Project Timeline, currently underway

The Kallimos Lake House was built in the 1890′s on the east shore of Cayuga Lake, accessed by rail or boat.  It is tucked in the nook of a gorge with a steep hill ascending its north facade and a creek along the south face.  The project requires the addition of a large rear bedroom, bathroom, and mechanical closet on the ground floor  while maintaining the existing rear bedroom on the second floor.  The challenge here is to support a twelve foot cantilevered room while the structure below is dismantled and built anew.  The foundation, which had been sitting in the mud on its uphill side and sagging in all the wrong places, is jacked, leveled, and bolstered with new columns.

The photos below outline the project so far:

West facade of the Kallimos Lake House.  The foundation had been supported by stumps and rotting posts.

The back of the house held mechanical equipment and a bathroom with a bedroom above.  A host of mice and possums also made their homes here.  The ground floor is about to be removed…

LVL beams support the second floor bedroom while the house is jacked and leveled.  14 jacks are used to raise the entire house.

10,000 pound jacks support the house.  40 turns to the inch make for an easy lift, but lots of rotations.  Cribbing piles ensure that the house will never fall more than a 1/16 of an inch.

Concrete columns provide a solid, level found foundation for the tired house.

Beginning to frame the addition in the back.

The walls are ready to go up!

The roof sheathing is on!

The floor is insulated and a plastic vapor barrier is applied to ensure that moisture is kept out of the conditioned living space.  Any condensation will dry to the outside of the house.

Board and batten white pine serves as the exterior finish (right).  The board and batten is spaced with pressure-treated furring strips to ensure a proper rain screen – or a drainage plane for water.

Project Timeline, March 2009 – July 2011

The Midline House is a single-story, energy-efficient home nestled into the landscape of rural upstate, NY.  The house combines passive solar heat gain, soy-based spray foam insulation, and thermal mass for Ithaca’s cold winters with ventilation and large eaves for cooling in the summer.  To supplement these passive strategies, the house is heated by a horizontal geothermal loop and radiant floors.  An Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) provides fresh air and conserves heat.  Locally sourced Hemlock, reclaimed slate, and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood products are used throughout the house.  The house is also being monitored for performance (Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)), by an extensive controls system with over 20 temperature sensors.

The completed house is tracked below with notes and helpful information:

The walls of the sunroom are lined with reclaimed slate from the roof of a house in western Massachusetts.  The floor is constructed with 1-1/2″ of concrete, finished with tile.  During the summer the sunroom is largely shaded, but during the winter the low southern sun charges these thermal mass materials.  One cold, sunny winter day during construction the sunroom temperature reached 90 degrees while the outdoor temperature was just 15.  Using a simple fan, drawing about the same energy as a single light bulb, heat from the sunroom can be distributed into the house on cold days or exhausted to the outside on warm days.  The windows have a high Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)  and high visible light transmittance.

The great room combines living room, dining room, and custom kitchen under a high roof of locally harvested Hemlock.  The floor is half tile, excellent thermal mass, and half bamboo, quickly renewable.  The space is heated in winter by a radiant floor and lots of south-facing windows, and stays naturally cool during summer, using passive cross-ventilation and stack-ventilation through the high windows.

With Soapstone countertops, FSC certified cherry and Formaldehyde-free cherry plywood, the custom kitchen elegantly stores everything.

The house is customized with built-ins throughout.  The wardrobe has tiered surfaces, drawers, shelves, and clothes hanger for plenty of storage.

The bathroom, lit in part by a skylight to the great room, is entirely custom.  The vanity and medicine cabinet is built from rapidly renewable, zero-VOC, FSC-certified bamboo plywood.

One of three bedrooms, the west bedroom has plenty of natural light and a light well for indirect evening lighting.

The southern facade of the house features a sunroom, a screened porch, and many windows to optimize solar gain in the winter.  The long east-west orientation maximizes exposure to the sun through the entire house over the course of the day.  In the hot summer, large eaves block direct mid-day sun, high in the sky.  The north side of the house is partially built into the hillside, insulating the home, keeping the temperature constant throughout the seasons.  Future plans may add solar hot water or solar electric to power the house, and the garage is purposefully oriented for these features to be added at a later date.

Project Timeline, April – May 2010

Epiphyte Lab designed the Muzzy House with Paul Hansen as general contractor.  BUILDlab was brought in to create shop drawings, build the house’s central staircase and to erect the formwork for the concrete thermal mass wall.

The central staircase was built with birch plywood and poplar with bamboo treads.  A number of through slots and partial relief slots puncture the frame of the staircase and top rail.  To the right, a concrete thermal mass wall is similarly stippled with slots.

Overseeing staircase construction in the BUILDlab shop.

Slotting and laminating staircase rails in the BUILDlab shop

Staircase install on site with temporary treads.

Project Timeline, Summer 2008 – Summer 2009

The barn is BUILDlab’s home base.  Two autonomous, conditioned spaces serving as the firms’ office and woodshop were built within the protective super-structure of an existing 1800-era barn.  The original barn, structurally bolstered, acts as a serious rain screen for the new interior rooms.  Interstitial space between the new construction and the original barn ceiling provides convenient storage.  The office and woodshop are heated with radiant, concrete floors and insulated with soy-based spray foam.

The BUILDlab barn is in rural, upstate NY and serves as the design and custom fabrication hub.  The barn houses a full woodshop and design office.  Pictured in the foreground, a number of cherry cabinets cure in the sunlight with a UV-sensitive Danish oil.

This section of the barn illustrates the building within a building concept.  The new, insulated office (with spiral staircase and loft) is shown within the protective cover of the original, historic barn.

Framing the new office.

In the photo, cribbing piles support the barn while the foundation is reinforced.  The original barn sat on lumber piers that had deteriorated.  Trenches were dug and filled with gravel to prevent frost heaves and new concrete-rock piers were poured to give the barn solid footing.

The BUILDlab office.

The BUILDlab woodshop with cherry cabinets.

Welcome to BUILDlab

This is the grand opening of the BUILDlab website and blog. Dan Strongwater built it at Strongwater Design, and we really appreciate the work it took to build the infrastructure and for the creative input. Thank you, Dan.

We are looking forward to bringing you updates on several lines of work and research that we are pursuing.

  1. We are in the process of building our first major project on Midline Road in Freeville New York. Look forward to regular updates on the process and to developing connections between engineering and architectural analysis, design, legal and financial issues we find as we work, and the art of contracting and construction practices.
  2. BUILDlab is constantly developing new means of practice: we want to know how far the union of computation and design can go. Dave was working on interfaces with self-aware computational environments and CAD design environments when he finished at Cornell’s M.Arch I program. He has been working with the Don Greenberg, Kevin Pratt, and Brandon Hencey at the Program for Computer Graphics to develop new interfaces between architectural design practices and energy simulation software. Dave is headed to SimBuild in New York tomorrow – he is hoping to make connections with other researchers in the field and to gauge the state of the art of simulation software.
  3. Chris has proposed, and we are all following through with, a careful study of the material and energy resources required to construct a house. We are using the Midline Road residence as a preliminary case study. The materials used and the fuel required to deliver the materials from our vendors are being recorded. Construction waste is being sorted, weighed, and recorded to make a preliminary assessment of embodied energy in the house. This is a massive task and the problem of how to quantify embodied energy is a difficult and unresolved problem. So, look forward to insights and musings on trying to handle the problem of  embodied energy in a building.