The Final Stretch and What’s Next

This last week was our final week working on the bee nursery. With the dry fit finally complete it was time to take the structure to the real site and it’s new home at UNCA. On Monday we disassembled the dry fit and transported it to the site. With UNCA’s help we were able to dig a level surface and start constructing the nursery. It was an exciting moment for everyone! Tuesday was spent wrapping up construction by attaching the roof and finally anchoring down the structure. Construction went smoothly and all that was left was to add the bee habitats and furniture pieces.

On Wednesday the structure was up and it was time to finish our furniture pieces and start working on bee habitats. Using the bamboo we cut down from last week we made habitats for the bees. By bundling up the bamboo it fit nicely inside cardboard tubes and coffee cans. At the end of the day we were treated to a visit at Biltmore Gardens. A beautiful, peaceful place to go after all the hard work everyone has put into the project.

Thursday was the big reveal and ribbon cutting ceremony. With everything finished it was time to relax and enjoy the final product. The turnout was terrific and we were excited to see everyone who helped with the project together in one place. We all had an amazing time with Asheville Design Build Studio and can only imagine what’s in store for next summer’s students. To everyone that helped us with this project we thank you and wish you all the best! – Sincerely Asheville Design Build Team




The Light at the End of the Tunnel

After a solid week of work last week, Studio B eyed its goal for a dry fit Wednesday. The early part of the week was spent put the finishing touches on different components of the bee nursery. A variety of tasks needed to be completed before our dry fit, including priming and painting the steel plates and columns not yet painted, spraying nuts and bolts with a protective zinc coating to increase durability, and coating each of the bee habitats with a coat of polyurethane also to increase durability and deter water from entering the wood and damaging it. Although each provided for long and tedious processes, each will help to make the project be more aesthetically pleasing as well as increase the lifespan of the project.

While waiting for a few items to be delivered, each member of the studio began working on furniture pieces to be installed on site away from the main bee nursery to encourage people to interact with and occupy the whole site longer. Each student employed their own ideas into each piece and will be completed next week.


Without further ado, Wednesday saw the erection of the structure we have all worked on tirelessly over the last month and a half. We began by attaching the pre-assembled 8′ beams to their shorter counterparts with steel straps and plates then attached the top and bottom beams to the steel columns. Although it was not perfect and some adjustment will be made before final installation, we had finally seen a glimpse of the manifestation of many hours at work.


Thursday was spent continuing to work towards finishing our furniture pieces. The group worked hard this week to complete the tasks at hand but also found time for a trip to a local architect’s office on Monday, a conversation with several other area architects and a trip to a farm near Hendersonville to collect bamboo for bee habitats on Wednesday. Next week will surely be one filled with hard work to install the project and shared joy over the completion of the project on UNC Asheville’s campus.

Welding, Painting, and Prepping

This week officially kicks off the build aspect of our studio! Our steel and lumber arrived to AB Tech, allowing us to start fabricating the main structure.

At the start of the week, two of our students used Clemson University’s Digital Design Shop to plasma cut our metal connections, which saved TONS of time down the road.


Everyone had a chance to try their hand at welding in the metal shop, where a local designer/welder assisted us in creating the legs for the bee nursery. From there, the metal was cleaned, primed, and painted with the UNC Asheville Blue: the darker color really sits back on the structure, allowing our fabricated bee boxes to really stand out – plus they’ve already attracted visitors!

Additionally, the lumber was cut in the shop, and drilled where the bolts would be set. We also had to rout the ends of the lumber so the welded plates would fit better, which we found out as we did a dry run.

This has been our most construction-intensive week yet and it’s only going to get better from here! Stay tuned for more updates about Studio B! We can’t wait to share the final product with y’all.


Updates, mock-ups, and lending a hand

In week 4, we started off by presenting the project’s updates to faculty and students from UNC Asheville at their campus. Many changes for the project occurred during the weekend such as updating the educational information that we discovered from last week’s “Bee Con” as well as design strategies that best respond to the needs of a proper bee nursery for the site. The feedback from UNC Asheville was great and we are all excited about the progress that has been made.

Back at the wood shop, we started to fabricate full scale mock ups to help us visualize the scale of the bee nursery. Everyone is assigned to fabricate specific parts of the main structure to help speed up the process. We are labeling members of the structure, drilling holes for the bolted connections, and assembling all of the pieces.

After evaluating the mock-up model, we adjust a few components to make the proportions of the project feel just right. Liz treats us with coffee and donuts to help us focus and stay awake! Boston creme donuts are the best!!!

We also took time this week to help out the ADC with the maintenance of a past project. This opportunity is a great way to establish a relationship with the community of Asheville and show our passion for not only designing awesome projects but to also show that we care about every project after their completion. The project we helped with is an outdoor learning garden located on Burton Street.

Bee Experts + Project Visualization

Tuesday’s Pollination Celebration (Bee Con) at the NC Arboretum has been our largest community engagement activity to date: After attending a highly educational lecture about pollinators and what to plant for them, Studio-B set up in the lobby and we presented our research, schematic design, and overall goals for this project.

Local bee-experts, landscape architects, and community members provided us with valuable feedback on material usage and form that we have now adapted into our design. Overall, the event was very informative for us and our project, and we got to enjoy some delicious and healthy snacks provided by local gardeners. 🙂

Throughout the week, we’ve been acquiring both found and store bought materials to begin creating some small mock-ups of our design. Below, you can view how we plan to frame certain areas on the site to highlight the beautiful gardens UNCA displays at the entrance to their campus. We’ve even begun marking the site where we plan to build the main structure. The paint might not be there now, but the exercise opened our eyes to the reality of the project and the importance of how an object this large sits on the site. IMG_3143

Week 3 came to a close with a  very productive weekend that began to iron out our construction drawings which put us back on track and in the clear for when we finally start construction after the Fourth of July. GO AMERICA! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Schematic Design Process Moves Along

To start of the week, we invited several local architects, board members from ADC, and bee specialists to review our initial design strategies for the bee nursery. Overall, we received great feedback which helped us to look at this project at a scale beyond the campus of UNC Asheville, to allow the design to influence visitors of the nursery but the community as well.



With feedback from Monday taken into consideration, we each improved our design strategies over the next few days into a single schematic designs we each presented to our clients at UNC Asheville.



After meeting at UNC Asheville on Thursday, we had a better idea of what their expectations are for the bee nursery: making sure there is an emphasis on the educational aspect of the program in order to inform the public about the importance of pollinators and a design that has a sense of belonging in the site. They were also excited about several ideas that were presented such as a green roof system, a “make your own bee nursery” station, and satellite pods dispersed throughout the site.

Friday we were back to the drawing board to refine the design. We combined our ideas and UNCA’s requests to develop an iconic bee nursery. It’s a rigorous design process but it will be worth it in the end!


Participation, Performance & Playfulness – U-LEAF

This post should be titled:

3 Reasons You Should Hire a U-LEAF Crew Member on the Spot

As far as enriching, hands-on, fun-filled, summer adventures go, this one was probably the best. After my third year teaching the AVL DesignBuild Studio with Luke W. Perry and the Asheville Design Center, the 2015 unfolding LEAF community arts stage was by far the most challenging and rewarding design/build studio we’ve ever had. According to our 13 architecture, landscape architecture, sustainable building technologies, management, urban planning, and mechatronics engineering students, the AVL DesignBuild Studio delivered one of the best learning experiences for community-driven design.

In summary, as developed by the students, the U-LEAF’s tagline is: Participation, Performance, and Playfulness. The U-LEAF:

  • creates an unfolding stage that can go anywhere
  • is safe, functional, and engaging
  • is adaptable
  • can be set up by two trained volunteers in 90 minutes
  • meets DOT/trailer size and weight restrictions

After one final week of punch list (and then another week of punch list, thank you local students, instructor Luke Perry, ADC interns, and ADC/MHO Rose Fellow Geoffrey Barton for putting on the final touches), the U-LEAF was towed away by Leigh Maher, of LEAF Community Arts as of yesterday.

The U-LEAF received it’s final coats of paint, aluminum siding, decal installed and donated by HENCO Reprographics, power winch, nesting boxes, and supporting scissor jacks all prior to the final ADC Donor-Appreciation event held at the Boathouse in River Arts District last week. The event was even covered by Mountain Xpress, see article titled “AVL Design Center’s DesignBuild Studio Rolls Out the U-LEAF Stage.”

In reflection of the wonderful experience that we all shared this summer, juggling part-time jobs, work/life balance, enjoying the WNC mountains and rivers, eating together, designing, problem-solving, and building together, I thought I’d wrap up this year’s AVL DesignBuild project with 3 Reasons You Should Hire a U-LEAF Crew Member on the Spot, to highlight the excellent team of students we had this summer! Here we go:

  1. Flexibility. Students are forced to stay on their toes whether it’s logistics (when/where are we meeting for the day), design challenges (physics!), time constraints (metal shop isn’t available today…), or resolving and incorporating client feedback (we want to cover the whole stage, now). The U-LEAF Crew was faced with many challenges, and navigating community outreach, incorporating feedback into the design, designing as a consensus, and building something that would work for LEAF, taught our crew adaptability, problem-solving, and resilience. The U-LEAF Crew is on the fly, and willing to do whatever it takes to make things happen!
  2. Attitude. Everybody loves service with a smile. By balancing weekend activities like trips to the lake, rivers, and A-B Tech Welding Club BBQ fundraisers, the pressure to finish on time and under budget never broke the positive attitude, and go-getter spirit of the U-LEAF crew. In order for everyone to work well together, we had to make sure we were able to balance fun and productivity. Using the “Yes, And…” mentality taught students to open their minds and build off each other, and this attitude produced a better product for our client in the meantime. You can teach technical skills in job training to anyone who has a good attitude.
  3. Teamwork. Soft skills like being a team-player are highly desirable in collaborative fields such as architecture, engineering, construction management, and project management. After taking a day to flush out the pros and cons of working in groups, the team used consensus-based design as a means for moving forward in all aspects of the U-LEAF design. Veronique Rodriguez, architecture major at Virginia Tech agrees: “I really like how we switched up the groups whenever people start to get stuck on a design idea or construction detail, so everyone works on each other’s ideas.” I think we can all agree that the U-LEAF is much better off having the input of many minds and hands than if an individual member of the group designed the whole thing, and then forced everyone else to build it. Unlike most architecture studios, design/build requires students to be accountable for what they design and draw, and integrating the design and construction in a team format is the only way to make a complex project like the  U-LEAF come to life.

There you have it, folks. Plain and simple. What do you need to make a mobile stage that is welded to an 8000-pound capacity trailer, with 900+ pound “wings” that unfold to a 17-foot by 18-foot sturdy, flat, and level perfoming surface? Oh yeah, and you only have $8500 budget for materials, limited skill sets, and 10 weeks to do it? You need a crew that is flexible, with a “yes, and” attitude that works well together as a team. Otherwise, you’d better save up $50k-$150k for one of these. Thank you to everyone who pitched in, you know who you are, and your name will be forever engraved on the edge of the stage… (Hire these guys, and you won’t be sorry:)

  • Allison Chan, Clemson University
  • Ashley Davis, Clemson University
  • Chad Ekre, UNC Asheville/NC State
  • Christina Booher, UNC Charlotte
  • David Koontz, NC State
  • Calum Dodson, UNC Charlotte
  • Ed Dale, A-B Tech
  • Caitlin Fogarty, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Julia Chapman, Clemson University
  • Lizete Rea, Clemson University
  • Melody Bazzle, Clemson University
  • Steph McConnell, Clemson University
  • Veronique Rodriguez, Virginia Tech