Live edge wood: celebrating the shape of nature

During a prairie restoration project, we had to cut a number of trees down that had grown up along a former fenceline. The farm fields had been planted to prairie in the 90’s, but they were still separated by a straight “treeline” edge. Such unnatural edges decrease the overall diversity of the species that live in the prairie. Instead of creating habitat brush piles and cutting firewood for maple syruping, we had the irregular log sections sawn on-site into 2″ thick boards.

We took the boards to a kiln. This allowed the wood to dry quickly, with minimal warping, and killed any insects in the process. The kiln recut and planed some of the boards for us to create 3/4″ live edge baseboard.

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Volunteers took the bark off and sanded down the live edge to create a smooth finish.

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A master craftsman from Ryan Companies than installed the baseboard. Lining up the live edge with the studs was a labor of love and caring.

Box elder is a soft wood with a short lifespan, and is not usually considered a top choice for craftsman. However, the beautiful red bands create a dynamic, rich hue in the room.
Box elder is a soft wood with a short lifespan, and is not usually considered a top choice for woodworking. However, the red bands create a dynamic, rich hue in the room.
Hackberry is also not typically a choice interior wood, but its pale color creates a unique offset to the blue wall.
Hackberry is also not typically a choice interior wood, but its pale color creates a unique offset to the blue wall.
Black cherry is more commonly used among furniture makers.
Black cherry is more commonly used among furniture makers.

 

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Creating biophilia: the plant press

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We harvested big bluestem grasses from the prairie and cattails from the wetland last fall.
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Using 3/4″ plywood and buckets full of sand, we created a 4’x8′ plant press that dried the grasses flat over the winter.
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We shipped the grasses to 3-Form, a company that presses organic materials into resin. The see-through panels that resulted are one of the ways Amazing Space merges nature and interior spaces.

Daylighting and views

The Living Building Challenge sets a number of Imperatives for creating a sustainable building, and #8 is Civilized Environment. This recognizes that people are healthier, happier, and more productive if they have access to fresh air and daylight. For Amazing Space, the upper portion of every window is operable, allowing guests and staff to enjoy the fresh air and sounds of nature.IMG_20160422_081737035To maintain a continuous air and moisture barrier between the inside of the building and the outside, after installation the windows frames are sealed with an expandable foam, creating a water-tight barrier.

IMG_20160427_114329469_HDRThe U-Factor of a window measures the heat loss. The lower the number (on a scale of 0-1), the less warm air leaks out through the windows during the winter. Our U-Factor is 0.28, and contributes to our overall envelope of R-30. The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient of 0.27 is a measure (on a scale of 0-1) of how much solar heat the window allows into the building. The low SHGC will help keep the building cool in the summer. IMG_20160427_114336664_HDRThe 10th Imperative of the Living Building Challenge is biophilia, which focuses on designing a building that “includes elements that nurture the innate human attraction to natural systems and processes.” The viewscapes provided by Amazing Space take advantage of the existing natural woodlands to the north and prairies to the south. This is the view out of a newly installed office window.
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Amazing progress on Amazing Space

More ductwork arrives regularly. Often, ductwork inside a building is hidden above drop ceilings. In Amazing Space, we are deliberately leaving the ducts exposed. This helps guests understand the heating and cooling systems in the building, and allows us to highlight the natural beauty of the pine trusses and the integrity of the architectural design.

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The glass walls and doors that invite people into the building and entice them back outside are being installed. With the exterior stonework finished and windows letting natural light inside, the biophilic beauty of the building is starting to emerge.

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At same time the glass curtainwall system is being erected, the siding is being installed. The yellow insulation foam is being covered by the rich brown of the hardieplank panels.

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Amazing Space is made of locally sourced wood and stone. Initially, lapped cedar seemed like a logical choice of siding to compliment the stone. Despite being a rot-resistant wood, cedar still follows a natural decomposition path over time. The cedar on our existing building is being destroyed by woodpeckers, as they dig out the insect larvae burrowing in the wood. In contrast, the hardieplank siding is made from cement board, has a 30 year warranty, and will last indefinitely. The longevity and low-maintenance of this material weighed heavily in its favor as being the more sustainable option.

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Celebrating Stone, past to present

409 to 439 million years ago, marine creatures were living out their lives in a shallow, highly-saline inland sea floor. Corals, algaes, crinoids, and brachiopods were abundant in the Silurian sea. The earth dried, puckered, shifted, and slowly ground its way  from the warmth just south of the equator up to the 42 parallel. The hard, calcium-rich skeletons and shells of the sea creatures were fossilized into smooth, thinly layered, or laminated, dolomite stone.

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S. Moyle Masonry, of Manchester, Iowa, builds the stone veneer wall.

As part of Indian Creek Nature Center’s Amazing Space building, we are celebrating the natural history of Iowa. Using a stone veneer provides us with an opportunity to showcase the limestone that forms the bedrock of our region. The Anamosa limestone for our project is quarried just 21 miles northeast of the Nature Center at Weber Stone in Stone City.

Polyextruded styrene (yellow) provides insulation between the aira nd moisture barrier (teal) and the stonework. The metal bracket is set into the grout and anchors the limestone to the wall.
Polyextruded styrene (yellow) provides insulation between the air and moisture barrier (teal) and the stonework. The metal bracket is set into the grout and anchors the limestone to the wall.

The beauty of the buff colored laminated layers, and the occasional calcite crystal, or vug, that formed during the formation of the magnesium-rich rock is evident in the natural random splitface veneer.

Approximately one quarter of the stonework has been complete.
Approximately one-quarter of the stonework has been complete.

The smooth layers of the stone is a testament to the calm sea conditions of the upper Silurian period of the Paleozoic Era the organisms once lived in.

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The polished caps highlight the fine texture and bedding planes of the limestone.