Huskers is looking for new ways to use western redcedar in cabin construction | Nebraska today

Exploring a more sustainable way to build, students of Associate Professor Jason Griffiths are designing and constructing Mizer Ruin, a 200-square-foot micro-dwelling using eastern red cedar at the University of Washington’s Cedar Point Biological Station. Nebraska near Ogallala, Neb For many farmers in Nebraska and the Midwest, these trees can be a nuisance and expensive to remove as they encroach on pasture and farmland. Finding creative solutions to this problem is one of the goals of the project as Griffiths and his students explore the use of western redcedar as a building material. If this team can demonstrate that western redcedar is a cost-effective and viable building material, it could prove to be a more sustainable building choice as well as a possible solution to offset tree-cutting costs and a way to manage forest fires.

The design and programming of the Mizer Ruin micro-housing project was developed from a collective of design-build studios under the direction of PLAIN Design-build organization led by Griffiths.

The project was originally conceived in a third-year studio in 2018, with further development in 2019 and 2021 of masters-level design research, design-build studios.

In fall 2021, students finalized the design, began site preparation, and poured the footings. At the same time, Griffiths entered into negotiations with Adam Smith of the Nebraska Forest Service and Jon Garbisch, associate manager of Cedar Point Bio Station, to coordinate the felling of trees in the canyons around the site. Spring 2022 saw the completion of the forest cut with over 100 logs prepared for milling. This summer, research and independent study students will mill the logs with a mobile log mizer in preparation for fall 2022 construction with the fourth-year Collaborate design studio.

During this fall semester, Griffiths hopes students can build the main structure in three trips with the goal of completing it in the spring of 2023.

When complete, the micro-dwelling residence will be used by the Cedar Point Biological Station Manager. With only 200 square feet, the students had to design for space efficiency, including a small kitchenette, small shower, living area, and bedroom.

This is the second design-build project that Griffiths has collaborated on with Cedar Point Biological Station. Their first project was the Baxa Residence Hut for underprivileged students studying biosciences at the station.

ONECedar Point Biological Station has a long-term vision to expand our use and understanding of field or on-site research and education in the natural environment. Since 2009, we have partnered with various architecture professors and courses at the College of Architecture with this idea in mind, said Jon Garbisch, associate director of the Cedar Point Biological Station. “The product far exceeded our expectations, and this is visible in Baxa House and Mizer’s Ruin, but has also influenced a wide range of construction and maintenance projects here on campus.”

Typically, for design-build projects like this, the instructor works with a nonprofit partner to construct a community-based, socially responsible building. The college chooses an educational partner based on its non-profit status who probably cannot afford the expertise of a professional firm, but who would mutually benefit from engaging in the educational effort, as would the local community. which he serves.

Built as a sustainability research project, Griffiths will collect data for on-site project milling as a method to reduce the embodied energy of building materials.

“I won’t know the full environmental costs of this project until all is said and done in 2023, but I’m very curious to see the numbers and whether this will be a viable and cost effective method of construction,” said Griffiths.

The use of a mobile wood mizer will not be the only unique aspect of this project. The team plans to use the Japanese technique called shou sugi ban to treat the exterior of the log construction. The method involves charring the surface of the wood using a propane wood torch, then rubbing it with natural oil.

This technique of waterproofing wood creates a material that is resistant to rot, pests, water and fire.

Fire resistance was one of the reasons Griffiths chose this finish.

“Any home built in a wooded area needs to consider the fire hazard,” Griffiths said. “The shou sugi ban treatment provides protection against forest fires because the wood has already been burned and has a charcoal finish on the outer layer.”

The use of this type of material also aids in forest fire management by harvesting and removing a volatile fuel from the forest habitat that has the potential to burn quickly and at high temperatures.

“Projects like this are such win-wins, win-wins for everyone; the community benefits from the projects we build, and the students get first-hand construction experience, said Griffiths. “Building physics helps students understand architecture in a way that cannot be captured on the computer or a virtual environment. Through their direct knowledge and experience of how buildings work and money, time, and effort required to construct a building, we believe this experience helps to accelerate students’ understanding of the fundamentals of our discipline. The experiences of a design-build studio can help students apply their ideas to real-world scenarios.”

Griffiths says he owes a debt of gratitude to the Nebraska Environmental Trust for funding the development of this project and to his biological station partners for all of their assistance with the students, helping to guide the project with their critique and input.

“Mizer Ruin design-build students led by Griffiths engage in an exciting experiential learning opportunity to design, fabricate, install and quantify the environmental cost of the project,” said David Karle, Architecture Program Director . “This multi-year project helps future architects consider natural systems and environmental impacts when designing a building.”

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