newbern

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.

The Power of Post Frame

The 2020-2021 5th-year students are ready for their introduction! They may have been off the radar so far this semester, but they are working the days away. The 2020-2021 Rural Studio thesis program began with eight students and several weeks of “neck down” work, the kind that uses everything but your head! This meant performing maintenance at Morrisette Campus and the Red Barn, lending a hand at Horseshoe Courtyard, and rebuilding park structures at Perry Lakes Park.

Thanks to the pandemic precautions being taken by all Rural Studio members, the 5th-year project teams are able to work face-to-masked face this semester. They’ve been working on site, in studio, and on the farm safely and gratefully. Presentations and critiques are all al fresco, but the work is just as hard, coffee as strong, and spirits as high.

While completing the “neck down” site work, the 5th-year students began their thesis research. Their thesis projects are to design and build two homes using a post frame structural system. This post frame strategy was first introduced to the studio by last year’s Master’s Outreach Team in their 2020 20K Home. The teams will be building for the clients of Reggie’s Home project team and the 2020 20K project team, both projects which were paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team of eight is studying how to take full advantage of the pole barn frame. With several thesis research presentations on deck, the team began the routine of site work by day and studio by night. As the pros say, “healthy body, healthy mind!”

The post frame structural system kit of parts

Meet the post frame structural system, sometimes known as a pole barn. It’s a kit of parts purchased as a complete package from one manufacturer or multiple suppliers. In both cases, the post frame system is made up of columns, trusses, roofing material, and often a concrete slab. The order of construction allows the roof to go up first. This is the opposite of traditional stick frame construction, how many past Rural Studio residential projects are built. In stick framing, exterior and interior framed walls are raised prior to installing trusses and roof metal. In this case, inclement weather means a losing a valuable day building on site if the roof has not been constructed yet.

Post frame gives the team the ability to raise the roof first, the initial structure being trusses and roofing material on columns over a now-covered slab. Exterior and interior walls as well as cladding and utilities come after the roof. This means come spring and all its rain, build days can go on through what would normally be weather delays. The 5th-years were able to visit one of these structures mid-build in a visit to one not too far from their home base.

But post frame is not all that’s on the mind. The group of eight has been researching, documenting, and analyzing homes in the area, including 20K Homes. They are studying how 20K Homes have expanded and adapted over time. This led to two approaches responding to rural expansion coupled with a post frame structure. One is a home under a separate roof, expanding outward beneath it, explored in Rev. Walker’s Home. The other is a home focused on interiorized expansion within the envelope of the post frame system, what will be Myer’s Home.

John Forney from Birmingham and Mike Newman out of Chicago were the first outside voices to weigh in this semester. Their feedback on the first public explanation of project goals helped them shape their arguments in the time after. Since then they’ve been developing the “why?” of the post frame structure and the “how” of our two expansion strategies. The former is that due to the speed of initial post frame construction, labor costs reduce the budget by 10% overall. The latter is in constant progress.

Following these reviews, teams and projects were chosen in traditional, mystic Rural Studio Fashion. With a full review schedule this fall of familiar faces including Julie Eizenberg, Tod Williams, Billie Tsien, Marlon Blackwell, Jake LaBarre, and a November Stress Test date, the teams jumped in headfirst.

Individual polaroids of students on the Myers' Home team

Here they go, Myers’ Home team: Riley Boles, Madeline Ray, Robbin Reese, and Judith Seaman. They will be exploring the post frame home through interiorized, upward expansion. You will get to know the new kids on the block as they journey to a new frontier—the attic!

Getting Down to the Details Episode II: Attack of the Drawings

diagram of Test Building showing all details the team must draw

Live from behind multiple stacks of full-scale detail drawings, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project Team! The team has continued their pursuit to draw every detail of the Test Buildings. These drawings have cemented aspects of the building such as cladding, roofing materials, and entryway design. Certainly, there is still much more to decide and conquer. Let’s check out what the team’s got so far.

Concrete Barrier Bargains

First up, a much-needed win for the TMBVRP team; they got concrete barriers! The Cooling Porch, a space for literal chilling underneath the Test Buildings, uses recycled concrete barriers as a retaining wall and seating. Road work being done on Highway 61 in Newbern revealed many of these stackable, concrete barriers just asking to be reused. The construction team doing the roadwork donated and delivered all of the extra concrete barriers straight to Morrisette Campus. However, this generous gift was not the only score for the team. Next, the team found more concrete barriers at the Greensboro Highway Department Office just 10 miles down the road. The Greensboro Highway Department has 40 more barriers and the team can have them if they can move them. Time to start the powerlifting team!

Cladding Conclusions

Meanwhile, as the team solidified the material of the Cooling Porch seating, they also came to exterior cladding conclusions. The last post touched on how the team committed to using timber for their open-joint cladding system. Now they have decided on wood species and size. The team chose Cypress in both 6″ and 8″ boards to clad the Test Buildings.Cypress is a locally available and weather-resistant cladding option.

Pod cross section showing cypress cladding system

The variation in board sizes allows for more flexibility around complex details. For example underneath the walkway, attached underneath the door, 6″ inch boards come up too short. On the other hand, 8″ boards overhang too much and interfere with the cladding on the Cooling Porch ceiling and Chimney. The mix of boards also allows for board spacing to differ slightly without drawing attention. Uniform board sizes make it easier to spot mistakes and the team is keen on hiding those from you.

A Smattering of Details

Because it would be entirely boring to describe each of these details; the TMBV team will just hit the highlights for you. First, the roofing material will be 1/4″ corrugated metal. While Rural Studio is no stranger to corrugated metal, this is a less common type. Being just 1/4″ in depth, this material has the advantages of durability and low price of normal corrugated metal, but with a more subtle profile. Below, you can see just how that ventilated roof and corrugated metal interact with the cypress clad chimneys and drip edge flashing. These were definitely some of the most complicated details due to the aerodynamic shapes of the chimneys and roof.

cut section through door showing door frame and walkway connection
full door section showing walkway connection

Next up is the door. Although the Test Buildings will be used as quasi-dorm rooms for 3rd-year students, the team does not want them appearing too residential. Just in case the polygonal shape and hovering nature of the Test Buildings don’t shout, “Experiment!” loud enough the door has got to be different too. The door acts as a punch through the SIPs wall and Internal Thermal Mass to emphasize that one is entering into an active system. This is done by highlighting the depth of the wall with a thin 13″ aluminum frame, slightly thicker than the wall. This detail was unabashedly stolen from the beloved Newbern Library project, the smart detail treasure trove.

And from the Details, a Mock-up is Born

After drawing and redrawing all those tricky details, Steve Long and Andrew Freear suggested the team practice building them before attempting them on the real deal. This is a time-old tradition at Rural Studio known as the mock-up. A mock-up is a condescended version of a building, or a small part of it, that allows students to practice and visualize construction. For example and as seen above, 20k Ann’s Home Project team built a wonderful mock-up where they tested all their cladding and roofing details to scale. The Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project team used this mock-up as inspiration when designing their own. You can take a look at the TMBVRP Test Building mock-up construction document set (CD set) below!

Axon and Axon section drawings of the pod mock ups

Every detail the team solved can be seen in the mock-up. The entire structure will end up being approximately 6′ x 6′ x 10′. The height is a bit substantial for a mock-up but practicing detailing the chimneys at full scale is very important. The team is making framed walls to the same thickness as the SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) instead of building with SIPs for the mock-up. This will save a lot of time and money. The team finds the mock-up rather cute on paper though it won’t seem so miniature in person. They plan to start building the mock-up soon, but first, need to gather all the real materials they would use on the Test Buildings. It’s important they practice on something as close to the Test Building design as possible.

The Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research team is happy to be down in the weeds of detailing as their research becomes real. Thanks for Tuning in!

Brace Yourselves… or Brace Those Trusses!

Shop and History

Professor Dick Hudgens took the 3rd-year students on a trip to Tuscaloosa this week to visit Jemison Mansion. Having helped work on the house’s restoration, Dick knew all of the house’s hidden secrets like reveals of the home’s original wood. Every aspect of the house has been expanded to a larger-than-life scale to make the mansion feel more expensive and grand. Windows and doors were kept within the same scale as each other, making it’s large size seem normal without a scale figure.

Ophelia’s Home Site

The roofing team replaced the temporary truss supports with permanent ones which finished all preparations for the purlins. Purlins rest horizontally across the trusses, running northeast to southwest. A purlin was placed every two feet, stating at the tail end of the truss and ending 4″ from the truss’s peak by the roof and enclosures teams. The 4″ gap will allow for ventilation in the attic once roof metal has been drilled to the purlins. The framing team finished the front porch of the house. A small hole was left open to allow for storage under the porch, or allow for retrieval of fallen objects. A wooden “cap” was made to rest in and fill the hole. We are so excited for the front porch, seeing as Ophelia and her family like to spend a lot of time outside. The site cats were also very excited about the porch which has become there new favorite spot to sunbathe.

Raising the Roof at Ophelia’s

Shop and History

Between portraits of Russian monarchs, a stroll through a Greek themed yard, and getting to feed some chickens, Oak Hill is definitely the most unique house tour the students have had the honor of partaking in. Before COVID, the owner had thrown a Russian monarch themed party and chose to keep some decorations. One room is filled with colorful furniture, beautiful glass vases, and extravagant curtains. In another room portraits of Russian monarchs hang by string like they would have been in the 1800s.

Outside, classical Greek-styled statues stand side by side with modern takes on the statues. Some pieces are left to be “dissolved” back into nature. After the tour, the students drew an elevation of the main house and of the cabin, which we believe turned out pretty great.

Shop class has been filled with exciting new ideas and crazy curves. Steam bending, while frustrating at times, has opened a whole new world of woodworking to the students. It will be exciting to see how our curvy wood works will turn out!

Ophelia’s Home Site

To finish truss prep-work, large bolts were put through the beam to fully brace it, and the columns were given another layer of bracing. All the prep work payed off because the trusses went up fairly easily. Steve Long came out to site with the Bobcat, the studio’s skid steer loader, to provide some much appreciated help. Steve long used the Bobcat to first lift a truss, guided by 3rd-year Ethan, above the walls. Then a team of 3rd years with Professors Emily McGlohn and Chelsea Elcott directed the trusses into place and adjusted them until plumb. Temporary bracing was put on the trusses as everyone held them in place.

Once all the trusses were on the walls, and they were put in the correct spots, permanent bracing started going up. Next week, the rest of the permanent bracing will be placed by the roof and enclosure teams while the framing team starts work on the front porch! We are so excited to have the roof raised and to be finally building Ophelia’s front porch!