rural studio

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.

Spring Week 13

Touring a home in Mississippi

On Monday we had an all day field trip to Columbus, MS. The first home, Riverview, is a Greek revival home built in 1847 with an impressive cupola that has stained glass to match where the light comes in during the different seasons, such as red, blue, green, and purple.  The floor plan, typical to Greek Revivals, is symmetrical.  

Some of the homes in Columbus were open for pilgrimage and were reenacting the original owners and how they lived.  We walked through the home and got a double dose of history and architectural information.  Temple Heights (the 2nd house we toured) was built in 1837, and combined Federal and Greek Revival features.  It has a wonderful garden and porch area, contrary to most Greek Revivals the home is slightly asymmetrical.

Waverly (the 3rd home) was completed in 1852 as a Greek Revival structure.  It is most unique for its enormous octagonal cupola, which everything in the home is oriented.  The plantation was originally a self-sustaining community with gardens, livestock, and orchards.  It even had its own mill.

Putting in insulation
View from above putting in insulation
View from below putting in insulation

We finished putting panels up on the back wall and then moved onto the north facade.

Our final chairs were due on Friday so as soon as we got off site and ate, we hit the shop.  Everyone was hard at work, cutting, sanding, steam-bending, and etc.  

Putting in plumbing line

The MEP team went on a hunt to find the existing plumbing line. They then got down and dirty in the mud and dug trench to attach the newly installed plumbing.  

The sheet rock finally finished, was sanded and wiped down. We began to prime and paint the walls.

Adding walls
Running the bulldozer

We finalized our porch design by going through a few more mockups.  We decided to add stairs to the south facade and a ramp that cuts into the porch.  We also discussed some landscape options and ways to integrate the spaces between Ree’s home and her sister’s neighboring home.  

Spring Week 11

This week we visited Marion, Al to see Kenworthy Hall also known as Carlisle Hall.  It was built around 1860 and is one of the most well preserved asymmetrical Italian Villa style homes by Robert Upjohn.  It is the only surviving Italian Villa by Robert Upjohn that was designed for the southern climate and culture.  The house has a massive brick structure and a tower that is four stories high.  We first walked around the exterior of the home in order to get a sense of the plan and then proceeded to walk through the interior.  Our professor had us sketch the floor plan of this large home’s asymmetrical plan.

The dry wall got dropped off and set up for installation. 

Putting up the walls of Ree's Home

The MEP team finished all the wiring and plumbing lines so the rest of the insulation could go in the walls and the sheetrocking could ensue.  

Putting up the walls
Placing cinderblocks
Working on the walls

The siding team began putting flashing around the edges of the home.  Flashing is a barrier that keeps water from going places it does not belong.  It is put on the bottom edge near the foundation, on the corners, around doors, and along the underside of the roof where the truss meets the top of the  wall. They also worked on putting up the rigid insulation, the barrier that goes on the house after the housewrap and before the metal siding.  It typically sits on the drip edge or the flashing at the bottom of the wall. To test how all the layers of the wall would go on together we mocked up a corner of a wall.