Thursday, April 23, 2015

Studio Construction: Wrapping Continues

 Progress on wrapping the building.
Dave has saved me the Tyvek scraps. It takes paint well and melts into a very textural surface.
Excitement - a delivery

It is the shelving for the storage area.

Each night, after the workers have gone, Ron and I go out to the studio to see what has been done during the day. 
Dave has made these. I wonder what they are for?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Studio Construction: The Site

The building is looking good.

The site is another story.
The combination of trench digging, lifting pavers, uprooting garden beds and rain has resulted in a hazard zone. 

A Destruction Zone

But look - the next step has started.
Cladding Dave can be seen beginning to wrap the building in Tyvek.
Tyvek is a Dupont product designed to keep air and water out while letting water vapour escape. It is just like putting a Gortex jacket on the shed. It is a second line of defence if rain gets behind the exterior cladding.

Cladding must be arriving next.
The cladding team will need to get access to the back of the building while carrying large sheets. There isn't enough room down the sides of the building to do this. Up until now, all work has been restricted by temporary fences to keep people and materials out of the sensitive forest areas. Compaction by foot traffic and the dumping of materials causes major issues with the health of the soil.
Here I am marking out a path where people can walk when they need to carry large loads to the back of the building. Plywood will be laid down between the flags to spread the weight of the load on the soil to reduce compaction.

Ron is reducing the steepness of the bank to give easier access to the temporary forest track.
This is B horizon soil from the site excavation. With all of the site activity, including being driven over by many large, heavy delivery trucks, the soil has become very compacted. Rain no longer penetrates, instead it pools on top. It will be dug up later to backfill around the building and compacted again. The soil piles behind Ron are precious top soil for garden beds.



Monday, April 20, 2015

Studio construction: Plumbing, Strengthening, Finishing - Small but Important Work

The plumber made a first visit. This is the pipe that will connect to the sinks. It vents up to the roof and runs down through the wall to the septic tank, which is just outside the window.
The plumbing was designed to be compact to save on the cost of plumbing materials and labour. The concept planning for the location of my workstations started with locating the washing sinks as close as possible to the septic tank, known as a 'central core plumbing design.' The whole building is located just over the minimum distance from the septic tank according to the building code. The washing area is also close to the property's main water pipe. Making these connections to and from the building as short as possible also minimises the length of trenches that need to be dug along with as little tree root disturbance as possible while using the minimum amount of materials.

That white pipe brings water into the building's crawl space, up to the crawlspace rafters and along to the sink. 
The orange pipe is the communications conduit for future use. Things like cable, internet, phone, security could be placed in there. It is important to design for possible future needs, a feature of a sustainable building. And I say future because currently I am planning to be 'unplugged' while working in my space. It is only a few steps outside to get to my office where I can connect to the outside world. But my wise husband says at this stage I should keep my options open. I always listen to his soothsaying. 
All of the ductwork and mechanical equipment is inside the thermal envelope of the building for higher performance efficiency.
The hot water tank will be placed in the crawl space directly below the sinks to minimise heat loss. There will be hot water as soon as the tap is turned on, cutting down on wasting running water to get the right temperature for dye pots and rinsing.
Careful planning and these efficient operations can save energy and water over time.

Dave has been adding to the strength of the whole building. These metal straps, designed and placed according to engineering drawings, give the building rigidity.

They are needed where the building envelope has openings cut into it.

These brackets are bolted to the rebar in the concrete foundations. They are designed to hold the building to its foundations.
These not very obvious features are important for the earthquake design integrity of the building. Here on the Pacific Northwest coast we are in an active earthquake zone.

Once Dave was finished, engineer, Ritchie Smith, came on site to inspect that all straps and brackets were in the required places and correctly installed. Dave got a pass and that code requirement was signed off.

Ron is up on the porch roof with Mauricio of Proline Roofing and Gutters, discussing the touch-up/clean up along the very visible roof edge. Mauricio fixed it up and now it is perfect.
It is all good.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Studio Construction - A Roof

Ooh, another delivery truck with a load.

And the guys are wearing special equipment.

The load is going up on to the roof.

At the same time, Alex, owner of  Nortek Exteriors arrived on site to measure the exterior walls. He has the contract to clad the building.

Mauricio Reyes, the owner of Proline Roofing and Gutters, got the contract to put on the roof.
We decided on an SBS Torch-on roof. Here is the first layer being nailed in place.
Torch-on is suited to the low angled roof, has a long life and is low to no maintenance. All big pluses.

The 2nd layer is melted on with a gas flame - see the flame in the middle of the above image.
Initially, I had wanted a living roof to make it blend into the forest. We will see a lot of the roof from the upstairs level of the house. From my research on living/green roofs, I noticed most of them were planted in grasses or succulents. Grasses grow in a different ecology than rain forest and succulents require a much warmer climate. Planting either of these types of plants would require getting up on the roof to do maintenance replacing dead plants and lots of weeding. It would be too artificial, expensive, time-consuming and wouldn't fit with the native ecology. So no grass roof.

The top layer of Torch-on has small chips of stone stuck into it. If the roof is left undisturbed over time it will become colonised with mosses and lichens without any planting. The needles continually falling from the evergreens, the stone chips and the winter rains supply the food for these plants. The spores would come from the mosses and lichens growing on the surrounding trees and forest floor. No extra layers of roofing material are needed so the roof is kept lightweight, unlike the many layers required by grass roofs. I will be looking to see if the roof is shaded enough for the western sword fern (Polystichum munitum) to grow up there. We have so many of them in the forest some of their spores must get up onto the roof. 
The plan is to leave it alone and let natural biological processes of succession happen. My kind of roof. And it will look great.

The blue tarps have gone making the building disappear a little bit more into the forest.
In a cool climate, the dark colour has a warming effect on the inside of the building.
We considered solar panels because the roof faces south/ south-west but a bit of research suggested it wouldn't be a wise investment. We have long winter days and many overcast days in spring and fall. The building is in under the tree canopy. The solar panels wouldn't function on enough days to justify them.
Now the building is watertight it is time to start drying it out. 2 de-dehumidifiers and a small heater on low are put to work to take water out of the wood. Ron has a moisture probe and is regularly testing the moisture levels in the wood. The inside has to be dry enough before the next stage - insulation.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Studio Design - Pattern Language: #107 Wings of Light and #109 Long thin House


Pattern Language #107 Wings of Light
Modern buildings are often shaped with no concern for natural light - they depend almost entirely on artificial light. But buildings which displace natural light as the major source of illumination are not fit places to spend the days.
The studio is designed to have light entering the building on three sides.


The solution to this problem is: Arrange each building so that it breaks down into wings which correspond, approximately, to the most important natural social groups within the building. make each wing long and as narrow as you can - never more than 25 feet wide.
Our house is long and only 2 rooms wide with windows on all sides. By placing the studio only a few steps away from the house, it is like a private wing of the house. 

Pattern Language #109 Long Thin House
The problem is: The shape of the building has a great effect on the relative degrees of privacy and overcrowding in it, and this in turn has a critical effect on people's comfort and well-being.
Another influence on designing a separate building for the studio is to make 'a room of one's own', a private space to work for long periods of uninterrupted time. I want a private space. A shed.
My parents gave me a book about women's sheds for my birthday. It is about women and their sheds what they are like and what they do in them. This Pinterest board has lots of images from the book. 

The Pattern Language solution is: In small buildings, don't cluster all the rooms together around each other; instead string out the rooms one after another, so that distance between each room is as great as it can be. You can do this horizontally - so that the plan becomes a thin, long rectangle; or you can do it vertically - so that the building becomes a tall narrow tower. In either case, the building can be surprisingly narrow and still work - 8, 10, and 12 feet are all quite possible.
 The studio's outside dimensions are 20 feet  wide and 40 feet long as limited by the space between the trees. The walls are 8 inches thick making the inside space smaller.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Studio Design - Pattern Language: #105 South Facing Outdoors, #106 Positive Outdoor Space



In an earlier post, I explained how I have used The Pattern Language design method for the studio and the Back Yard Project. The first pattern I used was #104 Site Repair. Next I used #105 South Facing Outdoors. The back of the house faces south/south-east. I needed to place the studio so it too faced south. 
The book describes the problem as: People use open space if it is sunny, and do not use it if it isn't, in all but desert climates. It goes on to say This is perhaps the most important single fact about a building. If the building is placed right, the building and its gardens will be happy places full of activity and laughter, p. 514.
The above image, looking south, shows the first layout of the building as guided by pattern # 104 Site Repair. The area in shade fits with the need for a place inside the building to store textiles and threads away from any sunlight. The rest of the building needs to reach out into the sunny area.


The sunny area looking to the shady north.
 This pattern's solution is: Always place buildings to the north of the outdoor spaces that go with them, and keep the outdoor spaces to the south. Never leave a deep band of shade between the building and the sunny part of the outdoors.
The front of the building needs to face where the lawn is sunny to satisfy pattern #105 South Facing Outdoors. 

The next pattern I worked with was #106 Positive Outdoor Space. The problem is stated as: Outdoor spaces which are merely "left over" between buildings will, in general, not be used. It explains, "There are two fundamentally different kinds of outdoor space: negative space and positive space. Outdoor space is negative when it is shapeless, the residue left behind when buildings - which are generally viewed as positive - are placed on the land. An outdoor space is positive when it has a distinct and definite shape, as definite as the shape of a room, and when its shape is as important as the shape of the buildings which surround it," p.518.
The image above shows the view from the SE corner of the house looking out towards the proposed studio site. We need to make sure the studio building relates to the house and forms a distinctively shaped positive space between the two buildings. I used this pattern when incorporating that space in the Back Yard Project. 


This is the view looking south from the house. It is a vast shapeless lawn confined by the forest edge. There is no comforting defined shape to the back yard. There are no other buildings, but it is still felt as a negative space without a function. The property has no other outside buildings which is one of the reasons for the BackYard Project.
The solution to this problem is: Make all outdoor spaces which surround and lie between your buildings positive. Give each one some degree of enclosure; surround each space with wings of buildings, trees, hedges, fences, arcades, and trellised walks, until it becomes an entity with a positive quality and does not spill out indefinitely around corners.

The architect used a computer model of the building to move it around in the area we had chosen, tweaking it to satisfy the selected patterns. He finally found the right location. It is roughly perpendicular to the house making a courtyard between it and the house which feels like a positive space. It faces a sunny outdoor space and it fits in between the trees. I wanted a place in amongst the trees, but I also want the sun. They sound like contradictory requirements, but with the Pattern Language guidance, Jonathan's knowledge and and his computer modeling he found the perfect location for the building.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Studio Construction: Windows and Doors

Eric the electrician came back to add electrical outlets and wires. I was asked where I wanted power and light. I was able to be decisive with my answers, mostly because early on in the design process I had decided where everything was going to go inside the building.

The wires look to be colour coded.
Electricity is a mystery to me. Our daughter considered becoming and electrician because she sees wiring a building as solving a puzzle.

Big day - the windows are going in. Dave and James had to work together well to get the biggest windows in place.

The front door has a large glass panel to let light into the centre of the building.

Now it looks more like a habitable building.

The North facing side door giving access to the outside and down to the crawlspace.

The North facing crawlspace door.

The West loading doors to the crawlspace. I don't plan to use these doors, but they are there in case I make really big art that needs to be stored in the crawlspace.

View of the SE side with all of its windows and doors.
Now the rain will no longer get inside the building. It is time to start drying out the wood on the inside. Ron and Dave installed dehumidifiers. Ron and I began vacuuming and cleaning all of the mud, sawdust, and sealer blobs off the framing and walls each night after the crews had left. We had only an hour or so before it was too dark inside to see. The electricity is hooked up yet.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Studio Construction: First Wall Layer Completed

View from the inside looking south towards the sunny room.
The plywood wall layer is nearly finished.


The plywood is finished, including on the sunny room walls.

The first layer of paper/plastic-like materials is put around all openings in the building envelope. These must all be sealed against water and air/heat loss.

I joined the morning meeting so I could see the light coming through the seven clerestory windows now the plywood around them was cut out.
Yes, the effect is perfect. Thanks Jonathan for such a great design.

Ground level view of the east wall with the clerestory windows catching the morning light.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Studio Construction: Porch, Sunny Room and Electricity

The construction of the sunny room has begun.

It is called the sunny room according to the design book A Pattern Language.

It will be where I will sit and hand stitch, read, have tea and think.

This week the carpenters also built the porch and arcade that run along the west side of the building.
Those 6" x 6" cedar posts smell delicious while still freshly milled. They will be left unsealed to bleach to a soft gray. The oils in cedar will protect them from decay for many years. So no maintenance there.

The porch and arcade are designed to protect the west side of the building from the prevailing winds and rains. When it is raining, I will have a sheltered place to walk from the house along the arcade to the front door.
The architect, Jonathan Aitken, computer modeled the sun on the building over the year to work out how high and wide to make the roof of the porch. I want the low winter sun to warm the west wall and the light to penetrate right into the main room. While the porch will stop the strong summer sun from shining directly into the building. I need lots of natural light but not direct sunlight.
The porch is also wide enough to comfortably sit on.

Eric, the electrician, Torbram Electric Supply, made his first visit.


He put in some wires and the electrical box.
So it was a busy few days on the studio construction site.