploration, we did a deep dive on what’s available on the market for pre-manufactured structures from places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and local shed dealers. The information was organized into a matrix to compare sheds based on materials, costs, delivery, amenities, and more. Prices ranged from $2,000-$15,000, and delivery timelines were 4-12 weeks.

matrix of shed options

Since we needed the shell delivered ASAP, we turned to local shed dealers who would sell us an off-the-lot shed that was available for immediate delivery. We found a 12’ x 24’ pre-owned shed with a partially finished interior from a dealer in Philadelphia, MS.

Once the shed was delivered, we began the process of designing a floor plan suitable for a single occupant. After multiple iterations, we landed on the “bathroom box” scheme. In this plan, the bathroom acts as a divider between the living space and the sleeping space on either end. We anticipate our client will occasionally have visitors, so we felt it would be nice for the sleeping space to have some level of privacy from the living space.

floor plan of shed

With the shed delivered and the plan decided, we hit the ground running on the retrofitting process. We started by stripping the interior down to the studs in order to finish insulating and rough-in for plumbing and electrical lines.

After that it was time to re-sheath the interior walls, frame the bathroom box, and sheath the bathroom walls.

Then came the gruesome activity of insulating the floor…

Once all the walls were in place, the next items on the checklist were to install the bathroom and kitchen fixtures, ceiling lights,get ready to plumb on site, caulk any gaps, and paint! The interior walls and ceiling got three fresh coats of white while the door, window trim, and bathroom walls were coated in a natural light green color. The final task was to paint the floors dark grey. Then, the shed was ready to be moved to site!

At 7:30 a.m. on the Friday before winter break, a wrecking truck arrived at Morrisette campus to load the retrofitted shed and drive it 12 miles down the road to the site. The process of lowering and leveling went very quickly and the shed was set in place in about 20 minutes. The whole delivery went very smoothly, and it was a very exciting morning for everyone involved!

As a team, we are very honored to have been given the opportunity to work on this extra project this semester. It was an amazing learning experience that will be a tremendous help as we move forward with the C.H.O.I.C.E. emergency shelters. Many thanks to everyone who helped us finish this project so quickly, especially our instructor Steve Long; we couldn’t have done this without your dedication and guidance!

Raymond working at night

Thanks for coming to our Shed Talk!

Ingredients for Stair Soup

Patriece’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!

Soup-er Shelter

Soup Roast is Rural Studio’s final review and celebration for the completion of the fall semester. Every year, each team presents their work to a panel of reviewers made up of faculty and visiting architects. After tons of great design feedback, everyone ends the day with a celebratory soup dinner! Let’s look at what the C.H.O.I.C.E. House team did to prepare. 

During the weeks leading up to Soup Roast, we continued to design the form of the shelter units, paying special attention to how light will enter the consolidated core. When aggregated, these units will connect along their long sides, meaning there can only be light coming in from the two short ends. This may be fine for the two end spaces, but the core is left void of natural light. Our solution is to design a roof monitor, which is a separate piece that can be attached to the top of each unit and allow light to enter the core.

The roof monitor will be small enough to prefabricate, but large enough to give the units some extra height and presence from the exterior while also creating tall, bright, and inhabitable spaces on the interior.

On the day of Soup Roast, we presented to the panel of reviewers, including Kim Clements, Joe Schneider, and Nicole Abercrombie of JAS Design Build and Jake LaBarre of BuildingWork, all from Seattle, WA, as well as Auburn CADC faculty, David Hinson, Rusty Smith, Mackenzie Stagg, and Betsy Farrell Garcia. We were given great feedback on the roof monitor, and about how to better marry the modular function of the unit to the overall form of the aggregation.

The team ended their week by presenting their work to the C.H.O.I.C.E. board of directors and other team members. It was great to have the chance to meet with the client again, and everyone left the meeting full of excitement about the future of the project! 

After a soup-er week, we are ready to let the new ideas simmer over the break. But don’t worry, we’ll be back in January and working again at full boil!  

A Post Roast Toast

Howdy! The end of the semester is here! The Moundville Archaeological Park Community Pavilion team presented their latest work at the Rural Studio’s Annual Soup Roast. In preparation of the big event, the team spent some time cleaning up the site and envisioning what the space could be and where the boundary of the site should be. After narrowing down their designs, it was time to meet with the client and introduce them to what they had been working on all semester and get some feedback. Discussing the possibilities of their proposals and walking through the site with the clients left them energized and more confident moving forward.

Soup Roast!

The day of Soup Roast, students, faculty, staff, and guests bundled up and rode in a caravan to Moundville first thing in the morning. This year was a little different, as smaller, more in-house event, but still a celebration of the work done this semester by all the students. For our guest reviewers the Studio welcomed back Seattle-based architects and builders, Joe Schneider, Kim Clements, Nicole Abercrombie, and Jake LaBarre. AU professor David Hinson, and the Front Porch Initiative team, Rusty Smith, Mackenzie Stagg, and Betsy Farrell Garcia, were also able to join and provide helpful feedback for all of the projects.

team presenting design at soup roast review
iteration 1
iteration 2

We started in the orientation building at Moundville Archaeological Park to present the project and then headed to the site to discuss more specifics of the design. The two proposals showed iterations of the addition of a ground platform and roof aperture, including some initial ideas about ground surface and materiality of the pavilion. Afterwards, we got to relax and hear what the other teams have been working on while patiently awaiting a DELICIOUS soup dinner at the end of the day made by Chef Catherine Tabb.

Gettin’ Serious

The day after Soup Roast, Joe, Kim, and Jake continued the project discussion with us and provided some much needed feedback, helping us get more of a direction and understanding the scope of the project. Playing with the surrounding landscape helped us understand the impact of our ideas within the pavilion. Now, it is time to zoom in on the pavilion and learn as much as we can about the structure!

See just how zoomed-in we mean in the next Moundville Pavilion team blog!

Small Spaces, Big Questions

After weeks of work, the C.H.O.I.C.E. House Emergency Shelter team finally got the chance to meet with the Executive Director of C.H.O.I.C.E., Emefa Butler! The team got to show her what we have been working on and further discuss Emefa’s vision and details of the project scope. Initially, we were asked to design and build two units and a shared washer and dryer space. However, through many design iterations, we found that aggregating the units into one larger volume is a more efficient way to reach the goals of the project. For example, the “dead space” in between the individual units would most likely be unoccupiable and cause maintenance issues. Aggregation offers a hierarchy of outdoor spaces with a private porch and a shared porch to give C.H.O.I.C.E.’s clients the opportunity to socialize, but not force interaction. After presenting our findings to the client, she was fully on board with aggregating the units for the financial and social benefits. 

As we move forward with aggregation, we are still wrestling with the question of what a dignified dwelling is and how we can instill dignity into small spaces. To understand how the idea of dignity would manifest itself into architecture, we drew vignettes of what the ideal condition could be for each space. From this, we learned that instilling dignity isn’t necessarily done with big moves like many windows or a dramatic form. It can be as simple as having enough space to put a toothbrush or a designated place to hang up clothes. 

Along with these vignettes that we developed in studio, we had the pleasure of working with Amanda Loper of David Baker Architects in Birmingham, AL, to develop these dignified goals into our design of the individual unit. 

team meeting with Amanda Loper
Amanda Loper helping us understand some of the big questions that arise from small spaces
team working in studio
AC keeping the team up to date with a new Harry-Styles-themed calendar

The current iteration is built around a “core” that consolidate all plumbing, storage, and a third sleeping space to the center of the plan. This allows for more open spaces on either end, while also acting as a privacy buffer between the sleeping and living spaces.  

plan iteration

Thanks for tuning into the continuing story of the emergency shelters… or should we say dignified dwellings?