2019 Semester in Sustainable Design/Build

October 17, 2019
By Madi Visser, Semester Program Teaching Assistant


How’s it hangin’? It’s Arch! In a week’s time, the dorm went from a simple floor to a physical building “sketch” with five walls, a site stair, and entry. What’s more, most days turned out to be warmer than expected! On Tuesday, we had a surprise birthday party for our rightfully–vain chef, Michelle. She was so surprised, she peed all over the kitchen floor (metaphorically, of course)!


Walking around, one can begin to visualize the scale of spaces within the dorm. Opportunities have come up to design while building now that our floor and wall measurements have been, inevitably, changed. Discovering how these things happened was so much more complex than the solution, usually as simple as adding extra studs or plywood to fill in the gaps. Some architectural improvisation also happened while I built stairs with Emma and Mac, basically eyeballing the number of stairs necessary. I got a solid introduction to the jigsaw, and also a realistic demonstration on how stairs are actually made. In architecture school, designing consistent stairs has been an elusive debacle that’s haunting my dreams for many years. Now that I know all it takes is a framing square and a couple of pins, the basic construction of these doesn’t seem half as intimidating as the math involved.


    Wednesday we had an amazing natural building lecture about teaching women in Central America to construct homes. It makes a lot of sense to me that, in developing countries like Honduras, activists are extending the traditionally female role of homemaking to the actual construction of their dwellings. The non-profit has tried to incorporate the respective cultural aesthetics into more sustainable homes by teaching people to mix natural plaster from readily-available ingredients. It was also interesting that they began to educate the citizens of these developing countries about climate-awareness to try to steer them away from the seductive-sleek look of poured-concrete.


We accomplished a lot this week, but we’re not about to plateau just yet! Next tuesday is the 1000 pushup challenge, sponsored by Crazy Horse Gym. Wish us luck!