natural ventilation

Laying the Groundwork

The concrete curbs are cured, the formwork deconstructed, and the gravel laid. The site went from a muddy mess to a modern art installation in just a few days with the addition of four concrete monoliths and a field of compacted gravel. Next the team plans to install the termite shields, which are currently in the process of being fabricating, and then construct the floors!

In other exciting news, all the wood for the floors is prepped and ready to go! The team planed, ripped, chopped, and drilled 122 pieces of true dimension 2×8 timber. After ascertaining the scale of this endeavor, they decided to call around and see if any local mills could help them out with the planing and ripping process. Howard Custom Lumber is currently processing the wood for the walls and ceilings (over 700 pieces of wood!) to save the team a little bit (actually a lot) of time.

While the floors were being installed and wood being processed for the walls and ceilings, the team did a quick structural test on the mass timber loft. On a rainy Friday afternoon, they constructed the loft and loaded it up to make sure it wouldn’t deflected when supported on the extreme edges. The mock up was a success, and the loft design is moving forward.

Stay tuned for the heroic return of the wood and its eventual transformation into the first ever Breathing Wall Mass Timber pods!

Sore from moving all that lumber,

The Fearless Foresters

Soundtrack: Graveclothes | Birdtalker

Ready to Transform

From costume contests to coding classes, the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project takes on a new form everyday.

In the past weeks, the team has been designing a Pod which is a small dwelling or dorm that 3rd-years use for sleep and storage. The Pod will be used to test the Optimal Tuning Theory. The team presented the Optimal Tuning Theory and their current pod design at the annual Rural Studio Halloween Review. Unfortunately, all of you lovely readers were not able to make the review, so this post will be dedicated to explaining the Optimal Tuning Theory and showing off the teams Halloween Review Costumes.

What is the Optimal Tuning Theory?

First, let’s get a couple of definitions out of the way, what are Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation? Thermal Mass is a property of the mass of a building which enables it to store and release heat. A typical example would be an adobe home or pueblo where the thick, earthen walls absorb the hot, desert sun during the day keeping the interior space cool. Later during the cold, desert night the thick, earthen walls release that heat into the interior thus warming the space. Buoyancy Ventilation, often refereed to as the “stack” or “chimney” effect, utilizes the natural ventilation cycle of hot air rising and cool air falling to supply air to a space without mechanical systems.

The Optimal Tuning Theory theorizes that a space can be comfortably and passively ventilated, heated, and cooled by coupling an internal Thermal Mass with Buoyancy Ventilation. If these systems are synchronized or “optimally tuned” it would allow architects and builders to use the ancient practice of Thermal Mass building in a more predictive manner. The typical issue with Thermal Mass buildings is that the Thermal Mass is never able to release all the heat it absorbed in the day, therefore the cycle does not start over the next day and the passive system does not work efficiently. By keeping the Thermal Mass on the interior, shaded from the sun and insulated, and using Buoyancy Ventilation to draw out access heat or supply heat from the air, the system is able to reset for the next day. The Optimal Tuning Theory is the crux of the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project.

The Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project Team will build a Pod as a scientific instrument to test the Optimal Tuning Theory. A Pod is an appropriate, human scale that they can test the temperature and air flows of easily and can be inhabited by 3rd-years later on.

Now for the real magic, Rural Studio’s own Transformers! Each TMBVRP team member transformed into a classic Rural Studio vehicle. From left to right starred: Livia Barrett as Andrew Freear’s Honda Fit including his front license plate that reads “British Nut;” Rowe Price as the crisp, new Student Truck; Cory Subasic as Hale County Classic Tractor fit with hand wheels; and Jeff Jeong as our beloved Johnny Parker’s beloved BobCat. The team came second in the local costume contest, but Jeff won Best Pumpkin! Thanks for TUNING in, we hope to see you at Soup Roast!

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