Knowledge Wonder

Emerge: Designing and Building a Micro-dwelling

David R. Alcala

This past summer I had the opportunity to participate in a unique design-build studio through the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s College of Architecture. The three-week program, located in Oregon, consisted of about 14 architecture students.

Emerge is a product of Jason Griffiths’ design – build studio, partnered with Bauman Tree Farms. The program was conceptualized to provide Bauman Tree Farms a way to give back to their community through architecture and sustainable forestry.  The idea is to juxtapose the forest and architecture to educate the next generation on sustainable forestry. It also exemplifies how sustainable practices are carried from the very beginning of a tree’s life cycle through the transformation into the lumber and used to create architecture.

As the third project out of a series of five between Griffiths and the tree farm, students were posed with the challenge of the most ambitious project to date: designing and building an 8’x10’x11’ micro-dwelling within three weeks. Previous years had gone the route of installation-based architecture; designing and building a camera obscura the first year, and an acoustic amplifier the second.



As we entered the design process, we knew that we would be moving forward with engineered lumber, cross-laminated timber (CLT) specifically, in an attempt to add to the conversation surrounding CLT here in the United States. To accomplish this, we toured local Oregon lumber mills and engineered lumber producers such as DR Johnson and Rosboro Lumber. It was critical we understood the lifecycle of the traditional Pacific Northwest Douglas Fir.



This forestry cycle is crucial because the micro-dwelling had two objectives:

  • The dwelling must be able to be used as an Eco-Tourism spot, in order to bring in extra revenue to Bauman Tree Farms.
  • It needed to be a continuation of Bauman Tree Farm’s working relationship with Forests Forever.

Approximately 2,000 middle school students will be given tours through the Bauman Tree Farm, ending at Emerge. The hope is for students to think about these complex ideas at a much younger age, developing a passion and interest in both architecture and sustainability, in turn preparing a new generation of leaders.

Read more about the Emerge project on ArchDaily.