First Complete Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) Building in New York State

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60 all clts installed 2.15.17We began raising the first complete Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) building in New York State on our main campus in Farmington, NY in late January 2017. A combination of mass timber, heavy timber, and CLTs, the 21,000 sq ft building will house our fine woodworking division, NEWwoodworks, and offer a bit of storage/shipping for our sister company, Pioneer Millworks. CLT construction is an economically and environmentally conscious alternative to steel and concrete construction, a material that is new to the U.S. building industry.

From site prep to flying the the final CLT panel:



What are CLTs? A quick description might be ‘giant plywood’. More specifically, CLTs are large wooden panels, typically consisting of 3, 5, or 7 layers of dimensional lumber, oriented at right angles, glued together. The panels for our project averaged 8 feet tall and 38 feet long at 3 ¼ and 3 ¾ inch thickness. Using a crane and lulls, the panels were lifted into place and fitted by hand to the supporting timber frame. Each CLT panel has a shiplap edge that nests the panels together and is secured with metal fasteners.

We see CLTs as a wave of the future and we’re investing in our Western New York campus to better position the region and our industry to ride the wave. The opportunities with CLTs are abundant for businesses and housing and offer dramatic environmental benefits. Wood is a naturally occurring and renewable resource which stores carbon. It has proved time and again to preform as well, and at times better than, carbon heavy steel and concrete.

About CLTs one sheetThe CLT panels are pre-designed, highly engineered, of superior quality with precise tolerances – all specific processes and requirements that are fundamental to our timber framing craft. This fits perfectly with our traditional work and parallels the SIPs integration that we’ve spearheaded for years. The project combines the strength of mass (glulam) timbers and heavy timbers with CLT panels, utilizing a timber frame wrapped by CLT walls and topped by CLT roof panels. The panels arrived from Austria, shipped by sea (which had about half the carbon impact in comparison to shipping by land across the US or from Canada) with pre-cut openings for windows and doors. These panels were made using smaller Spruce trees from sustainably managed forests in the EU.

6 second panel CLT


Raising the frame and installing the panels (walls and roof) for this project took just under three weeks. This is our first CLT project and we now know first-hand that time on site is minimized and there is little waste with this product. While there was a learning curve, the process was amazingly smooth. Many accolades for our co-workers who are dynamic thinkers, unstoppable doers, and all around great people. Darren, Mike, Noah, Michael, Quinn, Todd, Anthony, Kevin, Marc, Mike G, and Wes to name a few who spent hours on the ground – also on ladders, in lulls, and on the roof – in chilly, wet, sunny, and snowy conditions.

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A blustery, snowy day in upstate NY.

44 roof NWW

And a sunny, bright day. Typical to the Upstate region, weather fluctuated greatly over the 3 week raising.

A little dancing was in order as the last panel was installed (see Todd on the far left):

We’re excited to move our fine woodworking division on our main campus. In February of 2015, NEWwoodworks, located in neighboring Shortsville, NY, suffered a catastrophic event as excessive snow loads caused half of the roof collapse over their 70-year-old building (no one was injured). NEWwoodworks will be entrusted with 13,000 sq ft of the new CLT building while Pioneer Millworks will utilize 8,000 sq ft for reclaimed wood storage and shipping. We’ve expanded our Farmington office space to accommodate the NEWwoodworks design and management team, as well as give Pioneer Millworks a bit more elbow room.

office addition new energy worksWe anticipate easier communication and workflow allowing us to better serve our clients by joining NEWwoodworks with our main campus and giving Pioneer Millworks easy access to a loading dock plus covered space for inventory.

A special piece of this project is a Broad Leaf Maple tree sourced by our co-worker, Randy, from his forest in Oregon. The tree was crafted to serve as a main post in the NEWwoodworks section of our CLT building. Mike W connected with this tree from delivery in OR to raising in NY. He had a few words about this post which he affectionately named, Atlas.

Next steps: We’ll be installing a Wood Fiber Insulation on the exterior of the CLT building. Another product which is new to the US, these panels offer 3.5R per inch, are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, and are another carbon sink – for each 1 m3 used, up to 1 tonne of CO2 is bound within the product. Exterior cladding, radiant heat, windows, and more will round out this new build as Spring 2017 progresses.

Nestled in Vermont

vermont timber frame rendering apr 2017

In our experience, homes are most successful when they adapt, age, and grow with their inhabitants. It’s always pleasing when we can plan ahead for changes, such as transitioning a weekend vacation space to full-time home. Hank and Julie have given us such an opportunity. The couple has a delightful build site in Fayston, VT and enlisted our team to design their vacation home, which will eventually become their full-time retirement retreat.

Sublime views of Slidebrook Basin between north and south ski areas of Sugarbush Resort guided the overall home orientation, and specifically the great room layout, for Hank and Julie’s project.

view of sugarbush

Careful consideration was also given to the traditional Vermont farmhouse vernacular. The design acknowledges this aesthetic with a main gable roofline that intersects with an asymmetrical salt box gable roofline. It incorporates the couple’s desire for mountain-rustic style with mixed exterior materials and subtle timber elements. The corner of the home’s “L” shaped layout is defined with a stair tower that has evenly stacked windows and will feature shou sugi ban siding.

The stair tower anchors the corner of the home's "L" shaped layout.

The stair tower anchors the corner of the home’s “L” shaped layout.

With a combination of woodlands and open agricultural space, the site will allow the home to be set partially within the trees at the end of a curving drive through open land. A banked garage is angled into the hillside, giving the front of the home a modest street-side facade.

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Meeting individual needs is always a design driver which, for this project, lead our team to incorporate a craft room on the lower level walk-out. This space was a must-have to support Julie’s non-profit and grassroots organization, Sewpportive Friends. The group creates kits vital to feminine hygiene for young girls and women in Zimbabwe; a necessity for both health and education. We can’t tell the story as well as the Sewpportive website and blog. Julie will be headed back to Zimbabwe with a team this July to distribute to more schools and villages. We’re excited for their continued success.

sewpportive web

Hank and Julie are avid outdoor enthusiasts leading to another need: storage. Large storage on the lower level will be used for housing/maintenance of skis, hiking gear, canoes, snowshoes, and other equipment. Walk-out access eases the transition to/from nature with or without gear.

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“We are having a very enjoyable time working with Ty, Pete, and the rest of the NEW crew. Their focus on creating a relationship with us, rather than making a transaction, is evident in their overall approach to the design/build work: from their site visit to our VT property, our trip to the NEW facility in Farmington, NY, and all additional communications. They are inspired, honest and professional. They understand that attention to what WE want in our house is of utmost importance, and are happy to share their knowledge and experience by providing creative ideas that we could explore or not.” – Hank and Julie.

An overall open floorplan ensures a relaxed, easy, flow when family and friends visit to sample local Vermont brews and views. It also allows for commanding views of the surrounding landscape from all common spaces.

Phippen LOCAL - 3D View - 3D View 14

We sat down with Pete, lead designer for Hank and Julie’s home, who explained that a key to open floor plans is accentuating areas with details, often flooring or in this case, with timber. Overall the timber frame directs views and differentiates spaces. In Hank and Julie’s home, two keyed beams flank the dining room and kitchen island (image below). This change in ‘ceiling’ visually separates the spaces from the great room which features canted queen post trusses with curved bottom chords (image above). Pete continued to verbally draw the home, describing flitch beams, a combination of steel and timber, used in the lower level to create a larger clearspan while defining the circulation of space from the family room. Moving up two levels, he noted that guest rooms have bunk loft beds over the closets, a fun feature that will likely be a fascinating novelty for kids and adults alike.

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Other build details include roof SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) and our Matrix Wall enclosure. We’ll be raising the frame this summer and working with Brothers Building of Waitsfield, VT to complete the project.

The home will include a master suite, craft room, great room, game room, and ample storage. 5 bedrooms and 3.5 baths.

The home will include a master suite, craft room, great room, game room, and ample storage. 5 bedrooms and 3.5 baths.

Many thanks to Hank and Julie for the kind words and for allowing us to be part of your project!

 

Light yet dark timber in Pine Plains NY

Naked frame photo by Ben Albury Amalgam Studio web

A new home build in Pine Plains, NY offers an example of the design flexibility of heavy timber, showcasing contemporary and minimalistic timber framing.

Designed by Amalgam Studio, each bent is open and airy, blending timber and steel. We crafted the bents using double 4×10’s, sandwiching ½” steel plates at critical locations. Powder-coated steel tension tie-rod connections span the width of the home joining the posts together. They bring structural stability while keeping the frame light.

Timber truss photo by Ben Albury Amalgam Studio web

Prior to assembly, each stick received a custom ‘burned’ finish. Charring the Douglas fir creates a deep color tone and raised grain texture. We’re excited to use this old technique to bring a new twist to traditional materials.

Timber raising photo 2 by Ben Albury Amalgam Studio web

This project is aiming for a few awards and possibly Passive House status. We’ll share more as Black Oak Builders finish out the project.

Timber enclosure photo by Ben Albury Amalgam Studio web

Special thanks to Ben Albury of Amalgam Studio for the great images and raising video.

Q & A with a Timber Framer Featuring Rick

Rick Vanwuyckhuyse can be a hard guy to catch, at least when he sees a camera headed his way. On a job-site, it’s harder for him to avoid the lens—and he’s a dynamic subject. We asked Rick a few rapid fire questions while he was crafting a trellis in the shop – of course, we left the camera in the office:

Gotcha! We managed to catch Rick at a raising on Cayuga Lake.

Gotcha! We managed to catch Rick at a raising on Cayuga Lake.

What’s your favorite phrase or word? You know what I mean?

What’s your favorite time of day? Afternoon.

What’s your favorite truss style or joint? Scarf joint.

Traditional scarf joint with a walnut key.

Traditional scarf joint with a walnut key.

A scarf joint on a curve.

A scarf joint (without a key) on a curve.

What’s your favorite wood species? Fir.

Douglas fir. Rick's favorite and our most commonly used timber species.

Douglas fir. Rick’s favorite and our most commonly used timber species.

What’s your favorite curse word?  Oh &#*%!

What sound do you love? Diesel motors.

What sound do you hate? The adze.

alexander with adze

The sound of the adze in action is not Rick’s favorite.

What’s your favorite region in the US? Not Michigan. That was brutal this winter. East Coast.

What’s best about being a timber framer? The unique craftsmanship.

What profession wouldn’t you want to do? Property management. 

What’s your dog’s name? Harlow (lab/pit rescue) and Jamison (Boston Terrier)

We tagged a mini-bio interview on after these questions and here’s what we learned: Rick’s been crafting frames with us for half a decade. By all estimates, he has been a part of over 150 of our raisings around the nation. With stints in C++ programming and property management, he is happy to be crafting with his hands, traveling, and finds much satisfaction in seeing a frame together. Rick’s another musician in our ranks, favoring blues, specializing in the harmonica and guitar. He plays locally here and there to the enjoyment of many, including his wife Brenda.

Final Panels: Custom Tree Cut-Out Cross Laminated Timber Project

tree corner cltThe final (final!) Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels have been installed on our CLT project. Forming the front corner of the building these panels represent a piece of the flexibility of building with solid wood panels and speak to our passion for planet, forest, tree, and wood.

last clt panel install edit web

 

Our fine woodworking division, NEWwoodworks, used ingenuity, software, and CNC tooling to draw, layout, and cut the “tree” design. Our timber frame and construction teams, including Jason, Kevin, and Jim, installed the panels on a chilly Monday morning. Roofing and final enclosure, including wood fiber insulation, are underway.

exterior clt w corner tree

Read more about this build, the First Complete Cross Laminated Timber Project in New York State, in a previous blog post.

Unstoppable Views, Freezing Temps, and Heavy Timber. Welcome to Michigan!

top of frame MI raising mike wResidents of Indiana, Doug and Tammy have called Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan their second home for 18 years. The site they’ve enjoyed over those years includes lake frontage and views worth talking about. (Mike W captured the panoramic above from the peak of the frame on crisp day.) The couple frequented several timber home shows where they met New Energy Works Drake Ambrosino, and we’ve helped them bring it to reality this Winter.

roof trusses drake 2We were told the weather is usually great in Grand Traverse, but that lake-effect snow is no joke near the water. While Darren, Mike, Anthony, and Noah were raising the frame, some tough weather hit the site. For nearly two weeks the temperatures ranged from just above zero into the teens with daily snow. The flakes didn’t diminish the team’s energy as they joined the custom stained Douglas fir main frame, front porch, and rear balconies.

snow flying grand t michigan framedarren directs crane bad weather drake jobMI snow Drake truck DrakeT&G of the same species and finish was installed over the main frame, followed by SIP roof panels. Mike W told us, with a quick chuckle from behind his hearty beard, that high winds were ‘a challenge’ for the SIP panel installation in particular.

custom stained t and g for mIPorter Builders from Kewadin, MI will be completing the home throughout 2017. Points of interest within just an hour of this project include Charlexoix, Petoskey, Traverse City, Torch Lake, and many ski areas.

MI raising mike w