SURE Construction: 01 Foundation

-- We are excited to have started building the SURE HOUSE in a parking lot on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken New Jersey. “SURE Construction” is a subset of our PopSci blog that we’ll use to chronicle our construction process. Check back often if you want to follow our progress and get a first hand view of how a sustainable and resilient house takes shape.

Design Challenge

One of the unique challenges of the Solar Decathlon is that teams have to build their houses three times: (1) on a temporary site usually at or near their school, (2) at the competition site in Irvine CA, and (3) on the final site for which the building was actually designed. This means designing two temporary (one with high seismic requirements) and one permanent foundation. No small engineering feat.

The Pier

This plywood pier is the basic building block of the temporary foundation for our building on the Stevens Institute of Technology campus.

Pier Layout

After fabricating them in our shop, we laid out our piers oldschool. Here civil engineering students Allison, Christine and Matt use measuring tapes to pull diagonals for the corners and string to line up the intermediate piers.

Pier Leveling

Next, we leveled the sloping and VERY bumpy parking lot surface with more plywood using a laser level..and lots of screws. The purpose of the 2x6 boxes (unpainted) is to elevate the house higher here on campus than at the competition so that we can more easily work underneath on things like plumbing. Product Architecture Engineering (PAE) grad students Mike, Eddie, and Alex work late to get it done.

Beam Fabrication

Back in the shop we fabricated a beam system, designed to be capped by a 2x4 frame...

2x4 Framing

...then installed the beams on the piers. The pre-cut 2x4’s act as a check for the foundation layout (time will be of the essence here on the competition site)...

Building with Transport in Mind

...and create a notch to accept the straps that we’ll use to lift our three modules with a crane when it’s time to transport them to the competition site. (That’s PAE grad student and composites guru Tom King.)

Project Engineer

Christine Hecker, our student engineering team lead and tireless structural engineer, helped the all student crew build the foundation she was instrumental in designing. That’s what the Solar Decathlon is all about.

Finished Foundation

Here’s the finished temporary foundation ready for floor framing.