The Net+ studio’s first project was to design a table for our workspace. The process began with measuring two studio desks and then sizing the table to fit 14-people. After sizing, the studio split into two groups – one construction group and the other for tabletop design. The construction group utilized leftover 2×4’s and plywood from the previous Net+ project to build the structure that would fit on top of two studio desks. The second group experimented with the idea of using old studio tabletops to build our new one. They eventually settled on using birch plywood and started designing a tiled tabletop pattern to be placed on top of the “structure”. The tiled tabletop features 2” spacers, giving an interesting and unique pattern, with hope of sanding + staining the tabletop and sealing it in the future.
This school year, our studio team is on the exciting task of building a net-positive house at the city of St. John, Kansas. But before anybody could begin drawing, a visit to the town was necessary. We took our notebooks and best pens with us as our journey began early that morning.
The Executive Director at Stafford County Economic Development, Carolyn Dunn, was our guide for the trip. When we first met her, she began by explaining the housing situation at St. John. Things such as housing prices, the regular income of most people in town, and household transportation were introduced. During lunch, we met with more residents of the town to have a clearer understanding of their living situation, which later aided our design ideas. One exciting aspect of the trip was to survey our potential sites for this new house and a tour of the small town that has welcomed us with open arms.
To find some inspiration for the future Net-Zero house, we went to visit a LEED platinum building a few miles away from St. John, nearby The Big Well Museum. It was a great experience for us to explore the historic structure turned art exposition space. We learned about some of its passive and active strategies to improve energy efficiency. We were even able to climb up to the roof to have a better understanding of the design.
Meeting the residents of St John and driving around the town was a valuable experience for the entire studio. It was a small, but important, step into getting familiar with the big project ahead of us.
The Net+ studio presented its first draft of research conducted for St. John, Kansas on September 6th. This will inform the studio on how to proceed with the house design for their community. It will also aid in design style and functional needs. Listed is a brief layout of our research on St. John’s history, construction, real estate, and income:
History of St. John, Kansas:
- 1875: Originally known as Zion Valley, and settled by the Mormons. An elder in the church blessed the site, saying that the town would never be destroyed by a cyclone.
- 1879: Zion Valley was renamed after then Governor John Pierce St. John.
- 1882: St. John became the permanent county seat by an act of the Kansas legislature. The county courthouse was built in 1886.
- 1886: The railroad came to town on July 4, 1886. Both the Atchison Topeka and Sant Fe and the Missouri Pacific railroads laid tracks through the county.
Construction and real estate:
- St. Johns currently has a total of 552 homes and approximately 1,400 residents.
- 16 homes were sold from 2016-2019 and 10 (1.5%) currently are on the market
- 81% of homes in St. Johns were assessed at below 50% quality
- Median housing cost in St. Johns is $45,000
- 85% of 1920 – 1960’s houses
- 10% of 1960’s – 1980’s houses
- 4% of 1980’s – 2000’s houses
- 1% of new construction
- Potential clients between ages 25-44
- Median income range of $25,000-$50,000
- Below area median income of $47,000
Why Net positive is the answer:
- Lower/no Utility bills
- Low Maintenance
- Longer lifespan
- Healthy, comfortable, quality home
The research conducted by our studio has taught us what the problems are and how to address them, which will continue to push the design forward in the coming months. This will be valuable information to both us and the Community of St. John as to how to continue development and growth in a sustainable and affordable way.
Welcome to the Net+ studio 2019-2020 team! We are made up of 14 creative and excited students who are ready to push forward K-State’s design-build program and begin a discussion of the project for St. John, Kansas. The studio will be designing an affordable house that will help solve the housing deficit in St. John. It will utilize sustainable methods to accomplish the goal of creating a low-cost home that could potentially be rebuilt multiple times throughout Stafford county. Our focus is primarily research on how we will be utilizing new products and methods as well as the community of St. John Kansas and how to create the best home for the town. Our first presentation is set for members of St. John on September 6th.
Students Mi Chele Lee, Jessica Wyatt, Will Olds, Christian Carter, Safa Salih and Stephen Bregande visited the National Renewable Energy Labs in Golden, Colorado this past weekend as part of the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge Weekend. The eleven international Build Challenge teams had 20 minutes to present their design development work to a panel of three jurors and member or the US Dept. of Energy. Our students gave a presentation demonstrating the significance of our project as a truly affordable, energy efficient home in a low-income neighborhood.
Students of the Net Positive Studio prepared posters and a mock-up wall section for the exhibit. The small model showed the combination of using a panelized system with tradition wood framing methods. We welcomed many visitors to engage and explore our work thus far, to much acclaim. In addition to showcasing our construction techniques, we were happy to share our goal for net-positivity, use of high-quality materials and durable finishes, and overall sustainable design practices.
After exploring initial design concepts individually, the studio worked in pairs to come up with 8 schematic design solutions. Each solution was under 1000 square feet, built for less than $100,000, and net-zero energy efficient. A diverse range of schemes were imagined, ranging from two story homes, lofted homes, or single story ranch style. As a design exercise, our team looked to address issues on materials, spatial relationships, and construction sequencing, as well as affordability and sustainability.
These schemes were brought back to our partner, the Mattie Rhodes Center, and presented to a panel of community members, board members, and real estate agents. The overwhelming feedback was that each scheme presented a unique design solution to affordability. After further discussion, Mattie Rhodes decided to abandon their plans to build a subsidized, 4 bed 3 bath home in order to build one of our designs. It was determined that we would expand the scope of the project to include more living space and an additional bedroom.
Members of the Net Positive Studio visited Rural Studio in Newbern, Alabama. Third-year students from Auburn presented their work on an affordable housing module, and answered questions we had about the origin of their work, team-dynamics, and their lives in rural Alabama. The rest of the day was spent visiting Rural Studio projects, with discussions of affordability, construct-ability, and social impact.
The second leg of the trip was spent in New Orleans, Louisiana, at Tulane University. Graduate-level studio URBANbuild took us in for the day to talk about their work in post-Katrina New Orleans. After a detailed presentation and discussion with professors and students, we were able to drive around and visit some houses designed and built by students of the Tulane University program.