Auburn University Rural Studio, Newbern Town Hall

The Newbern Town Hall, a recent project completed in February 2013, demanded an efficient use of space and multi-use materials for both budget and longevity reasons.

Established by Auburn University’s School of Architecture in 1993, the school’s Rural Studio program provides a oneof-a-kind approach to architectural education, challenging students to identify, fund raise and eventually build architectural projects of their own design. These projects instill the value of socially conscious design and construction in the context of an underserved population.

Having completed more than 100 projects throughout the Black Belt region of the American Southeast, educating over 800 students in the process, Rural Studio has become a servicelearning model garnering both national and international recognition.

For many of these projects, efficiency is a key component, both for budget and longevity reasons. The Newbern Town Hall, a recent project completed in February 2013 was no different, demanding an efficient use of space and multi-use materials.

Built in rural Hale County, Alabama, the “Main Street” style town of Newbern needed a community meeting space, somewhere to serve as the democratic center of town and provide a venue for indoor or outdoor gatherings of various sizes. In order to build this, students of Auburn’s Rural Studio sought materials and a design that would hold weight, both structurally and figuratively.

Their choice for walls, the durable and low-maintenance heavy timber Cypress, provided efficiency unmatched by many other materials. “We needed to be economical not only in our design, but in the specific materials we used for the project. One of our major goals was to make this building forward thinking, without that interfering in the building’s use,” said David Frazier of the Newbern Town Hall thesis team.

The cypress would serve as an exterior finish, insulation and interior finish, while also eliminating transportation and production waste commonly associated with the necessary layers of stud-frame construction. The architectural design of the building, as well, was simple and efficient, including two meeting rooms, one large and one small, as well as a kitchen, service areas and a restroom.

Choosing an appropriate HVAC system was also an integral component for both form and function. Based on performance and design requirements, Frazier and his team determined a ductless HVAC system was the most appropriate fit. Other restrictions included a need to reduce noise in the open-air attic cavity and zoning control in order to conserve energy use and costs.

“We aim for energy conservation and efficiency across all of our projects, and were seeking an HVAC system for the Newbern Town Hall that supported these goals, while also providing rapid heating and cooling in areas of the building based on impromptu use and meeting needs,” continued Frazier.

Their selection, a tri-zone MULTI F™ Inverter heat pump system from LG Electronics, allowed them to fulfill all of these requirements, complementing the design aesthetic for the structure while offering high performance and customized temperature control in an energy-efficient, cost effective manner.

LG’s MULTI F Inverter solution provides a range of options for interior systems, multiple zoning configurations, high energy efficiency (SEER up to 18.4) and quiet operation (34dB(A) indoor, 57 dB(A) outdoor). Frequently utilized for applications where ductwork is either not an option or inappropriate, MULTI F system flexibility is both design friendly and cost efficient.

The MULTI F system provides effective temperature control while maintaining the integrity and multi-functional use of heavy timber cypress and the same economical use of space and materials demanded by both Rural Studio students and Newbern’s mayor.

“We are extremely pleased with the HVAC system in our new town hall and are thankful that the team chose LG’s MULTI F system,” said Woody Stokes, mayor of Newbern, Alabama. “We’ve already held a number of events in the building, and continue to receive positive feedback from both staff and visitors, especially how well the zoned temperature control operates and how quiet both interior and exterior units are.”

“The aesthetic of the LG system is much cleaner and more compact than other HVAC systems we investigated, and we are now seeing it exceed our performance expectations as well,” said Frazier. “Without the MULTI F system, the building would not be able to perform at the level of efficiency that was desired at the onset of the project.”

“Over the lifetime of the building, we expect the system to be extremely costeffective for the town of Newbern, and are already looking at additional projects to incorporate similar systems from LG,” concluded Frazier.