Auburn University Rural Studio

Week 3: Digging into Design

Welcome back!

The 3rd-Year students have been very busy! After a great, first week on-site, the 3rd-Years spent much of this week digging into several big design decisions remaining for 20K Ophelia’s Home. This includes the interior wall locations and exterior colors. To work through these decisions they held several different design “charettes,” or design sessions, in which they sketched through and discussed all of their ideas.

Keep reading to learn about the 3rd-Years very exciting week in both history and wood shop class as well!

Group of students around their charettes
Getting Sketchy with it

Studio Charrettes

Plan Charette

The first design charrette of the week focused on the floor plan for 20K Ophelia’s Home. While most of the interior walls are already in place, the 3rd-Year team looked to see if there were any changes that could improve the spaces. With this project having a strong focus on accessibility, they also double-checked FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) clearances. Next, they began to propose an idealized floor plan that could possibly be used for future iterations of the home.

Pinup of sketched floor plans for an idealized floor plan of Ms. Ophelia's home.
Our “Idealized Ophelia’s Home Floor Plans”

Exterior Design Charette

Also this week, the 3rd-Years focused on the design of 20K Ophelia’s Home exterior. While comparing the proportions and elevations of 20K Ophelia’s Home to 20K Joanne’s Home, the team began to notice some differences. This is due to the fact that Ophelia’s Home Plan was stretched in order to account for a larger bathroom with ADA/FHA clearances.

WW1 warship using the dazzle camoflauge technique
A “dazzled” American war ship

In an effort to try and regain order and proportion on the exterior of 20K Ophelia’s Home, the team began studying techniques such as “Dazzle Camouflage” to shift the eyes’ focus. This was used on war ships in World War I to change the perception of the ships. As a team, the 3rd-Years felt that “Dazzle Camouflage” could create the proportions they found more appealing, without changing the footprint of the home. It was an exploration in blurring lines and regaining proportions. They came up with visual categories and sketched through ideas in a design charette. These original sketches became the basis for several exterior design options.

Just a few of the initial idea sketches

History Class

For history class this week, the group ventured to the Moore-Webb-Holmes Plantation in Marion, Alabama. This site holds a wide variety of historical structures. A descendant of the original owner was actually able to give us a personal welcome and a great amount of information related to the history of the property. While touring fancy interiors is interesting, it is also very important to understand the realities of how these structures facilitated agriculture.

Wood Shop Class

In Wood Shop Class, the 3rd-Years focused on our first design assignment—a cutting board. After learning about all of the tools in the shop, they designed both the cutting board and fabrication process. They had to think about every single step of the process and the tools most appropriate to accomplish their designs. Also,they had limitations on the types and amount of wood they could use for the cutting boards. Howevere, nothing held them back from creating beautiful cutting boards. Stay tuned to our blog for the finished products!

As you can tell, its been a very busy and exciting week. Thanks again for reading our blog! We appreciate ya’!

donkey
Goodbye

Week 2: Hit the Ground Runnin’

This week, the 3rd-years arrived on site, ready to work! They are excited to continue construction on Ophelia’s Home. They have also been introduced to their elective Woodworking and Historical Design Electives. Let’s check in to see how it’s all starting off.

Students meeting with professor and looking at drawings
Morning talks with Professor Emily McGlohn before site work starts

Wood Shop Class

This semester, the 3rd-Year students will continue the cabinetry class with Steve Long. This week, Steve taught the students how to use the tools safely. They also received an assignment to create a cutting board, so keep an eye out for the finished products! This assignment introduces students to the tools in the wood shop before they begin cabinetry.

Next, the students will be researching, designing, and handcrafting cabinetry for Ophelia’s Home. The 2020 Spring semester 3rd-Years laid a great foundation by designing and planning CNC routed millwork for the home. Past projects such as the Fausndale Community Center have used CNC routing for their millwork. CNC routing is a computer-based cutting machine available on Auburn University’s Main Campus, but not at Rural Studio. Therefore, the new group decided to handcraft the cabinets using the tools available on the Rural Studio campus here in Newbern. Throughout the semester, professionals will come and teach the students the basics of millwork so they can hit the ground running.

History Class

Professor Dick Hudgens teaches historic, regional design elective, referred to as “History Class”, here at Rural Studio. The 3rd-Year students take field trips to amazing buildings in the area, which Dick has great knowledge and experience with. Along with learning the history of the buildings through tours, the students sketch the buildings in order to understand them to a greater degree.

front elevation of Magnolia Grove
Magnolia Grove Main House

For their first class, the 3rd-Years travelled to Magnolia Grove in Greensboro. After touring the site, They sketched the main house and kitchen.

On Site

Everyone was excited to begin work on site.

The interior team spent the week counting inventory and beginning the framework. After a lot of headaches, math, and some rocks in the studs, they built and raised three interior walls!

The enclosures team completed sheathing, which is a flat layer of fiber board used to help strengthen the structure of a building and serve as an extra weatherproofing layer. Ophelia’s Home uses ZIP sheathing which also requires the joints to be sealed with ZIP tape.

The MEP team installed blocking in the rafters to seal ventilation from the attic space. This meant applying 2 “x 4” lumber in between the studs and vertical batons to cover any gaps caused by the exterior sheathing when the two elements meet.

Rural Studio and McGill University publishes the collaboration’s first research paper

The Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project Team, alongside collaborators and colleagues Sal Craig, Kiel Moe, David Kennedy and Rural Studio’s own Andrew Freear, have officially published their work! The original research paper, entitled “The Design of Mass Timber Panels as Heat-Exchangers (Dynamic Insulation)” was published in the Frontiers in Built Environment journal. A culmination of two years of investigation and experimentation (see the blog here for more info), the article shows how to optimize mass timber panels as heat-exchangers and suggests how to pair panels with buoyancy ventilation.

The Breathing Wall Mass Timber Team and Sal Craig; the wonderful collaboration

Why is that important? The building industry is currently responsible for roughly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with a significant portion originating from the production of construction materials like concrete and steel. Mitigating this climate crisis requires a fundamental shift in what and how we build. Mass timber heat-exchangers offer a potential alternative. Mass timber products are naturally carbon sequestering, and building responsibly with timber has the potential to store carbon in the global carbon sink of new building stocks. Designing panels to be multifunctional provides the opportunity to further multiply savings by suggesting how to eliminate fossil-intensive insulation while simplifying ventilation systems. 

How the Mass Timber Breathing Wall works

Mass Timber heat exchangers aren’t the only alternative – thermal mass is another example of this ‘radical integration’ – but the Mass Breathers and Co are excited to contribute to the conversation, and hope you will too! The article and data are all in the Creative Commons (thank you to MSSI for funding the license), and research is ever ongoing!

The Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project Team: Jake, Fergie, Preston and Anna

Celebrating successes,

The Mass Breathers

Soundtrack: Celebration | Kool & The Gang