ADUs & Poche_Truss

On December 30, 2021 I was leaving my doctor’s office at around 11:00. We noticed plumes of black smoke off to the south but went about our business in Boulder, stopping to eat at DOT’S before noting there was now LOTS of black smoke to the east.  As we ran our errands, the staff at Walgreens were all on their phones with reports of road closures, power lines down, and instructions to shut the shop doors. The winds were tearing up the sky and whipping the car doors from our grip. Eyebrows raised, we went off to McGuckin’s and found it…closed? By 4:15 that hospital and its campus had been evacuated by what would turn into the catastrophic Marshall Fire where 1,084 houses were destroyed, forever altering the lives of those households.

8 months to the day later, the Town of Superior has issued 32 building permits for 3.6% of their 380 houses counted as being destroyed or with major damage. Folks want to get back to their normal.

Here’s what I wonder: after COVID and the Marshall Fire and under the influence of climate change restructuring the planet’s ecology, is that even probable?

I jumped in with the rebuilding effort of Superior for two reasons:

1. Within months of the fire, Superior amended its zoning policy to allow ADUs to be built before the main house.

2. Xcel, the energy supplier for the area, was offering a significant rebate of $37,500 to rebuild to PassivHaus standards.

ADUs and PassivHaus will NOT give people back their normal. Instead, they set a whole new bar: better living, better building.

Better living: our ADUs are built with the Poche_Truss where the building form, both inside and out, are custom shaped to the contextual environment and desired experience, without a custom build upcharge. Living in an intelligent (think responsive) small (think less stuff) house will realign your living to what matters most – being present.

Better building: our ADUs are built to PassivHaus standards bringing superior thermal, audio, and environmental comfort; and by using the Poche_Truss building system, our ADUs achieve passive survivability in these times of uncertain utility reliability and climate upheaval.

Moving forward. Not going back. Good design is like that.  

Poche_Truss

It is said again and again in the recent decade: housing is the one major industry that has resisted disruption. In spite of the facts that material costs are all over the map; there is a severe labor shortage; buildings account for upwards of 30% of greenhouse gases; extraction, manufacturing, and construction carbon and waste are generally unaccounted for or to; and, there is a severe housing crisis for those having no home to those affording a house on a middle income. Yet the industry barely budges. Small residential projects and developer houses are built as they have been for centuries, with few innovations. Aren’t we done with this? I am.

Introducing the Poche_Truss (PatPend), an audacious disruptive innovation in residential construction. It is a low tech invention that sits right under our collective construction noses, embodied in the humble truss.  

What is not to love? The thin profile of the structural frame and the spacious unfolding of setting them sequentially to magically create space. In my career it was inevitable that this humble construction strategy would take hold of my imagination. In 1997 I flipped the trusses upside down on the Shaffer house and never looked back.

A short two dozen years later, On January 22, 2021, a provisional patent was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office: Wall Roof Truss Building System, Inventor: ml Robles. Presentations on this building system are ongoing.

ADUforMe 2021

Our first wee house in a backyard is done!  #14 under Boulder’s revised ADU regulations. Its total cost, excluding land, in 2019-2020 was $190,600, at 540sf that translates to $353/sf.  

Our second wee house in a backyard is under design. This one is substantially different. For one, lumber costs have more than doubled in cost and preliminary cost came in at almost $500/sf. A 41% overall increase! Plus – Boulder adopted the IECC’s 2018 energy conservation standards. But wait, there is more – COVID-19 happened and the city approval process is spiraling in excess and redundancy. Yikes. I, however, remain undeterred in building ADUs to change the way we make small houses and use our urban land. ADUforMe and Studio Points are making their way through all of this. We bring a solution to the table. Coming soon…the Poche_Truss!

Went to the loo in Austin

I had a family reunion in Austin this past weekend. And you know how reunions go, you are so involved with enjoying the get together you push other things to the back of your mind. Like visiting the loo.

I, however, had a loo – front and center in my mind.

Lady Bird Loo, Austin Texas, Mell Lawrence Architects, Austin Buildings need to work amazingly well. Ours do. They reflect a deep sense of place and life pattern. Mell Lawrence Architects, Austin

It was late morning on a hot and humid July day, typical for Austin. The Colorado River looked serene in its placid state of pale green and blue water. A cooling breeze seemed to drop the temperature to bearable as we walked the gravel trail along its bank.  

Two awkward looking rusted steel structures came into view. I instantly recognized them from their published photos.  They looked more shadow than structure as the tall steel sheets rose directly from the ground.

When you are on an architectural pilgrimage, no matter how humble, attention is moreso. I walked around the structures, peeking into the narrow gap between the steel panels and the concrete end wall, noting the carefully detailed clips that held the steel panels to the frame. The panels were already covered in rust, the intended end game of Corten steel that allows the natural salt and humidity to corrode its surface to a point of patina before further corrosion is inherently stopped. This rust felt almost dangerous as I carefully inspected the corrosion flakes.

I ran my hand along the board formed concrete end walls, feeling the wood grain and the concrete bits that leaked through, forming thin rough rows across the wall.  

As I continued to walk around the buildings, sensing the tall and folding walls, I eventually realized that they were locked for maintenance. Actually, that had not in the least diminished my experience. The buildings were quite available as simple structures along a trail. Belonging to the site regardless of their use. Good design is like that.