The Covington Farmers Market was designed and built by design/buildLAB, a third year architecture studio at the Virginia Tech, School of Architecture + Design focused on the research, development and implementation of innovative construction methods and architectural designs.
During the fall semester, the students spent a number of weeks studying existing Farmers Markets around Virginia - which they visited - and around the world - which they studied through publications, drawings and photographs. Using that information, a list of requirements given to them by the client and their own interviews of the Covington Farmers Market vendors, the students were able to establish guidelines and specific requirements for the project.
All 17 students first made individual design propositions for the project. From those, a master plan was determined then a design for the building. In this way, all of the students contributed ideas to the discussion. It was very important from a pedagogical perspective that not one "scheme" was chosen. Rather, they collaborated to develop the final design for the project.
The project is conceived as 3 parts: Ground Plane, Occupied Space, and Pavilion Roof. All component parts are based on a 10' wide module to facilitate prefabrication and transportation to the site. At the scale of the town, the building reads as a seamless gesture. At the scale of the occupant, the details express the modular construction. A locust deck serves as the market floor. It folds up to allow the nesting of an office, storage room and toilet room. It extends beyond the market and into a sloped earth park to provide a stage and seating. A sculptural roof and ceiling of reclaimed heart-pine and galvanized sheet steel floats over-head.
Because all goods sold at this market are required to be produced within a 100 mile radius, this distance became a goal for the procurement of construction materials. Essential to this approach was the use of recycled building material in the construction, in particular the re-use of wood salvaged from an old barn in a neighboring town. Additional, new lumber, including locust decking and yellow pine cladding for the project were sourced from locally sawn timbers.
Digital fabrication played a substantial role in the sustainability of the project by maximizing structural efficiency and minimizing waste. In terms of limiting water and energy use, the project incorporates a rain water collection system, LED lighting and natural ventilation. A 1200 gallon cistern collects water from the roof and is used for watering the park and flushing toilets. LED lighting ensures long bulb life and extremely low energy consumption. Further, the pavilion roof was designed with an inverted ceiling to facilitate stack effect ventilation and eliminate the need for mechanical cooling.
Finally, the asphalt surface from the site's previous parking lot was milled and stored through construction to be repurposed as a new permeable, compacted, parking area.
The students prefabricated the Market structure, including floor, conditioned buildings, and pavilion roof at VA Tech's Environmental Systems Laboratory. A local contractor was hired to complete the foundations and utility connections. This allowed for two phases of construction, site work and framing, to happen simultaneously. In total, the students prefabricated and assembled the structure in less than four months. The efficiency of working in a controlled environment, with easy access to tools and equipment was essential in achieving the schedule of one academic year.
The Covington Farmers Market was recently awarded a 2011 Design Excellence Award from the Virginia Society AIA.