Designing & Prototyping
Following the One House Many Nations prototype house at EDITdx, the project continued through a training program at OCN where another iteration of the house was developed to better incorporate the need to build as much of the house with the community as possible. This story is the product of that training program.
Over the winter of 2017-2018, Chris directed the building training program at OCN: working with eight OCN trainees and two OCN supervisors in a process of design thinking and material prototyping to develop a housing system that responds to climatic and cultural needs.
The outcome of their months of design and carpentry training produced a house design and established a small-scale manufacturing plant to produce the components of the house.
OCN trainees have worked to develop a human scale solid timber panel — a micro-CLT (cross laminated timber) panel.
Housing should be sacred as well as sheltering.
The industrial paradigm has reduced human shelter to object commodities. Notions of beauty and nurturing, as well as human need and resiliency must be developed through an intentional process.
By building up a set of images and models that represented ideas about size and arrangements of space, the group used these foundational ideas to communicate to one another their understanding of what it takes to make a beautiful and nurturing house.
These modeling exercises were paired with visits to existing housing stock at OCN, where discussions focused on the spatial elements that worked (and should be repeated) and those that do not work.
The work of designing a house plan — an exercise that depends on existing knowledges about human scale and need — increased in complexity when we moved to the workshop and began learning about wood assemblies and the complexity of parts required to build a home.
CLT: Cross Laminated Timber
A CLT is a mass of wood that gains strength from perpendicular lamination across the grain of previous layers, much like plywood but at a thickness exceeding conventional light framing systems. Given the mass of timber that goes into a panel, the wall system performs more dynamically than a simple cavity insulation system. The CLT wall holds heat and re-radiates heat that has been stored.
Driven by a sense of pride in what they were setting out to do — design a house, invent a building panel, and build a house — the OCN trainees tested their CLT panel ideas in a scale model.
One of the principles of the project was to investigate building systems that would have a land-based dependency as regards materials and the scale of labor to build a house. The micro-CLT testing began with lumber purchased from a building supply center with the understanding that a local lumber mill would provide the material for the final production stream.
Taking this approach allows both teaching of manufacturing logics, material assemblies, but most importantly invests everyone in the effort to develop a quality product.
The OCN-designed house will require 168 micro-CLT panels.
With a production rate of more than 15 panels a day, the OCN trainees can produce the core components of a 700 square foot, 2-bedroom home of their own design in less than 12 days.
Wait until you see how quickly they go up on site!
Thinking of beauty and nurturing as the real needs that housing should provide to people, a concept like a micro-CLT sets the stage for a cooperative building approach.
Good buildings require a systemic approach
— from materials of the place to systems of building —
that demand cooperation and relationships between people.
In an upcoming post, we’ll look at the design of the house, the technical features of the micro-CLT system, and see the first panels being installed.