Coming Along

Well here we are in the fifth session and we are working like crazy to complete our interior finishes and exterior cladding to be ready for the big move. The days are long but it feels good to see things changing so much. These boxes are becoming real houses with beauty, details, and imperfections. The hardest part for the Westwater crew has been having our crew split up with most of our guys away at the site working on getting the substructure ready to accept our module. They have made good progress on the site by getting the central wall completed and the columns ready to be anchored to the piers. Here at the Scorup house we have been applying our interior finishes, all of which require sanding. In fact, both groups are using a floor sander to get it all done quicker. The exterior is also being worked on. The commercial shelves that are being used for cladding have been sanded, primed, and painted. Here are a few pics as of late…


Westwater as of late…

Whew! Its been awhile as we have been working furiously on our 4th session. We have a lot to accomplish this session and we are well on our way. Last session was all about our living module, but we also spent a good deal of time working on social issues we had encountered…namely getting the Hutchens family homesite lease taken care of. A couple of us attended a Westwater community meeting and were blown away by the cultural differences we experienced. Once again we had an unexpected learning experience. This is a complex project in a very unique setting. This session is all about the private module…48 feet long and 12 feet wide. It has two bedrooms…one being very large for the girls and one and half baths. It has been fun to have Angie and the girls down to visit several times this last week and it always makes our work day better to see 4 little ones be so excited to get “their own bed”. We have completed the floor and all four walls. Its been interesting to deal with many issues we are so unfamiliar with like plumbing, stair construction, and structural steel columns and details. These things seemed simple to us before, but now that we are getting into the nitty gritty the realities must be dealt with….which is pretty much the motto of the Bluff experience!

Bring on the Troubleshooting

So it seems as if the last few days we have had many issues come up that were totally unexpected. One thing we have learned is that there is a solution to everything. The first major change came with moving our big central wall to the interior of the module. This solved many issues but then created just as many. Then came the roof. The connection to the big wall required a large ledger and blocking with special hangers that we didn’t have, so we had to construct a temporary support. Much of our anxiety has been over meeting county code. We have had to reference the code books and the inspector on many decisions. The next major issue we had to resolve was our ceiling detail. We are placing plywood between the TJI’s. This plywood is an awesome detail and we spent tons of time sanding and finishing the wood. However, this detail created many issues as to when to sheath our roof, and place our insulation and wiring. While we tried to figure this out we worked on an outrigger design for our overhang, as well as putting in a window and putting up the finish ceiling. Its amazing how many things we have dealt with on this Westwater project. This week came a major social issue regarding the homesite lease for the Hutchins family. While attending a Westwater community meeting we learned Tyrone’s homesite lease was not signed and that it would need to be completed by the end of the week. This posed some serious issues due to the fact that Tyrone is currently in a correctional facility. Several of us ran around this week trying to get forms and meeting with Angie. In the end it all got resolved…hopefully. Dealing with the social, code, and structural issues has definitely been a learning experience for all of us.

More site work

Well tomorrow is the last day of the second session and I can honestly say I’m amazed at what we have accomplished in 12 work days! We dug, placed rebar, and poured 12 footings/piers, a 48 foot long stepped foundation, and we will complete the CMU portion of the center wall tomorrow. The form work for the piers turned out awesome. The old barn wood is going to leave such a beautiful texture!

With the piers finished on Wednesday the last 3 days have been all about the block wall, which we have been laying all by ourselves. It has been an incredible learning experience. With half the team laying the block the rest of have been trying to resolve logistical and other issues. Today we had a crane company come out to give us a cost estimate to crane these modules into place, we also visited a local welder to get a quote for our custom connection pieces between the pier and the column. We have also been in lots of contact with our structural engineer to determine the sizing of our steel framework as well as our loading, I think this contact has taught many of us a thing or two about the realities of building.

We also have been trying to determine the temporary foundation strategy to build the modules on here at our property before being transported to their sites. Right now our team is contemplating two ideas: shipping pallets, or 4×4 columns with pier blocks. This will try to be finalized over the break. It also felt good to do a good site clean up today and yesterday. Today we collected a huge amount of green glass that is all over the site that we are hoping to crush and use in our counter-tops.

Bring on the framing!!!

Where we are!

Here are some pics of the Westwater progress! The last day of the previous session we cleared the site. As you can tell from the photos it was pretty dense with trees and bushes. We also cleared the land for the driveway up to the house. After two weeks of design it felt great to get out of the house and get something done on site.

This Monday we  began digging the foundation for our main wall roughly 4′x48′x2′. It was slightly more complicated due to the fact that we have five steps because of the elevation change. Figuring out the height  and leveling of each step took some time. It was nice and warm that day though! Then Tuesday we finished up the stepped foundation…I have never been prouder of a hole in the ground! That day was also awesome because we got some road base onto our driveway so now its nice and level and great to drive on. The road base was delivered in 3 large dump-fulls, and after the first one we began to hurry and try to spread it before the next truck came. We worked so hard and got it pretty well spread. Well then the second truck came and we were all exhausted but we began to spread. Then Harrison (Tyrones father) came by and laughed and asked why would we try to do that by hand! A little while later a big tractor shows up and we all were so excited to see all the base spread in 10 minutes.

Also several of Tyrones relatives were over that day to help us dig…one thing that has been awesome up in Westwater is the way the community rally’s together. We have neighbors stop to talk and whatnot every day. I really believe this project is more than just a home for someone its about developing the pride of a community. I think the context of this building is so interesting and it begins to develop so much meaning and purpose.

Wednesday we began digging for our spot foundations which proved to be difficult due to a drop in temperature. When we arrived Wednesday morning it was 8 degrees and the ground was frozen. Most the time it felt like we were quarrying stone, the pick axe was our star player in getting the holes completed. The ground on our site has been interesting, about 2 feet down there is large bedrock that extends through most of the site. There is a lot of water in the ground. So the first few days it was muddy, but then it was completely frozen once the temperature dropped. The slope of the ground also is one of the coolest parts of the site but it also very complicated to work with. All dimensions have to checked and rechecked.

Then today (Thursday) five of us went to the site to finish all the foundation holes while the other few stayed back at Scorup to build  the form-work for our pier foundations. We were very excited to find out Katianne’s dad had brought his tractor and he began to level out the area under the upper module where there will be an outdoor space or even a car park. He worked on that while the rest of us struggled away at the other 5 holes for the spot foundations. It was still very frozen especially this south side because it is very shaded by the beautiful Juniper trees we have next to the house. We decided we would not leave until things were ready to pour our pads the next day…and well we did finished at about 6pm. So tomorrow will be all about concrete!!!

Preliminary Westwater Survey

Today was an eventful day after meeting with the family, we went to check out the site.  Upon arriving to the site, the family’s relatives informed us that there was an archeological site located on a majority of the client’s property.  We had to come back to the Scorup house to consult the plat drawings.  Fortunately the archeological site is on the plot over and not on our site.  So we headed out again to confirm what was shown in the plat drawings matched up with the actual land.  We started right away on surveying the land and staking out the footprint of where the house is going to be.  We became really excited when we found the perfect spot nestled in the juniper trees.  The site also works perfectly because of the slope of the land and how our design requires a significant elevation change.  It was a really productive day.

-author: Tonya Gibbons

(P.S. -We are still trying to work out the kinks as dbB 2011 bloggers, so we are still trying to figure out passwords, so I posted this logged in as Jen Lindley.)