Everything is officially clad! The plywood is cut! The benches are designed! The Cooling Porch is secured! The wiring is installed! The door is installed!
Rowe and Jeff are ticking big items off the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project checklist. Let’s take a look at what the graduate research team has completed in the last month.
The Cooling Porch ceiling and Bottom Chimneys were clad last as they did not need the articulating man lift to reach. Now that the entire Test Building is clad with bleach-stained cypress, their form reads less like floating boxes and more like floating funnels. While the main function of the chimneys is to increase overall stack height and therefore air velocity within the system, they also signal movement to onlookers. Two wood-clad heat silos at your service!
Another TMBV jig on the books, this one helps break down large pieces of plywood with precise cuts. Jeff and Rowe designed and built the jig to make all the cuts necessary for creating the plywood thermal mass panels. Like the concrete panels, the plywood conforms to the slanted ceiling of the Test Building. There is also substantially more plywood panels as they cover the walls, floor, and ceiling of the interior.
Next up, the Cooling Porch finishing touches. Steel plates for future benches were installed in the construction of the Cooling Porch walls. However, the bench material was undecided. The team chose to use the same metal grate used on the stairs and walkway for these breezy benches. Over the next couple of weeks, the benches will be installed and reinforced with a bracket.
Last up for the Cooling Porch, a little tripping hazard prevention. The top course of the Cooling Porch walls were dry-stacked but untethered to the ground. To keep the course in place, the team used Tap Con masonry screws and small metal brackets to link the top course with the rest of the wall.
As future dwellings and experiments, the Test Buildings need power for people and sensors. The buildings are wired through chases in the SIP, accessible from floor outlets to keep the walls clear.
Last on our list of tasks completed is the installation of the doors! The test fit showed a bit more blocking needed, but the end result looks great!
Live from the Test Buildings, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project team. After swiftly assembling the Test Buildings, the graduate team began weatherproofing. The team’s goal is to have the buildings protected from rain quickly so they can get to work on installing the thermal mass panels on the interior. The weatherproofing systems are designed to mitigate heat gain in different ways to eliminate experimental variation.
First, the team covered the buildings in shingled tar paper–a heavy-duty, waterproof construction paper. Next, the team installed battens which create space between the structure and cladding allowing for ventilation and avoiding heat gain. The roof is also ventilated and covered with highly reflective, low albedo corrugated sheet metal. This means the materiality and color of the roof are fighting solar radiation.
Lastly, the team installed the beautiful steel door frames. Turnipseed International donated the steel and Brad of Superior Metals LLC welded the frames Thanks for reading and stay tuned.
Live from inside the mock-up that spanned seasons, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project team! You may remember the mention and drawings of a mock-up back in January. Many things interrupted steady work on this mock-up including breaking ground, pouring foundations, steel design, steel fabrication, writing papers, installing drainage, designing the cooling porch, and testing concrete panel joinery types. However, after all this time, the mock-up is complete! In the two weeks before Pig Roast and graduation from the master’s program, the TMBV student team not only hoisted the test building columns and submitted a paper detailing their experiments, they also completed two mock-ups. That’s right, two–we’ve got a bonus!
Faux SIPs and Small Columns
This mock-up set out to test the ventilated roofing and cladding system while also allowing practice for some of the atypical waterproofing details caused by the chimneys. All elements of the mock-up are at full scale, however, these elements are taken from different sections of the Test Buildings and condensed. Therefore the real Test Buildings are not proportionally larger than the mock-up. Another disclaimer; the team only built one mock-up because the two Test Buildings are exactly mirrored.
The team first assembled wall, roof, floor, and chimney stud formed panels with exterior OSB sheathing on both sides. These acted as stand-in Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) which make up the enclosure, structure, and insulation of the Test Buildings. Next, they assembled these faux SIPs atop three shortened columns which have the same thickness and base plates as the Test Building columns.
Groovin’ and Waterproofin’
Next up–keep it dry with tar paper and roofing. Tar paper is a heavy-duty construction paper made with asphalt which repels water. The TMBV team wrapped the entire structure in tar paper in a shingling pattern to create a protective layer. After this, the team started roofing.
To minimize heat gain the roofing material is a light-colored, reflective 3/4″ corrugated metal. The metal is attached atop batons which run in parallel with the slope of the roof. This allows the roof to vent heat at the highest point of the structure. If there is one thing this team has learned in two years–hot air rises.
The team installed the flashing along with the roofing. Flashing is a thin piece of impervious material installed to prevent the passage of water into a structure from a joint or as part of a weather-resistant barrier system. The TMBV test buildings use galvanized aluminum as flashing. A large tray prevents water from slipping under the metal roofing while T-shape pieces seal the edges and create the corners.
A mini-door frame was fabricated by Brad Schmidt of Superior Metal Works LLC in Newbern, AL. He will also be fabricating the full-size door frames. This was the bit of steel the TMBV team left to a professional–boy does he do nice work! The team painted the door frame with galvanizing paint, as they did the mock-up columns, to see how all the colors of the steel, roofing, flashing, and cladding work together. The door frame installation couldn’t have gone smoother!
Last, but certainly not least, the cypress cladding. 3/4″ 1″x 6″ and 1″ x 8″ cypress boards were sanded and sealed with Kabotz wood bleach. Spaced at 1/4″ the boards created an open joint cladding system, which like the roof, allows for air circulation behind the cladding. Cladding the chimneys and the underside, which will be the cooling porch ceiling, was the trickiest part. Doing the mock-up, however, teaches the students tips and tricks for doing the real thing.
Not much more to say, just look at that mock-up!
The team also completed ANOTHER concrete wall mock-up testing a shiplap joint in between the thermal mass panels. This wall is a proportionally smaller version allowing the team to visualize the pattern on the wall as well as the screw spacing. The shiplap joint, from both a constructability and scientific validity standpoint, is a crowd favorite. Not to mention that craft and beauty…
Roasting in the Sun
On a bright, early, shiny Tuesday all the Rural Studio 2021 Spring Semester student, faculty, and staff enjoyed an in-house Pig Roast. This included an opening ceremony at the beautiful Horseshoe Courtyard, presentations from each team, a ribbon cutting ceremony at Ophelia’s Home, and lots of good food.
After a BBQ lunch, the TMBV team sprang something else heavy on the audience… their project! They had a wonderful discussion with the only outsiders at the celebration; Architects Roy Duvall, of Duvall-Decker in Jackson, MS, and John Forney. It was wonderful to show off all the hard work the students have accomplished since October 2019. From experimentation and coding data to SIPs detailing and steel fabrication these students have continually jumped into waters unknown.
Overall, Pig Roast was wonderful, but the work was not over. Pre-Roast the team installed their columns and finished their mock-ups. Post-Roast they had to complete a paper detailing their TMBV experiments and results for an international building science conference. They worked tightly with Salmaan Craig for the rest of the week. Because, of course, the paper was due that Friday and graduation was also that Friday.
This team just couldn’t function without the variation of personalities and skillsets. No two are alike, and sometimes it’s hard, but they couldn’t be more thankful for ending up on this wild ride together. 4 hours before the paper was due, Cory and Livia scooted to Auburn for graduation. Jeff and Rowe continued working with Salmaan, up until the deadline, for which the other two are eternally grateful. Jeff and Rowe were at graduation in Livia and Cory’s hearts illustrated below. Don’t worry. the whole gang will celebrate together with a classic Cory cook-out. Stay Tuned for the impending construction of the TMBV Test Buildings!
Live from a fully assembled Test Building structure, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project team! After welding the structural steel columns that support Newbern’s newest skyscrapers, it was time for the team to put them to action. As usual there is a lot of prep work that goes into any big dance here at Rural Studio. Let’s get into it!
Prepare the slabs!
First, the team re-pulled all their batter board strings and double-checked their placement and relationships to one another. The team used these strings to find the locations of the column base plates and bracket to slab connections. Next, they used templates to mark with spray paint the connection locations. More specifically, these templates helped mark where holes needed to be drilled for the threaded rods to be epoxied into the slab.
After the slab was properly marked using the templates, the team hammer drilled the connection locations. To ensure the holes were properly 9″ deep, all the extra dust and debris created when drilling was blasted out using the air compressor. With clean holes, the team proceeded to pump epoxy in then place the threaded rods. The epoxy binds the threaded rod and concrete slab together to serve as the connection from columns and bracing to the foundation.
Next, the team test fit all their bracing connections. This gave them the idea to test fit the base plate of every single column. To do this Jeff made a template of the base plate of each of the 8 columns and slipped them over the epoxied rods. While the epoxy was still drying the team hammered any rods that needed to be nudged to fit the template of the column baseplate.
Bring out your columns!
Finally! From welding to galvanizing to transporting, this team is ready to see these columns stand on their own!
In order to place the columns, Rowe hoisted them using the Bobcat and its crane attachment. Livia and Steve guided Rowe and walked the columns to place. Once the holes in the base plate aligned with the epoxied rods sticking out of the slab, Rowe lowered the column into place. Jeff and Cory then secured and leveled the columns and attached the bracing.
All the long hours of planning, drawing, and calculating in Red Barn paid off as these babies went up in under an hour! Next up the team leveled, plumbed, and corrected all the distances between the columns. Its important the columns are upright and in the right place so the structure in the SIP floor aligns.
In the following days the team grouted the columns bases and bracing to foundation collections. This adds another layer of security into the structure. Stay tuned for the SIPs spaceships landing atop these 8 sturdy columns!
Live from Turnipseed International, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project! The students with the help of Flo, Luis, and Javier, and the guidance of Jim Turnipseed finished the steel fabrication for the TMBV Test Buildings. In just two weeks, the whole crew built the structural columns and bracing, the stair stringers, the elevated walkway, and all the handrails.
The student team cannot thank Jim Turnipseed enough for his generosity in donating all the material, space, and time to complete the steelwork. Also, lest we forget, the student team would have been lost without the world’s greatest metalworking guides: Flo, Luis, and Javier. The TMBV team will never forget their time at the shop or the remarkable people who made it all happen!
With the bracing attachment tabs welded onto the columns, the next step was attaching the top and bottom plates. Most importantly, these plates serve as the connection points from the column to the building and to the ground. After drilling the holes for the anchor bolt and threaded rod connections in the plates, the team built a jig that helped place the columns in the center of the plates.
The team tack welded 8 points on the column to plate connection after centering and clamping them. This secures the plates to column enough so that they can be rotated for the permanent welds. Because the columns hold up the entire buildings, the team triple welded the plates to the columns. They ain’t goin’ nowhere! All 8 columns, 4 per Test Building, were moved out of the shop when complete.
Stairway to Heaven
Next up were the stair stringers. Unexpectedly, these babies turned out to be the most complex structure of the bunch. The stringers are composed of 6″ x 3.5″ steel angles. The graduate students had to cut this angle precisely so that the bottom sits flush on the ground and the top meets flat against the 5″ x 5″ steel angle of the elevated walkway. Cap plates, with drilled connection holes, attach to angled cuts so that the stair can be bolted in place.
Each stringer has seven 1.5″ steel angles welded on the inside face, acting as support for the stair treads. The placement of the tread supports needed to be perfectly mirrored between both stringers to avoid a catawampus stair experience. Therefore, the stair tread placement for both stringers was laid out and checked before any welding began. Then welding began!
After welding the treads, it was time for the students to begin the stair handrail. The height of this handrail from the stair stringer is very important as it aligns with the center bar of the walkway handrail. The students rigged yet another jig to ensure the handrails were built as drawn.
The handrails are composed of 1″ tube steel. Therefore, on the open bottoms of the handrails, a cap plate was welded. All welds on the handrails were ground to perfection, enjoy the details below!
And, somehow, the stair handrails did not match up perfectly with the drawings. No big deal though, the graduate students took to their drawings and adjusted the height of the walkway handrail mid bar. Next, the stair handrails needed to be attached to the stringers. This was the most straightforward weld of the stringer, once the placement of the handrails was mirrored on each stringer. The team finished the stringers after a lot of mental math and problem-solving!
Now on to the walkway! The elevated walkway frame which hangs in between the Test Buildings is created out of 5″ x 5″ steel angle. The cut metal grate pieces sit on top of the frame to create the walking surface. The side of the frame will be attached to the buildings with lag screws and therefore needed many holes drilled into it. First, the graduate students cut the angles into four pieces which were to be welded into the walkway frame. Before assembling the frame they drilled the holes for the lag screw connections.
After hole drilling, the team temporarily assembled the frame using lots of clamps. This allowed them to make sure the frame was square before welding. To weld the four pieces together the frame had to be rotated using a crane, all the students, and their teachers. Like the columns, the frame was tacked and then triple welded to fill all gaps and guarantee a strong connection. Below are snapshots of the frame being welded while being held vertically by the crane.
Each of the four handrails, which guard the elevated walkway, is slightly different from one another. Of course, they are,… it’s Rural Studio! However, the team created a jig that moved to accommodate the different lengths of handrails but kept the top and center bar locations in place. This way all four handrails were made to the same heights. Having practiced with the stair handrails, the team flew through these welds. The handrails also have end caps to seal the bottom of the square tube.
Before welding, the square tube was cut with 45-degree angles so that the handrails have nice, mitered connections. After welding, the team ground all the welds. Javier and Flo doubled checked all their welds were full and if they weren’t, it was back to welding. With the handrails completed, it was time for a very different task. Moving all the steel onto the trailer.
Load it up!
On the team’s last day at the Turnipseed International, Rowe drove the student truck and 18′ trailer up from Newbern. With lots of help from Flo on the forklift, the steel was loaded into the trailer so it could be driven to the galvanizer. Galvanizing the steel is a process in which a protective zinc coating is applied to prevent rusting. The team and the crew at Turnipseed International parted ways with plans to have a barbeque in celebration of their work sometime soon!
Load it down!
Finally, the steel parts were retrieved from the galvanizer in Birmingham and brought back to rest under the Fabrication Pavilion. The Bobcat was used to remove each column from the trailer as well as the stair stringers and walkway frame.
With all the steel bits and bobbles waiting patiently under the roof of the Pavillion, the team is preparing the raising of the columns. The columns, with bracings, must go up before the SIP panels arrive so they can be attached on top. after the steel walkway and stringer will be nestled between the SIP shells of the Test Buildings. Stay tuned to see how the crazy kids get it all done!