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Flock House Skin for the Win

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Flock House - Engr215 Student Projects
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Aluminum Awareness

Through Engineering 215 Intro to Design at Humboldt State University, Team Skin for the Win was created to address a problem involving a client of Professor Lonny Grafman. This client is the Flock House founded by Mary Mattingly, who is a well known and respected artist in New York City. She is the founder of many projects other than the Flock House Project including the Waterpod Project [1] for which a previous Engineering 215 Intro to Design class were also participants. The objective of team Skin for the Win is to design a shell to make the already existing fiberglass frame of the Flock House resistant to the common weather conditions of New York City. Our client wishes this shell to be composed of mainly repurposed materials, and it must be durable enough to last throughout the spring and summer months. To complete this objective, team Skin for the Win will use a design process involving the following steps:

  1. Project Formulation
  2. Problem Analysis and Literature Review
  3. Alternative Solutions
  4. Design Process
  5. Specification of Final Solution


Flock House Frame

Mary Mattingly is the visionary artist in charge of the Flock House project that is an art initiative to create a structure the size of a small van that can house at least two individuals from the months of May through August 2012. The structure will move through various parts of New York, with the intention to raise awareness of the homeless epidemic, spark new ideas regarding sustainable living, and challenge the traditional home.

Mattingly described the theme of the Flock House project as community migration, which is visible through the model Mattingly’s team created. It features cloud shaped rings that are made of fiberglass scavenged from old boats in the shape of the current migration patterns of humans.

The color tones must be natural, and the shell translucent to allow in natural light. The structure must feature a window and a door, and must be secure from intruders. Mattingly envisioned a flexible outer shell that could be restructured if need be to accommodate various locations. Mattingly is not opposed to the idea of a stiffer structure, as long as sunlight is the primary source of light. She emphasizes the importance of aesthetics and simplicity and she would like to grow plants over the structure from the bottom up (Mattingly, 2011).

Problem Analysis and Criteria

Criteria Weight Description
Safety 10 Protects inhabitants from natural elements
Inspiration 9 Reuses commonly wasted materials
Aesthetics 8 Visually appealing
Cost 8 Less than $375
Durability 7 Should withstand New York weather conditions

Description of final project

Our solution consists of a simple, elliptical shaped dome structure made of plywood and wiring. The dome is made by two arched pieces of plywood that are supported by a plywood base. The arches are covered with metal wiring, where the aluminum shingles are placed.

The shingles are made by cutting and crimping aluminum cans. The shingle crimper is made by shaping two pieces of wood to fit together with two grooves. The tops and bottoms are cut off the aluminum can, and then cut down the middle to make a flat piece of aluminum. This aluminum is placed into the crimper to be shaped into a shingle.


Design Cost

Design cost is measured in hours. The total hours spent on the creation of the Aluminum Awareness are 428 with the total being broken into respective segments as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Pie chart of design hours spent on each design section.

Implementation Cost

Implementation cost is measured in dollars. The total dollars spent on the creation of the Aluminum Awareness are $153.84 with the total being broken into required materials in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Table of design dollars spent on each design section.

Testing Results

To test the durability of some selected materials, our group exposed them to the outside weather for three days, sprayed them with water at a high pressure for a minute, put them in the oven at a temperature of 110˚F for thirty minutes, and scratched them with a wire brush 100 times. The results of these tests helped to determine which materials were to be used as our primary building materials. Further testing was implemented upon the completion of the project, where the structure was lightly sprayed with a garden hose for 2 minutes to simulate rain. Upon completing this test there was little to no leakage on all of the constructed outer shells.

How to build

In order to reconstruct Aluminum Awareness one must have access to several woodworking power tools including a bandsaw, chop saw, and a jig saw. Although Aluminum Awareness can be built using simple hand woodworking tools, having these power tools make the process much easier. One must also have plywood, roofing paper, aluminum cans, 2-liter bottles, a staple gun, a nail gun, wood glue, as well as some type of wood to make the framing. On our scale model pine was used for the framing, however any other type of softwood such as fir or cedar would be equally sufficient. The dimensions of these woods and the amount of materials is dependent upon the scale at which Aluminum Awareness is desired to be reproduced. In order to construct the aluminum can shingle crimper the materials needed are: enough hardwood to make two 4"x6"x2" boards as well as two 3/8"x6"x3/8" slats, two pin hinges, 1" wood screws, and a table with dado blades. Step by step instructions to reproduce Aluminum Awareness can be found here: Aluminum Awareness Instructions

Discussion and next steps


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Ross, Douglas P. (Jun 24, 2005). “Climatography of the United States, Station: New York City Central Pk, NY.” National Climatic Data Center, <http://hurricane.> (Sept 21, 2011).

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Figure 2-11

Figure 2-11

Figure 2-8

Figure 2-7 ; Kite Made from Tyvek Housewrap

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Figure 2-1

Figure 2-12

Figure 2-10

Team Skin for the Win