rs5thyears

Let's do some tests!

Hello from Reggie’s Home! In an effort to create a design that fully responds to the conditions of the site we decided to conduct some soil test to determine where the best places to grow Reggie’s desired fruits and vegetables would be. In order to conduct the test we divided our site into three parts: the front of the site, the part where the old family home stood, and the back of the site where Reggie has been cutting down privet. We collected soil from these areas and sent them to Auburn University’s soil testing laboratory to be tested. 

Box used to mail soil samples.

We have also been researching the plants Reggie wishes to grow to figure out what type of sun and soil they need, as well as what seasons the crops would be harvested. This research and the soil test results led us to determine the best place for Reggie to have a garden would be the north side of the site. With this information we were able to get a more accurate master plan of the site. 

Plant research.

In addition to researching plants available to grow on our site we also continued our research with Earth Tubes, a form of passive heating and cooling. Earth Tubes are essentially buried ventilation ducts that heat or cool the air moving through them because of the constant temperature of the soil. A big question that comes with Earth Tubes is whether or not it will work in our climate due to the humidity. Lucky for us, the Rural Studio Farm Storehouse uses earth tubes in an effort to keep produce at a constant temperature. We have been monitoring the temperature and humidity outside the storehouse and outtake of the Earth Tube to see how effective it is. After a month of recording temperature we discovered a change of temperature from 6-10 degrees. With this information we contacted Adam Pyrek, an Environmental Controls professor from the University of Texas at Austin, to consult whether Earth tubes would be feasible as part of our home design. He encouraged us to continue the research on the temperature and humidity of the storehouse and to keep in mind that Earth Tubes are ideal for keeping a small space at a constant temperature.

Diagram showing how the spaces would be divided using Earth Tubes.

With all this information we will be pushing the design of the home as well as the site as a whole forward!

Until next week,

Reggie’s Home

Panel Making

This week the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Team got to use the largest skill saw they’ve ever seen and we’ll tell you why!

In the technical workshop Sal last week, the team decided to narrow the number of materials they will test throughout the experimental cycle from four to two. The lucky two will be concrete and softwood! Concrete is often used as a thermal mass material while softwood is not which will make comparing the data collected from the separate experiments all the more interesting. The Optimal Tuning Theory calls for the thermal mass to be externally insulated which allows the thermal mass material to be much thinner than a typical thermal mass. Therefore, the concrete and wood need to be panelized.

The thermal properties of wood act most efficiently as a thermal mass when the cross grain is exposed to the air. This means that panelizing the softwood is more like creating giant cutting boards. To practice this process the team used 8″ x 8″ Cypress timbers and their matching 16″ diameter skill saw leftover from the Newbern Town Hall project. The team learned that 6″ x 6″ timbers would be ideal for their project, that way they can cut the cross-grain pieces in one cut with their 16″ skill saw without having to rip down the timber.

The concrete panels are far more straightforward, build a mold, pour the concrete, let it cure. However, the team has to think about how the panels would be attached to a larger structure. To solve this they cast PVC into the panel which will allow it to be screwed into a structure.

Voila! We have much refining to do of the panel making process, but the first two turned out well. We also have here a rendering of the habitable structural with the separate concrete and wood panel rooms. Our next step is to apply what we learned working with these materials to designing and building our first experiment. Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Team out.

Permaculture 101

After our presentation at Soup Roast we decided to take a step back from the house design and consider permaculture in order to get a better understanding of the conditions of the site. Permaculture can be be defined as meeting human needs through ecological and regenerative design.

Soup Roast Presentation

In order to gain a further understanding on what permaculture is and how we can incorporate it into our design we had a rapid flash intro to permaculture taught by our very own Eric Ball. Eric is Rural Studio’s farm manager since 2012 and he holds a Permaculture Design Certificate from Oregon State University, in addition to his BS in Biology and Philosophy from the University of Oregon. In a series of two hour long classes we learned that permaculture is a design strategy that allows one to integrate systems within the design. This gave us the stepping stones to better analyze our site and how all the systems will work together as well as a way to present them to others who don’t know the site as well as we do.

Ashley reading “Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your community, and the Whole Earth” by Jessi Bloom & Dave Boehnlein

Through this process we developed three site analysis maps: a sector analysis map that documents how energies move through the site (such as noise), a water flow and topography map that shows how water moves through the site, and a microclimate analysis map that clearly documents the areas on our site that different in climate, soil type, and ground conditions. Microclimates can be affected by an area’s aspect, solar orientation, airflow, and vegetation.

Our next steps are to take the information we learned and create a master plan of our site. This will allow us to lay out good patterns for the landscape before we get down to the details.

Zak starting our master plan design

In addition to the permaculture class we built Reggie a composting outhouse before we left Newbern for winter break. We have been researching composting toilets as a part of our design, and this will be a great test run to see if Reggie is comfortable with it. In this dry system, all Reggie has to do is use the bathroom and add sawdust to start the composting process. Composting is not only great in the sense that it will minimize water usage but it also doesn’t smell bad (against popular opinion!) and the humanure can be mixed in with regular compost to be used in a garden. 

Diagram from “The Humanure Handbook” by Joseph Jenkins

In order to build the outhouse we re-used a closet mock up from Horseshoe Farm Homes Project as the structure. Once we made adjustments to the closet we collected sawdust from the Breathing Wall Mass Timber Research Project team and put it in a barrel for Reggie to have on site.

Composting toilet behind Reggie’s temporary home

Our next step is to continue research with the soil in our site to determine what areas are better for growing different plants. We also plan to gather data on the temperature and humidity of the earth tube system on the storage house on Morrisette Campus to verify if it would be an effective passive strategy for our design. 

Until next time!

Reggie’s Home

The Experimental Cycle

The team with the longest name possible is back this week diving deep into the science behind the Optimal Tuning Theory with its author, engineer, Sal Craig. Sal, along with his colleague, architect Kiel Moe at Mcgill University in Montreal, Canada, are our partners in the Thermal Mass and Buoyancy Ventilation Research Project. The team has weekly meetings via Skype with Sal and Kiel to discuss the project, but this week they had an in-depth technical workshop.

Behind our simple understanding of the Optimal Tuning Theory, there are very intricate scientific equations that Sal has written, solved, and published in his peer-reviewed paper, The optimal tuning, within carbon limits, of thermal mass in naturally ventilated buildings. Although the student team does not need to obtain an engineering degree to work on the project, it is important they grasp the basics so the project is truly a collaboration. They need to be able to have a conversation with Sal about the possibilities of the project instead of asking his permission. 

The team studied up for their technical session with Sal


Thankfully, Sal is a wonderful teacher and the students were able to reach a deeper understanding of the theory with him during their day-long technical workshop. Afterward, they were able to make a couple of important decisions about the project together one of which was defining the undergraduate phase of the project as an experimental cycle.

The experimental cycle will be comprised of testing the Optimal Tuning Theory at three different scales they are calling Desktop, Human, and Habitable. These scales are important because the theory is meant to be proportional. The Desktop experiment will resemble a small chimney made of thermal mass material, the Human scale experiment a full-sized thermal mass wall, and the Habitable experiment will be a full structure i.e. the pod where the interior walls will be entirely thermal mass. 

Livia with her beloved schedule

Defining the experimental cycle has allowed the team to start scheduling and setting deadlines, something Livia has been dying to do. Completing this cycle in the undergraduate phase of the project will allow freedom for the graduate phase. Thanks for tuning in!

Let’s Start Designing!

Hello from Reggie’s Home team! These past few weeks we have been busy continuing our site analysis while beginning some design iterations. With the help of reviewers: Andrew Berman, Julie Eizenberg, and Hank Koning we have been pushing forward with our design!

Bar Scheme
Divided Volumes Scheme

After Reggie-fying our case studies we landed upon two schemes, a bar and divided volumes. Each scheme aimed to build the minimal space needed to live in order to be able to maximize the space outside of the home. We also looked at blurring the line between the boundaries of the home. After talking to Andrew Berman, we realized that the bar scheme made the most sense because we would be building less than the divided volumes scheme. The bar scheme would also allow the complexity of the home to come from the way Reggie lives in it and not the architecture. Once we established we would move forward with the bar scheme we sat down and determined exactly what the bar needed to accomplish for Reggie to live the way he wants.

After we created guidelines for what the bar scheme needed to accomplish, we had a couple design charrettes and presented them to Julie Eizenberg and Hank Koning.

Bar Scheme Charrette

The conversation with Julie and Hank allowed us to understand that the building is only one part of our design. We also have to consider how the home will interact with the site. In a way, the SITE is the HOME.

In addition to working in studio on our design charrettes, we have also finished clearing out our site and have begun to conduct a site survey.

Thats all we have for now! Stay tuned for Soup Roast festivities.

Reggie’s Home team!