Timber frame goes up and the roof trusses on!
Timber!! (…timber frame that is)
But not falling down, going up! Our fourth week on the Suffolk Straw Bale build was all about the timber frame – it was the most incredible thing to see the shape of our building emerge – and it’s impressive!
We began the week by checking the water level readings between points on the building so far – and were pretty pleased to say the least by how accurate we have been in our building! So with a strong, level base of foundations and bricks, the timber frame could go up in earnest, that will hold our straw bale walls.
From various lengths of basic timber, we have measured, cut, screwed together and put in place posts, window and door apertures, braces, wall plates, huge roof trusses, ridge beams and towards the end of the week, rafters. Much patience and accuracy has been called on in measuring the pieces we have needed, fixing them together and getting them level in their installation.
We have also been getting familiar and even comfortable with a variety of power tools: from impact drivers, drills and skill saws to the angle grinder and, my favourite, the mighty chop saw. Not forgetting some good old fashioned elbow grease with hand sawing details into our rafters (‘birds mouths’ that help the rafters sit firmly on the wall plates) and hammering twisted nails into the hurricane ties and nail plates that give added strength to our roof trusses and the whole frame.
In going upwards we have also needed to work above ground level, on the scaffolding that runs around the edges of our building, and a mobile scaffolding tower that we can now take down and re-erect at lightning speed in each different section of the building as we work along the roof line.
Working together to build our timber frame
Our team work on site is one of the secrets to our success and grows ever stronger. Joe and Jeffrey have complimented us all on our collaboration and communication throughout the week, as we have achieved some impressive feats together. We are often working in pairs or small teams, so that we can not only support and learn from each other, but also move around to experience the variety of tasks always happening at any one time. Not to mention stepping in when any of our fellow students need a hand with something. This certainly makes us more productive, and it is definitely more fun this way.
Lifting the first of the massive and seriously heavy triangular roof trusses up and into place – by hand – was a huge team effort – and we did it! An amazing feeling of achievement. It took seven of us to carry each truss from where it was made to the site, and others up on the scaffolding and scaffolding tower to heave it up on top of the frame, slide it into place, get it upright and screwed and braced into position. Once the first one was up and we’d got our technique sorted, the rest soon followed, then the ridge beams connecting them all, and now rafters going into place too. We can now stand inside a structure!
Wednesday evenings are not only much looked forward to for pizza night, cooked fresh by our amazing Esther, who continues to nourish us with delicious food every single working day. This is also the night of our classroom sessions – always fun, interactive and enlightening, and this week looking more in depth into creating the thermal envelope of an eco building, and how to use passive solar energy and thermal mass to best advantage.
Fun times continue
This week we had our first film night in our cosy living room in the marquee. After a trio of birthdays, and the site happy birthday song still ringing in our ears, we took a short break from birthdays this weekend to hang out on site and the beach, explore the local area, do some serious tree climbing, have visitors over, and for some to visit home and friends. The friendships continue to blossom here.
Shilpashastra / Building confidence
The inspiration from our trip to Clayfest at CAT a few weeks ago is still running through our experience here. Similar to the mix experiments for earth building at Clayfest, Joe demonstrated the first experiment with the topsoil from our site, to see whether the earth we have right here is of the consistency we will need to make our earth floors and clay plaster later on in the build. We found we have quite loamy soil here, with more of a silt content, so we now know we will need to add a bit of clay to get the perfect mix.
The theme of the earth building conference at Clayfest was Building Confidence in Clay, and one concept has really become lived experience for me this week. Sourabh Phadke spoke about the concept of Shilpashastra – ultimately that “You shape the mud, and the mud shapes you”. Everything is connected. As I learn these skills of natural building, and actually build a real live actual building, something I have never done before, I am also building myself up as a person – I feel my confidence grow, both with the tools and techniques I am learning, and also on a deeper level of my core self confidence, building both physical strength and inner strength, from “I can’t” to “I can” – and this feels fantastic!
And we’re only a quarter of the way through…….. it’s the roof next….