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Graduate Team Completes Construction and Publishes Paper!

The Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project (TMBV) graduate students have concluded their work and time in Newbern, AL. In their wake, they leave a published, peer-reviewed paper and two research-ready buildings.

In the course of their graduate year, the TMBV project dove deep into the results of their initial small-scale experiments, culminating in a research paper published in the Journal of Physics: Conference Series as a part of the 2021 CISBAT Hybrid Scientific Conference. At the same time, the team designed and constructed two Test Buildings. The cooling and ventilation effects spurred by the optimized thermal mass will be studied throughout the next year, providing ground truth data for the system at a building scale.

The paper: A synopsis

The open-access research paper entitled, “Synchronized coupling of thermal mass and buoyancy ventilation: wood versus concrete” was published in November 2020 in the Journal of Physics Conference: Series. This was an effort involving the entire TMBV research team including Salmaan Craig, Remy Fortin, Sebastien Asselin, Kiel Moe, David Kennedy, and Andrew Freear. The paper describes small-scale experiments that test the accuracy of sizing parameters which suggest how to optimize the coupling of an internal thermal mass—which allows a building to store heat and thereby avoid major temperature fluctuations—with natural ventilation cycles, regardless of the material or the scale of the building. The results suggest the sizing parameters may be valid for early-stage design. They also show that biomaterials, such as wood, can perform as well as conventional thermal mass materials, such as concrete.

Why is this important? Typical, mechanical thermal comfort systems pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, raising the temperature even more. They also cannot perform in power outages during weather events caused by the ongoing climate crisis. Therefore, using regenerative materials, such as wood, to mitigate rising temperatures without reliance on the power grid suggests sustainable thermal comfort with less burden on the environment. That is an ongoing aim of the TMBV Research Project, and these initial results are an encouraging step. Before such lofty goals can be reached, the TMBV Test Buildings will provide more insight into the capabilities of the system.

The buildings: A summary

As stated above, the TMBV Test Buildings examine the coupling of thermal mass and buoyancy ventilation as a reliable thermal comfort system at the building scale. Currently, the buildings are set up for these first large-scale experiments and will later be fitted out for housing. The buildings are designed to be flexible spaces for ongoing experiments as well as dwellings for 3rd-year students. Therefore, the buildings balance valid experimental conditions, the realities of construction, and the basic needs of college students. One Test Building is powered by a plywood internal thermal mass and the other by concrete. Both buildings are designed to achieve the same performance parameters for temperature dampening and ventilation rate despite their material differences—i.e., the surface area and thickness of the material.

The buildings are the first Rural Studio buildings constructed primarily out of Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs). Towering over the Supershed on Morrisette Campus they hover 8′ off the ground. Underneath the buildings is a gathering space nicknamed the “Cooling Porch.” During the day it is meant to collect cool air flowing out of the buildings, providing a place to enjoy the systems en masse. Air travels here through the extended chimneys, which increase ventilation speed and denote the building’s function.

With such tight buildings, dependent on accuracy, the team showed out on all the details. From three-week welding sessions to mapping out patterns of old sidewalk scrap to calculating the discharge coefficient of rooftop vent caps, this team investigated every inch. Feel free to peruse the TMBV blog to see the process, but for now here are the results.

The team: An abridgement

What a journey! These kids, ready to learn how to craft a beautiful building, were not expecting a crash course in thermodynamics, experimental design, and scientific discourse. It was an incredible opportunity to do both. Blending design, construction, and scientific rigor was an extremely unique and fulfilling educational experience. And the TMBV team sharing that experience across North America!

Rowe, the TMBV team’s certified best and most patient construction instructor, has moved to Bozeman, Montana, to join Love | Schack Architecture.

Jeff, a master of power tools and 3D modeling, is taking time to further his coding and woodworking skills.

Cory, a most relaxed, renaissance man, is enjoying his stint at the Ghost Residency with MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited, in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Livia, the heart and volume of the operation, has settled in Austin, Texas, working with Rural Studio Alums at Thoughtbarn.

A huge thank you to the faculty and staff of Auburn University Rural Studio, the teams’ student colleagues, the project consultants (including Joe Farruggia!), the donors and teachers of Turnipseed International, and “Crane” Shane of Sweetwater Construction LLC for your time, knowledge, and support. Most obviously and ardently, thank you to the TMBV research conglomerate Salmaan Craig, Andrew Freear, Steve Long, David Kennedy, Kiel Moe, Sebastien Asselin, and Remy Fortin for the stellar work and dedication. It took a village!

This lot loves Rural Studio and all of its people. Hope to see y’all soon.

Halloween Review, Now What?

Welcome back to the 3rd-year team blog! Halloween season is a busy time for Rural Studio. Faculty, staff, and students work hard to prepare for Halloween Review presentations and the annual Pumpkin Carve.

Halloween Review

Halloween presentations went very well for the 3rd-years, Laura and Peter! Their first in-person review was a unique one, with everyone in full costume. Laura and Peter were Yzma and Kronk from the Disney movie Emperor’s New Groove.

The students have been researching post-frame construction for Rosie’s new home. They received helpful feedback from the reviews on their proposed design, including location, size, and shape of the roof. Their existing site includes several existing structures and vegetation, which limits the number of configurations for the new house.

After Halloween Reviews, the students analyzed the feedback and began to make design decisions. They narrowed down the roof structure’s footprint to 26′ x 48′. These dimensions will be the most beneficial size and scale for students next semester to continue the design development. The team used this floorplan size to then begin to study the roof’s shape and structural details.

From Pole Barn to Post Frame

Emily, Chelsea, Laura, and Peter made a trip to Greensboro, AL to study a nearby post-frame structure. Next, the team created drawings for our structural engineering consultant, Joe Farruggia, to give them feedback on its structural requirements.

Joe helped the team understand the difference between a “post-frame” roof and a “pole barn” structure. Pole barns, Joe explained, have deeper foundations and stronger connections to the ground, whereas post frames have shallower foundations but stronger connections where the posts and the trusses meet.

This past week, the students met with Van from Clockwise Components in Moundville, AL, to discuss how the post-frame steel trusses are manufactured and what the truss details might look like.

History Class Field Trips Continue

Peter and Laura continue with their weekly history classes with Dick Hudgens by touring and sketching historic homes around the West Alabama region. Their destinations have been Bluff Hall, Lions Hall, and Gaineswood in Demopolis, AL, as well as the Van De Graaff Mansion in Tuscaloosa.

They have also been working on watercolors that describe the unique landscapes of Alabama.

Woodshop Project: Library Shelves

Laura and Peter have also been busy in woodshop class with instructor, Steve Long. They are hard at work gluing, clamping, and sanding shelf carts for the Newbern Library.

The 3rd-Years meet their client!

After several weeks of studying post-frame construction and the Studio’s 20K Product Line homes, the 3rd-year team finally met their client! We were thrilled to meet Rosie and her husband, Frankie, who have graciously agreed to work with our 3rd-year students.

The first step now is to develop a thorough site analysis of Rosie’s site. The students spent several hours on site measuring and determining the layout of the existing structures, topography changes, and tree placements.

Hybrid of the External vs. Internal Expansion

In studio, the post-frame construction studies continued, and a decision was made to explore a hybrid of external and internal expansion. Laura and Peter created drawings to test how much room was needed for living comfortably while also having room to expand underneath the pole barn.

Once the site plan was ready, Laura and Peter also explored how their hybrid studies could fit on the site.

First Wood Shop Project Complete

Woodshop class is in full effect; the 3rd-Years completed their cutting boards. The students were tasked with designing their own cutting boards, using pieces of walnut and maple. After several rounds of cutting and laminating, they finished sanding and added layers of wood finish.

This project gave them a better understanding of the tools they will use for the rest of the semester.

Now that the cutting boards are complete, they have started design work on new shelf carts and a table for the Newbern Library.

History Class with Dick Hudgens

For history class, Dick Hudgens has been taking the 3rd-Years on field trips to historically significant buildings around West Alabama. After visiting Magnolia Grove last week, Dick took the students to another historic site in Greensboro, the Glencairn.

This Greek Revival building was constructed in the early 19th century and is a part of the National Register of Historic Places. After touring the interior, Dick had Laura and Peter sketch the front elevation and floor plans of the building.

Another Day, Another Pole Barn

3rd-Years Study 20K Homes and Post-Frame Construction

This week, Laura, Peter, Emily, and Chelsea jumped straight in to researching their semester’s housing project, which will focus on post-frame construction. To familiarize themselves with Rural Studio’s housing studies, the 3rd-year team toured past 20K projects and attended a presentation from the Myers’ Home team and Rev. Walker’s Home team. In their presentation, the students described the detailed post-frame housing analysis they conducted last year during their design development.

After this preliminary research, the 3rd-years began to study how 20K Product Line Homes might fit under a pole barn structure. Using Rev. Walker’s Home’s pole barn size as a base, Laura and Peter diagrammed different layout possibilities for Dave’s, Mac’s, and Joanne’s Homes set within a pole barn shell. These quick studies provided valuable insight into scale, orientation, and 20K concepts. Next, 3rd-year will visit their client’s site and apply their plans and sections to a real place. Even with only two 3rd-year students, they were able to fill the entire studio wall with their drawings!

Dan Wheeler’s Sketch Workshop

The students took a break from studio work for a day and participated in Dan Wheeler’s sketching workshop for both the 5th and 3rd-year students. During the workshop, students wandered around Morrissette Campus, capturing the beauty of built objects and the landscape. Dan taught how to properly sketch in one and two-point perspective, capturing both wide views and close details.

First Week of Electives

Although studio has been in full effect, the woodshop and history classes have just begun. Their professor, Steve Long, began woodshop class by teaching the 3rd-years proper tool safety and PPE for the shop. Steve then tasked them with making a cutting board to help them get them more comfortable with using the table saw, planer, and jointer.

Each week, history professor, Dick Hudgens, takes the 3rd-Years on field trips to historic buildings in the surrounding area. During these house museum tours, Dick shares the history and construction details of each building and site. Not only do they learn the history of the buildings through tours, but the students also sketch the buildings to understand them better.

Work Begins for the Fall 3rd-Year Students

This new group of 3rd-year students at Rural Studio is a small, but mighty team of two students. Peter and Laura are working with 3rd-year professor Emily McGlohn and instructor Chelsea Elcott to design and build a small home for one of our West Alabama neighbors.

Meet the new 3rd-years

Meet Laura Forrest and Peter Harpring, the dynamic duo! These two, although having just met each other, are proving to be a solid pair.

Peter is from Louisville, Kentucky. He’s an introvert, a younger sibling, and loves summer, dogs, and coffee. Laura is from Corner, Alabama. She’s an extrovert, an older sibling, and loves winter, cats, and tea. Despite their differences, synergy runs well with these two.

Drafting Practice

Emily and Chelsea began the semester by introducing a type of design presentation their students are less familiar with: hand drafting. At Rural Studio, the most-used methods to visually portray an idea are sketching, diagramming by hand, and drafting.

To become more acquainted with hand-drafting toolslike lead holders and T squaresLaura and Peter revisited a design project from their previous architecture school year and practiced hand drawing and diagramming. Through returning to projects they were already familiar with, the 3rd-years could spend more time focusing on the process of drawing by hand rather than learning a new skill while designing a project at the same time.

Learning to Draw 1:1 Detail Drawings

Once the 3rd-years mastered their hand-drawing technique, they began a Full-Scale Drawing Workshop. To better understand what makes up a wood-framed house, the 3rd-year cohort traveled to building sites around Newbern that were under various stages of completion. Starting at Rev. Walker’s Home’s unfinished “bonus room,” Laura and Peter learned a new vocabulary of construction terms and were able to translate the incomplete wall assembly that they saw into a detailed section drawing through a wall. Then, the whole team visited the Model Homes closed-up and finished wall cavities and, with a little guidance, created a one-to-one scale drawing of a section through 20K Joanne’s Model Home, depicting the structure and details all the way from the ground up to the roof.

Full-scale section through 20K Joanne’s Model Home

A Little Bit of On-Site Construction Work

After Labor Day weekend, the 3rd-year crew took a break from their studio work in Red Barn and set out to get some on-site experience. In just a couple of days, the team finished a few small projects at recently completed 3rd-year projects: 20K Ophelia’s Home and Mrs. Patrick’s Home. Laura, with the help of Mason’s welding expertise, fabricated a steel handrail for Ophelia’s back porch. To make Mrs. Patrick’s porch a little safer and more easily accessed, Peter, Emily, and Chelsea added a few stairs to her front porch.

It’s going to be a jam-packed semester. Stay tuned on our blog!