The Littleton Trials: an iterative method for incorporating forestry, construction, and heat transfer feedbacks in mass timber buildings
by David Kennedy (MDes ’16), Jacob Mans (MDes ’16), and Benjamin Peek (MDes ’16)
This inquiry seeks a method for identifying feedback indicators that operate across scales in mass timber buildings. Reinforcing feedback loops offer an alternative metric to efficiency-based performance indicators that operate solely within the envelope boundary of a building. The project unfolds across the design and construction of three wooden huts at the Prouty Woods in Littleton, Massachusetts. We dissect wood across scales to understand how material-scaled thermodynamic variables, building-scaled construction logics, and landscape-scaled forest management regimes can operate as non-linear feedback loops that shape trans-scalar design decisions.
Our methodology leverages observation, making, and occupation across scales to inform a theory of design research and practice that engages architecture as an open system. Wood, as our explorative media, diverges and converges through the act of construction and testing. The design iteration and construction of Trial Hut001 focuses on characterizing different mass timber construction logics (nail-laminated timber, dowel laminated timber, nailed cross laminated timber, and doweled cross laminated timber). The design iteration and construction of Trial Hut 002 focuses feedback from the initial trial and modified it through the introduction of critical New England wood species to understand the impacts of a multi-species wood construction across scales. The design iteration and construction of Trial Hut 003 converges feedback from the first two trials into a set of thermally tuned multi-species wood panel concepts informed by the de-construction of existing construction logics and the incorporation of different local wood species.
The project is continuously changing and redefining as it tracks opportunities opened by our collaborators and the trials undertaken during the construction and testing of aspects of the project. Trial Hut003 embodies a number of critical feedback loops that begin to connect local forest management practices to heat transfer considerations at the scale of a building. The project embodies the formation of a method for design research that leverages the physical medias of large-scale making and material organization into a critical abductive process. This method is an alternative model that couples academic research with professional practice–a critical alignment that bridges the academic and commercial realm.