Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation

Bit by bit, day by day

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.

Clad

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!

Cut

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.

Secured

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.

Powered

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!

Cladding, Concrete, Continuing

The Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Team’s days of pouring concrete and manning the man lift are over. All of the internal thermal mass concrete panels have been poured, cured, and installed in the Concrete Test Building. Another milestone hit is the completion of the exterior cladding (minus the Cooling Porch ceiling). The team waved goodbye to both the articulating man lift, generously donated to the project by Sunbelt Rentals, and to team member Livia. She journeyed to Austin, TX, to work for Rural Studio Alum Lucy Begg and Robert Gay at their firm, Thoughtbarn. Good luck Liv!

Let’s check out the progress!

Cladding Completion

The team met their goal of finishing all cladding which required the articulating man lift by the end of October. The bleach-stained cypress covers all exterior surfaces including the Chimneys. The team left one side of the cladding longer than necessary. Then they came back with a skill saw and a guide to give one clean cut. This ensured that all corner reveals were exactly 1/2 inch wide.

Interior Optimized

Over 70 1-1/8 inch concrete panels now line the walls of the Concrete Test Building. The team crafted formwork and processes for pouring, transporting, and installing each panel. Behind the panels is 1/2 inch rigid insulation which creates a thermal break from the OSB sheathing during the testing phase. For roughly the next year, the Test Buildings will be unoccupied as temperature and ventilation measurements are continuously recorded. Afterward, the Test Buildings will be prepared for either more experiments or occupation by 3rd-year students living on Morrisette Campus. Check out the nearly complete Concrete Test Building below! Only some buffing and shining to go!

Bonus!

Also in the works as of late is a vent cap for the bottom chimney opening within the Test Buildings. This cap seals the lower ventilation opening shut during winter occupation. Seen below is Rowe welding a frame for the hatch!

Don’t miss Jeff and Rowe’s wonderful Halloween Review costumes. Jeff as his prized Milwaulkee leaf blower and Rowe, a leaf, one of many victims. Keep checking back in as the Test Buildings near completion!

It’s a Cover-Up: Cladding the Interior and Exterior

History professor Dick Hudgen’s TMBV Test Buildings Sketch!

Right now the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation team is all about concrete and cypress. They’ve been busy creating and installing the shiplap jointed, 1-1/8″ thick concrete internal thermal mass panels. These panels line the walls of one of the Test Buildings and create the designed cooling and ventilation effects. With Jeff at the helm of formwork building, they’ve completed three out of four panel pouring phases. The panel-making process is separated into phases, so most of the formwork can be used more than once, eliminating waste. Formwork, or molds, are fabricated with precision in the woodshop. The team installed phase 1 before Cory began his journey to Nova Scotia to participate in a residency with McKay-Lions Sweetapple Architects Ltd. Congratulations Cory, we miss you already!

Also on the agenda as of late; exterior finishes! With weather-proofing complete, the team has taken to installing the cladding part of the ventilated cladding system. This system is completed with 8″ and 6″ cypress boards which are protected with Cabot® Bleaching Stain. The stain also helps the wood age consistently in the sun. With Livia cutting and Jeff and Rowe installing, the cypress siding is flying up!

Unseen are the myriad of other little things the team is finishing up such as electrical and grading. The team is keeping the momentum up so stay tuned to see the buildings fully wrapped!

Panel Production

Panel pouring process: Mix concrete, fill form, transfer to vibrating table, trowel, and finish!

Cypress Siding

“Neckdown” Week with TMBV

Live from Fall 2021 “Neckdown” Week, it’s the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project Team (TMBV)–and helpers! This week, the team accomplished a variety of tasks with the help of the 5th and 3rd-year students.

First on the agenda, the team completed the Cooling Porch ground surfaces. This included packing crushed ground surface concrete pieces and building the stairs. The Cooling Porch stairs were comprised of stacked concrete pieces cut from the foundation pour excess. David Hill, professor in Auburn’s School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Planning, got in on the concrete saw action! Continuing on the stair action, the team also installed the steel stringer and handrails for the Test Building entry. After pouring a concrete footing for the steel stair, Rowe came back and welded on all the treads.

With all the groundwork in the Cooling Porch finally complete and three sets of stairs built, the TMBV team is calling this “Neckdown” Week a huge success. Thank you to all our helpers this week! Next up, thermal mass concrete panels–stay tuned!

Sneak peek of the Test Buildings at the end of “Neckdown” Week.

Gravel Infill

East Entry Stair

South Entry Stair

Steel Stair

Weather Proof and a Roof

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.

Tar Paper and Battens

Roof Battens and Flashing

Roofing Metal

Both roofs complete!

Door Frame