mass timber

A Solid Foundation

A major milestone in the construction process was reached today for the Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project team! The foundations upon which the pods will soon sit are now in place. 

After deciding on the building’s final position on the site and setting up strings, we had an excavator rough out the holes for the footings. This saved us hours of digging and years of back pain. The concrete pour was split into two phases: the first for the footings and the second for the “curbs” that sit on top of the footings and that the pods will sit on. The footing pour didn’t require any form work and we were able to pour directly into the holes once we had placed the rebar. 

The biggest challenge of this process was building and placing the formwork for the curbs. After taking site measurements, we fabricated the forms under the fabrication pavilion. This process required us to make very accurate cuts and ensure that everything we built was completely square. Once we placed the forms on site however, we came to the realization that the height we had spec’d for the curb felt too high. After quickly mocking up different options for the height, we decided to lower the concrete curbs 8 inches. So we had to take the forms back to the fabrication pavilion, take them apart, and do it all over again. Fortunately, it went much faster the second time- the beauty of the design-build process.

Leveling and shoring up the forms was also quite a process. Since our forms were so tall, the strength of the forms was critically important. We ended up with some pretty bulletproof forms that could handle the worst we could throw at them. 

So, concrete! Passing this milestone in our project means we are one big step closer to having a full scale test of the Breathing Wall and gives us the momentum we need to push the project forward! 

Coming soon: some floors for these foundations! (also the rest of the building, but the floors first).

Really pouring our hearts into this project,

The Master Builders

Soundtrack: Iron | yahyel

Water Bath Workshop

The student becomes the teacher. Last week, as part of the workshop series for the new 5th-year class, the current Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project team ran a workshop on water bath modeling. Water bath modeling is a way to visualize the flow of heat in a building using fluids of different densities to represent warmer and cooler air. In this case, the team used regular water and salt water with ink. The salt makes the water denser and therefore it sinks, which allows them to simulate warm air. Now, of course, warm air actually rises, so the entire model is tested upside down. The ink makes the heavier salt water visible as it flows through the model, allowing them to see how the heat flows through the space.

Water bath visualization of heat flow through Red Barn

This workshop was built upon the workshop the team did last year with Salmaan Craig, Kiel Moe, and David Kennedy. This year it served as a primer to the workshop that Sal, Kiel, and David ran on the concept of thermal mass and the science behind it, which forms the basis of one of the projects a new 5th-year team will be undertaking. The water bath modeling served not only as an introduction to a new way of thinking about buildings, but also provides the students with a new analytical tool to use in their future work.

Stay tuned for the return of the white lab coats.

For science,

The Buoyant Breathers

Soundtrack: Muddy Waters | LP