4x8s (and other material standards)

The ability to define a continuous line as a single wall in Revit produces a length of material that extends far beyond the limits of construction standards and possibilities. Any wall in Revit, even in its highest level of resolution, substitutes individual units of material for a single surface. The internal layers of the wall are lumped into a continuous grey block that supposedly carries various materials of pre-set qualities. The exact number and placement of panels that are necessary to build a certain length of wall remains undefined by the software, and these decisions are deferred to the contractor. In both 3D-rendered and section views, individual studs and the seams between plywood panels are nowhere to be found. These conventions of construction seem to have lost their place in the world of BIM.

At the 1905 Portland World's Fair, the Portland Manufacturing Company introduced the first example of veneer-core plywood, which was produced as a sheet measuring 4ft. x 8ft. Since the industrial production of plywood began in 1928, the 4x8 sheet has become a standard of construction that has since been adopted for other rigid sheet materials (drywall, insulation). Each material in the layering of a typical wall is tied to its own standard. This project attempts to layer the typical wall through materials that maintain their original, standardized dimensions.

At lengths and heights that are proportionate to these standard dimensions, the layering of the wall system falls into the category of perfect lamination. It is in this state that the wall could be considered typical. However, when one or more disruptions are introduced, additional panels of material are required to compensate for gaps that are produced in the process. The addition of extra 4x8s produces ridges, extra thicknesses, and bumps. Membrane layers, in this case building wrap and the wallpaper, bind the underlying rigid materials together, approximating the internal disruptions. In the site of Perloff Hall where slope and proportion are irregular, the miss-fit of standard materials produces gaps and bumps that require patching, wrapping, and additional layering to maintain the integrity of the wall.

With the wood frame situated as an ideal formal, structural arrangement, disruptions in the courtyard such as stairs, ramps, columns, and slopes. These conditions force a miss-fit or missed-lamination of subsequent parts.  The formal ambitions of this project are more accurately described as consequences of a procedural layering. Individual panels must be fit to the previously assembled layers. Perfect lamination of layers becomes impossible as the typical wall is forced into a site with atypical features.

Revit views, drawing, and other forms of notation rely on certain assumptions that are able to be made through reference to a standard. A process of standardization removes any need for repetitive description, and complex things can be reduced to single symbols or points in notation. As we have seen in revit, standard elements such as studs and panels are completely omitted, and responsibility for their implementation is left up to the contractor.

In this project, the use of unmodified 4x8 sheets and other material standards remove any need for description of cut or specific fit. Instead, the only required notation to perform the construction of the wall describes location of panels, orientation, and order of assembly.

Performance notation introduces the element of time into two dimensional representation. This information is often collapsed in a way that represents succession and order, such as through linear arrangement, symbols, and the use of directional lines. The last set of representation (which can be applied to any material in the layering of the wall, in this case plywood) traces the process of assembly through order of points. In a typical wall, order of panel assembly would not affect the wall’s ultimate appearance. The irregularity and specificity of assembly in this addition necessitates further notation. The project assumes responsibility for the assembly procedures of the contractor, and with nothing left to determine, assembling the wall is now as easy as connecting the dots.

Winter 2018

Instructor: Gabriel Fries-Briggs

Team Members: Chase Galis, Nicole Galisatus, Dania Ghuneim, Amber Shen