Survey Says

After a restful winter break, the C.H.O.I.C.E. House team—in charge of designing and building an emergency shelter for a nonprofit organization—is back and ready to work! To kick off the new semester, we took a trip to Uniontown, AL, to survey and document everything on our site. This information will help us to create more accurate drawings and make better informed decisions about how the units will relate to the site and its surrounding context.

hailey holding story pole on site

Once the site was surveyed, we had the chance to begin exploring how the prefabricated machine modules will be delivered and placed on site. We explored different foundation types, methods of transportation—such as dragging vs. craning the modules—and extents of site preparation. To help us with this process, guest reviewer John Forney of John Forney Architecture & Planning in Birmingham, AL, paid us a visit. His expertise in turning projects inside out forced us to reflect on our previous decisions, redefine what modulation means for this project, and broaden our views on what methods of transportation are available. 

meeting with reviewer

Currently, our plan is to prefabricate two core modules that will contain the bathing and cooking spaces—aka “The Machine”—underneath the fabrication pavilion, load them onto a truck. The truck will drive them to the site, back into a pre-existing pier foundation, and lower the modules to the foundation (this final step is still a little fuzzy, but we’re getting there).  

Now, we are working on detailing this process out and are starting to think about how we’re going to build the stick frame unit on site, but you’ll have to wait until next time for that! 

Until then: 

The survey has spoken to the conditions of the site, 

Of which the results inspired a way to transport the modules upright. 

Now, how will they provide structure and bring light into the cubes? 

In the future I’m seeing… it may be trusses and solar tubes! 

The Plugin House

Wondering why there is a little house sitting under the fabrication pavilion at Morrisette House?

It all goes back to the Loeb Fellowship two years ago when our fearless leader, Andrew Freear, met another Loeb fellow, James Shen, from People’s Architecture Office (PAO). James and his team at PAO have developed the Plugin House, “an easily assembled house made from prefabricated parts. It is a design proposition–suggesting new building technology that considers financial, social, and environmental concerns.” Learn more about the Plugin House here.

So why is the Plugin House is in Newbern, AL? The idea is for PAO to join Rural Studio in exploring ways of reducing housing cost through design innovation. During “neckdown” week, Rural Studio students assembled the Plugin House in only five hours! Now living at Morrisette House, it’s a working prototype that allows PAO to experiment with prefabricated technologies and high speed manual construction. This first exercise is meant to be the beginning of a continuing conversation that will include the dismantling of the Plugin House to be reassembled as an improved version in a different location at the Studio early next year. Before moving to Newbern, this Plugin House was built as a demonstration unit at Harvard University and at Boston City Hall.

Thanks to James and his crew at PAO for this opportunity to learn and work together!

Check out more images of the construction and learn about the project here.