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Class Recap March 24

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Today Wayne Appleyard from Sun Structures came to talk to our class about his work. After he graduated from University of Michigan in ’78 him and his friends decided to, “starve together.” He is a self-taught builder. He used to call renewable energy “alternative energy” but stated it is not an alternative, it is imperative! He has experience with solar water and air heaters, photovoltaic systems, wind electric systems, composting toilets, grey water systems, strawbale construction, slip-formed stone walls, radiant floor slab heating systems, air to air heat exchangers, and ground source heat pumps.

As a student I found it inspiring that his first project was a failure. If he gave up, he wouldnt have been able to learn and spread his talent through out the country.

Before talking to us about the straw bale homes he has built he talked to us about the other projects he has worked on, and the list goes on and on. From educational, residential to commercial his buildings are unique and brilliant. His work is insightful and inspiring and living proof that sustainable building is a plausible option.

He stressed the importance of flexible design because climate can fluctuate by up to 40% in terms of temperature and sunlight depending on the given year.

Most people are, “out of touch” with the importance of natural sunlight in buildings.

See for yourself —

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After our enlightening chat with Wayne we split up into separate groups tp accomplish various logistic tasks to plan our building! We got stickers of our beautiful logo ordered. Discussed plans for painting the doors, staining the deck, coloring the roof, concrete, plaster, if we want wall details and tile work! We are also going to put in a “truth” window: an opening in a wall surface, created to reveal the layers or components within the wall. In a strawbale house, a truth window is often used to show the walls are actually made of strawbales.

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Modern History

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photo by arts.umich

The University of Michigan Biological Station wraps around a finger of Douglas Lake like a humble and handsome engagement ring. Tiny gemstone cabins and diamond buildings dot the metal trails, twisting together to form a proposition we were all eager to accept.

In thirty-seven days, we will depart from campus to break ground on our build project; for many of us, it will be our first time at the Station, and for others, it will be a welcome return to a place of learning, discovery, and personal growth. Though the Biostation hosts mostly science courses like General Ecology and Ethnobotany, it also caters to students of writing and environmental history. We won’t be donning waders, but rather hardhats and work gloves. We also won’t be studying the history of the area, but rather adding to it.


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The idea for a student-built structure came about with our University’s Bicentennial. Two-hundred years of UMich brought a new wave of enthusiasm for demonstrating what it means to go here, “what it means to be a Wolverine, the Leaders, and Best” if you will. (whatever that really means) Forward-thinking projects to showcase and celebrate our school were the key — and with all of the tall, flashy new LEED-certified buildings cropping up all over our home campus, one has to think: how green are they? The concept of truly “green” building had been faithfully carried out before, and not too far from this campus. Our professor, Joe Trumpey had built his own Straw Bale home a few years ago, and proposed that students taking on a similar task was not only momentous and exciting, but doable. With approval from the Bicentennial Committee granted and funding in hand, our team of 23 students from Environment and Art & Design began meeting every Friday morning of Winter Semester in preparation to build the newest, greenest natural structure. Our building won’t be tall, flashy, or LEED-certified, but it will be honest, handmade, and instinctively located on the homestead of our University: the Biostation.


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The UMBS was established in 1909 on 10,000 acres surrounding Douglas Lake near Pellston, MI as a research facility. The land was purchased as a blank slate– literally. It had been totally cleared of trees by lumber barons; students and professors spend the early years studying the recovery of this ravaged landscape, and how exploitation impacted the natural environment.  Over the years, the Station grew not only with additions of classrooms, cabins built by engineers, a dining hall, and volleyball courts, but also in the subjects it hosted. As interconnected issues of climate, invasive species, and natural history surfaced, the station welcomed an array of students and faculty researchers from across disciplines, making the strength of the station its interactive community dedicated to understanding the changing natural world.


 

In our time at the Station, we’ll not only build this interactive community, but also a structure unlike any other. We’ll be building a piece of history, as modern as they come.

 

 

-Krysten

Blog

March 17: Test Wall

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Today we built our test wall to get a hang of the technique we will be using this May up at the Bio Station.

First, we had to build wooden braces for our hay bales to sit on.

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We also had to do some metal work to create tools to thread twine through our hay bales.

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Some of the class started looking for grants to financially support our endeavours — specifically to fund solar powering our building.

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Some extra prep work included splitting the bales. we had to split 4 so we had 8 halves! This technique looks easy, but surely isn’t.

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Once we had our separate parts we began putting them together, stacking up the hay bales and supporting them so they stayed up!! Once they were all stacked up, we stabbed them with long metal rods. Tightening the bolts, we compressed the straw up to 8 inches!

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This day was super busy!! but if we can pretty much build most of a wall in under two hours, it seems promising this building can get built in the month of May up at the bio station.