ruralstudio

Beginning the Enclosure

Rendering of Reverend Walkers Home from the Street
Rev Walkers Home

My my, dear reader, it has been some time hasn’t it? Welcome to my latest journal recounting the design and progress of Reverend Walker’s Home. I can assure you the silence has not been due to any lack of activity, rather the opposite. Upon completion of the large pavilion structure, my crew has moved underneath to begin constructing the enclosed volumes that inhabit the space between slab and roof. You can be sure that they are grateful for the sheltered workspace that defends them from rain and sun. They have no excuse to not be working. Myself, I have found it a most suitable location for napping. There’s much to catch you up on, dear reader, so let’s begin with a recap of the design of the Reverend’s Home.

The Home

Batter board plan

Reverend Walker’s Home is a response to the rural phenomena of home addition, which you can read about in an earlier journal. It aims to provide a forgiving space on a strong foundation to facilitate successful addition. The home is a kit of three parts: a slab, a roof, and two enclosed volumes. One volume is the main living block with all necessary program. The smaller volume is a partially unfinished space furnished with utility stub-outs.

The intentionally disparate items are intended to imply a process of addition… first the slab, second the roof, third the enclosure, and so on and so forth. Although the home encourages clients to design and extend the enclosure according to their lifestyle, it is completely livable as-built. Crew member Paul likens the Reverend’s Home to a “hook to hang one’s hat on”. Ultimately, it is built as a minimal enclosure with a luxury of porch space. The porch could exist as outdoor living, or be infilled.

As of now, the roof and slab are done. The only piece of the kit left is the enclosure.

what’s next?

Slab Seal

As a part of our vapor barrier system, we used a DOT approved slab seal to ensure that moisture can neither seep into the slab or move up through it into the home. Before sealing, the slab was pressure washed and left to dry for 48 hours. This stuff is very hydrophobic and water now squeegees right off.

Addie – Ghostbuster

Mock-up

Before diving into framing the units underneath the roof, we needed to ensure that our details were going to work. We do this by building 1:1 mockups. In ours, we tested framing and flashing details, as well as a full-scale mockup of our custom window design. You might recall that our team has designed a window system made of a fixed glass pane and an operable ventilation hatch. By doing the mock-up we were able to refine details and systems which will make a better final product.

Floor

Satisfied with our details, we’ve moved on. To make things easier in the future, we decided to go ahead and attach our treated sill-plates to the slab and build the sub-floor. We used powder-actuated and pneumatic tools for the plates. The sub-floor is r-7.5 rigid insulation between sleepers with plywood on top. Following the installation of the floor, we were ready to frame.

sub-floor tetris
clean floor

Framing

Becca – stud cutter
make some walls
framing double wall
lifting double wall
rafters
framed

There you have it, dear reader, the current state of Reverend Walker’s Home. It’s certainly beginning to take shape. With my thoughtful leadership, I have brought us to this point and will continue to ask my crew to go above and beyond. I am confident they will not disappoint me. My next order will be for them to put up sheathing and wrap the house, after which I will banish them to the woodshop to build all the windows and doors. Alas, I could go on forever, dear reader, if only it wasn’t my nap hour. For now, I must retire to the captain’s table and rest my weary paws.

Fondly,

Taterhead

Further Assembling a Rather Large Roof

Make way, dear reader! My crew is steaming ahead at an alacritous boil and would take several miles to stop given their momentum. Where I last left, I detailed the process of erecting the columns and trusses that support Reverend Walker’s Home’s grand pavilion roof. In this entry, you will see the roofing process through to the end. With truth, dear reader, the hot and muggy days have affected me. Most of my time is now occupied with napping. However, my crew, motivated by the promise of a permanent shade structure, carry on without my constant oversight. I trust them to be the thoughtful and disciplined design-builders that I know they are. Let me begin to describe our progress.

After securing the six steel trusses that hold the roof up, the next step was to bridge them with 2″ x 6″ purlins. Purlins provide a surface to screw sheets of roof metal onto. In our case, the purlins are painted white to help brighten the porch areas under the roof. The process involved trimming the 2″ x 6″ material, passing them up to two team members on the scaffolding above, placing and securing them into the manufactured purlin clips that came on the trusses, and bracing them to be 2′ on center. We repeated this process for each bay.

trim purlin
secure purlin in purlin clip
touch up paint above a sea of braces
brace purlins 2′ on center
purlins

When we finished up the purlins we were ready to put our galvalume r-panel on. On steep roofs, we generally predrill holes on the ground for easy screwing. An issue we quickly discovered with this method is that purlins are normally flat, providing a large surface to drill into and greater tolerance. Our purlins are vertical, meaning much less tolerance. Given that wood is rarely straight, we would have to continuously measure to ensure the holes were drilled in the right spots.

measure purlin centers
predrill
pass it up
push screws

After getting the sheet metal up, the final step was the ridge cap. For this step you will need some ridge cap and a Paul. We used a system of ratchet straps to get the lengths of metal up to him.

pass ridge up
fasten
enjoy a (mostly) complete roof

As you might have gathered, dear reader, the trust that I have placed in my crew is well-founded. I have done my duty as Captain, and through strict leadership have made them into good sailors. It appears that I may allow my management style to relax in the future, given the frequency of scratches does not suffer any loss. I have little worry of it, dear reader, for they both love and fear me. Ah, it appears scratch-time is immanent. I must cease my musings for a time, but rest assured I will be back with more updates on Reverend Walker’s Home in the near future.

Crew member, Becca, giving me scratches

Yours with esteem,

Taterhead

That’s a Wrap

Our spring 2021 3rd-year students finished off their time at Rural Studio with a bang! The last couple of months in Hale flew on by, taking nine students away with them.

History Class

As the semester wrapped up, so did the seminar with their professor, Dick Hudgens. Students toured a few more pre-civil-war homes and Dick held final reviews for the students’ work. Out on the Spencer House front porch, each member of the class presented three months’ worth of sketches from house tours, watercolor work, and historic housing “Design Problems.” Thanks to Ian Crawford for attending the review and providing his wise-as-ever advice and expertise!

Shop Class

Students worked diligently until the very last hour, oiling and installing cabinets. Plywood cabinets finished with tung oil and paste wax were designed and built this semester for the following spaces in Ophelia’s new home: the kitchen, nook, utility room, bathroom, and bedroom. That’s a lot of cabinets! Nineteen, to be exact.

Cabinets are nearly ready for use!

Yes, they also built a house!

During the past few months, a lot happened at Ophelia’s Home. The remaining pieces of ZIP System sheathing were nailed into place by the Enclosures Team; Ashley, Juyeon, and Logan. Then windows, doors, and joints were meticulously taped.

After Ophelia chose a siding color—burgundy—the team got to work installing the corrugated metal cladding. By the end of the semester, these three students of the Enclosures Team were mastered cutting and installing metal panels.

a group of people gather to watch a woman present some color options
Pick a color, any color.

Remember those funky exterior design charrettes? The ones considering tricks-of-the-eye and optical illusions? Well, those design discussions came to fruition during siding installation. The metal corrugation runs in two directions, which helps enhance a new proportion on the front faces while disrupting the front corner of the house.

a view of a burgundy house in a big yard with a green-colored house in the background
Where does the porch wall terminate? You may never know.

The MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) Team—James, Kirby, and Wendy—spent their days putting together the many parts and pieces that give a house running water and power. These three students installed the entire MEP system for Ophelia’s Home from scratch! Because there’s so much that goes into these systems, they spent a whole lot of time driving to Lowe’s and back… and to Lowe’s and back again.

two students load a cart with pvc pipe in a hardware store
Gotta have plenty of pipe

While MEP and Enclosures Teams were working away, the Interiors/Rough Framing Team–Austin, Drew Haley, and Sadie–was steadily constructing the back stoop and front entrance to the house. They also put the finishing touches on the inside of the house. First, they tackled the back stoop: digging holes for three posts, constructing a platform, decking the platform, and building the stairs.

a set of wooden stairs lead to the door of a partially-clad house
Dang, that’s a nice lookin’ stoop.

The team then moved inside and recruited help from members of the MEP Team to paint the walls and ceiling and install laminate flooring.

a woman kneels over flooring boards while she hammers the pieces together
Tap, tap, tap

For Ophelia’s front entrance, this team built the formwork for and poured the concrete ramp! Many thanks are due to Andrew and Steve for helping with the ramp’s design and construction.

Ophelia’s Home: All Ramped Up

Pig Roast

The semester concluded with an “in-house” celebration of the Studio and the incredible body of work accomplished this year. We’ll miss these students dearly, and hope they return to Hale again soon (5th-year, perhaps?). Once a part of Rural Studio, always a part of Rural Studio.

Bye for now!

Pig Roast 2021

Rural Studio recently capped off the academic year with a “family style” Pig Roast. The celebration focused on the amazing work accomplished, live and in-person, during a successful, yet challenging, year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time since March 2020, the entire studio was gathered together. With only students, faculty, current project community partners, and a few invited guests in attendance, we missed our other families: parents, alumni, collaborators, and neighbors who continue to support us in West Alabama. Invited guests included our friends Roy Decker of Duvall Decker and John Forney, architect and former Auburn and Rural Studio professor. The day included a tour of on-going projects, a lot of good food, a presentation from Roy Decker, and a bonfire.

a group of about 20 students gather together on wooden steps
The 3rd-year, 5th-year, graduate, and “left-over” students

Celebratory Breakfast at Horseshoe Courtyard

The day began with a celebratory breakfast at the Horseshoe Courtyard. Everyone admired the blooming screens and impeccably crafted steel while enjoying baked goods from the new local Egyptian bakery Abadir’s. The beautiful brick pad was the perfect place to toast students, Caleb R. Munson and Claudia Paz Melendez, alongside our community partner Dr. John Dorsey and the Project Horseshoe Farm fellows. The clients and the Studio both couldn’t be prouder of these two and their determination.

Ribbon cutting at Ophelia’s Home

Next up, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 20K Ophelia’s Home! Four semesters of 3rd-year students, along with professor Emily McGlohn and instructor Chelsea Elcott, designed and built this lovely iteration of Joanne’s Home. Ophelia, her family, and the 2021 Spring Semester 3rd-Years cut the ribbon and let everyone inside to admire the new home. The students also gave a brief presentation on the cabinetry they designed and fabricated with Chelsea and professor Steve Long in the Rural Studio Wood Shop class.

Back to Morrisette for Lunch and TMBV

Back at Morrisette House, Chef Catherine and Doris served up a wonderful BBQ lunch. It was the first meal the Studio shared all-together since March 2020. Next on the schedule was a presentation from the Thermal Mass & Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project team.

The graduate students gave a brief description of their experiments, results, and how these informed the Test Building design at their site behind Morrisette House. They also showed off their newly installed structural steel columns and bracing. After a conversation on the possibilities of implementing internal thermal mass as passive ventilation and temperature control, everyone strolled over to the Fabrication Pavilion. Here, the team presented two of their mock-ups: one detailing the ventilated roofing and cladding system and one showing the shiplap joinery of the concrete panels. Congrats master’s students!

Off to Rev. Walker’s and Myers’ Homes

Next, the 5th-year teams had a turn to shine! First up, seen below, the Studio stopped at Rev. Walker’s Home. The expansive, newly completed slab the team presented upon will soon be the location of the pole barn home. This design focuses on the luxury of covered outdoor space. Two efficient living volumes rest under the large roof, which goes up in just a couple of weeks, allowing for dry, shaded construction! Client Rev. Walker joined in on the post-presentation debate, which was was a treat.

Last up on this long, fun, and hot day was the Myers’ Home presentation. The two-story, three-team member project focuses on interior expansion by creating a well-sealed envelope. The students will complete their portion of the build with two bedrooms and a large living kitchen space. There are opportunities for the client to expand the home in the attic and living areas. The attic can be converted into two additional rooms and another room can be added by enclosing part of the living space. During the presentation, the team changed out corrugated metals on their mock-up in real-time and took a vote from the crowd to decide which cladding color to choose. Both 5th-year teams have made tremendous progress on their innovative home designs and we can’t wait to see even more this summer.

Some fried catfish, books, a lecture, and S’mores

We returned to Morrisette House for a delicious catfish dinner prepared on site by our neighbors from the Newbern Mercantile. Afterwards, Director Andrew Freear presented the graduates with books picked out for each student from a list of favorites from the late Samuel Mockbee, one of Rural Studio’s co-founders. It was wonderful to see this tradition live on this year! Afterward, architect Roy Duvall of Duvall Decker from Jackson, Mississippi, gave a wonderful lecture presenting the work of his and partner Anne Marie Decker’s inspiring firm. The day finally capped off with a roaring fire and plenty of marshmallows. Not too bad for a Tuesday night!

It was amazing to see all the work completed at the Studio during this unusual and trying year. It was even better to get to be together and pat each other on the back. War Eagle!

a group of people stand in front of a large bonfire

An Earnest Account of Plumbing & Piping

Hark, dear reader, and hear my tale! In my previous journal, I happily announced the arrival of Spring in Hale County. Indeed, the change in temperature was welcome by friend and feline alike. However, I must admit that the boons of Mother Spring cannot be divorced from her burdens. The tempests of March are frequent, strong, and heavy as to turn stable earth into a muck so thick it will suck the sole off one’s boot. My crew has been battling these conditions in a campaign to prepare our site for an approaching concrete pour. Several tasks must be completed before the slab is laid down, the first being to install plumbing & piping. With a slab-on-grade foundation, all of the infrastructure must be installed prior to pouring concrete, this includes the electrical and water mains, as well as waste drains. Our process for this is as follows:

Student hammers in stake
set batter-boards & strings
students dig plumbing trench
dig and grade trenches
prime and glue
student checking slope of a pipe
check your work
completed plumbing on site
revel in a job well done

Although most of the digging was done by hand, we were able to make use of the trencher during a few particularly dry days. The width and depth of the trench that the machine makes is perfect for laying water and electric mains because it can easily dig beneath the frost line in the area. We are grateful when the weather is nice enough to start the trencher up.

student operates trencher
trenching for water main
student laying pex
laying water main

You might be wondering why there is so much plumbing! Reverend Walker’s Home features a main living volume with a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and loft. In addition to the main enclosure is a separate room that we have dubbed the “bonus room”. The bonus room is a partially unfinished space that is supplied with plumbing and electrical stub-outs to allow for many possible uses, whether for storage, a home office, a studio, or even another bathroom. The initial investment into infrastructure will enable a homeowner to quickly and easily expand their home.

diagram of bonus room
supplying the bonus room with utilities gives it many possible futures

You will be happy to hear, dear reader, that this step in the process is complete. My next order will be for my crew to set formwork for the slab and column footings! Despite the sky’s grim countenance, spring brings longer days and fresh growth, and morale remains high! The wind is at our backs and I will continue to push this team steadily towards greatness! Alas, dear reader, the magnolia leaves are dripping water onto my head, and I must retire to my chambers for chance I catch a cold.

With affection

Taterhead

The site cat Taterhead
Your orator, Taterhead