Designing & Prototyping


The work presented below emerged from the One House Many Nations house at EDITdx — a prototype unit that was developed through the One House Many Nations campaign by Idle No More in collaboration with the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) Design Lab, (DDL), and the University of Minnesota.

Click the photo above to read more about the EDITdx house: Toronto, 2017.

Click the photo above to read more about the EDITdx house: Toronto, 2017.

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.

Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Umpherville Road development. In this aerial view of the lot under development, the EDITdx House is being reassembled in the upper left of the image and the floor system for the OCN trainee-designed house is under construction on the upper right.

Housing should be sacred as well as sheltering.

Here, OCN trainee April captures her organizational vision during a design drawing exercise.

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.

OCN trainees work through a series of drawing and volume studies.

OCN trainees work through a series of drawing and volume studies.

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.

The simplicity of modeling in paper allowed trainees to rapidly convey to each other and instructor, Chris Tallman, their ideas for a 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.

OCN trainees took their model communication skills and investigated different assembly logics for CLT panels. The CLT panels will provide the structural and thermal core of the house.

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.

OCN trainees' Scale Model

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.

The micro-CLT panels were then tested at a 1:1 scale.

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.

A component of the micro-CLT development was to create a system that would allow for uniform panel replication. The work of making the jigs for panel production was led by Chris (above) while the refinement of the assembly process involved the OCN trainees (below).

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 first full day of production exceeded all our estimates.

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!

Here LbCV’s co-founder Alex Heid and SII founder Nigel Noriega put in some volunteer hours stacking micro-CLT panels that were delivered to the building site in the back of a station wagon. Alex kindly helped out with the training for the month of February, allowing one group of trainees to produce the panels in the workshop while another group began assembling the houses 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.