Putting Children First: RCN Timber Pavilion Classroom

As we’re looking forward to more of the holiday season, we wanted to share on a local community project we are thankful to have been part of: the Rochester Childfirst Network (RCN) Capital Campaign.

We practice the Triple Bottom Line business model of People, Planet, and Profit, putting equal importance on each with the belief that the mission of a for-profit business shouldn’t solely focus on profit. If sustainability is about benefitting people and planet in the long-term, community engagement is a vital component. We’re stronger when we work together. The RCN Capitol Campaign has rallied many companies and with good reason as this organization has been supporting the education and welfare of children in urban Rochester, NY since 1857.

The effort to revitalize and create “Natural Play” for the children of RCN an outdoor pavilion/classroom was conceptualized and developed collaboratively with support by local partners including Broccolo Tree & Lawn Care, IDEX Health & Science, and Barton & Loguidice. The outdoor pavilion/classroom will act as the centerpiece of RCN’s backyard play environment, a new initiative to incorporate more natural, accessible play opportunities.

Marsha Dumka, RCN’s interim Executive Director said, “This new pavilion will provide endless possibilities for true outdoor learning for our children. During the raising the children talked about all the ways they could use the pavilion in the spring – talent show, play, art studio, classroom for messy STEM experiments, picnics. We can’t wait!”

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Found-forms and Timber Shelters

School has started again and it has us thinking about recess (who doesn’t love recess?) and thereby the playscapes kids enjoy. We began asking what role wood has in these spaces which brought to the discussion a recent project at the Lilac Adventure Zone Playground. A “natural playground” in Highland Park in Rochester, NY by Barton & Loguidice, the space highlights found forms for play and modern pavilions for shelter.

There has been a surge in natural playgrounds [natural playscapes] which inherently focus on wood and the natural landscape. “Biophilic design, connecting with nature, was central to this playground project,” explained Tom Robinson, senior landscape architect, and LEED AP at Barton & Loguidice.

Biophilia. It’s a term that we’re hearing with regularity these days, and that’s exciting! From Edward Wilson’s “Biophilia” meaning ‘the rich, natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by living organisms’. Research is conclusive that access to nature and nature-inspired spaces help reduce stress and illness. “We’re trying to recreate the experience of playing in the woods, in fields with rocks and sticks. The idea is to encourage exploration and free play with natural materials,” continued Tom.

Many young explorers and adventurers amidst the natural elements of Lilac Adventure Zone Playground.

The playground itself evolved as the natural materials arrived, trees, branches, rocks salvaged from other park project renovations. “The elements within the playground tend to change and morph as materials initially arrive, and as time passes and elements need to be removed/replaced.”

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Picking the Right Timber Framer

Author, Jonathan Orpin: founder and president of New Energy Works and Pioneer Millworks; board member and past president of the Timber Framers Guild, enjoys some time on the water.

From Jonathan:

For years I’ve resisted writing this post. It can come off as very self-serving. Please don’t let it. Instead, I’ll attempt to be as neutral-valued as I can, and share some of my 30-year history, and perhaps just a tad of the experiences, and sometimes frustrating stories, our clients have shared…and some that I have witnessed.

The timber frame industry has a great many good people in it, associated with it, and as I’ve often said, many of the coolest clients I can imagine. So first, think about a timber framer who is involved with the Timber Framers Guild. At our Guild conferences and our meet-ups, in the committee work we do, in the publications we create, two important things occur: we learn, and are better professionals because of it; we share, and our craft is better for it. In both cases you win.

Photo courtesy of the Timber Framers Guild.

And when you ask, “Is your company a member?” be sure to dig just bit deeper. Do you attend the conferences? Do you send your shop folk and your designers? Do you give, as well as receive?

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Unforgettable: Timber Framers Guild Western Conference

Timber frame champion and Guild member, Darren Watson, shares with us about the Timber Framers Guild Western Conference:

To say that Timberline Lodge is a good location for the Timber Framers Guild is akin to saying that the Grand Canyon is an attractive hole in the ground. Timberline Lodge, on Mount Hood, is the perfect location for this community of like-minded individuals and companies to come together and gain new knowledge from each other and from the wisdom of those that built this magnificent structure at the height of the Great Depression working for the WPA. Timberline Lodge was built scrappily using site sourced rocks and trees and reclaimed materials including telephone poles turned into carved newel posts on the stairs and fireplace andirons made from an old railroad track. As was said by The Builders of Timberline Lodge, Federal Writers’ Project, “Each workman on Timberline Lodge gained proficiency in manual arts. He was a better workman, a better citizen, progressing by infinitely slow steps to the degree above him.” So does the Guild, and these conferences, build each of us into better craftspeople.

Many of our coworkers joined the Timber Framers Guild annual Western Conference in May. From the left: Mike W, Eric, Michael H, Justin, Simon, Sean, Chuck, David, Mike R, Maxine, Jonathan O, Jonathan T, and Alexander (plus Darren (yep, that’d be me) behind the camera). Mike W, Sean, Jonathan, and I hosted different educational presentations during the conference.

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“Our NEW Jewel”. A note from homeowners.

Thanks, Phil and Rocio. Little did you know how perfect your timing was when you came to us and asked for a “small but perfect home”. Fertile ground indeed, and our minds raced with the many thoughts about working on something like a precious gem, or what we called a NEW Jewel. The project is completed and officially “home” to Phil and Rocio, who continue to generously share their Jewel and their words:

Phil and Rocio along with pups Luca and Sherlock enjoy a moment on the porch of their nearly completed NEW Jewel.

“Jonathan, et al…
As I write out the final check for Invoice #9, it seems the right moment to pen a note of appreciation for the bundle of work, energy, and creativity that we currently reside in. It is not lost on us for a moment that we discovered NEW at a moment in time that was just right for everyone; Rocio stumbled onto your website looking for a builder of ‘barn homes’ and was immediately captured by the concepts and pics displayed. Everything seemed to line up:  small house, close to shop, (relatively) simple design, similar vision, seasonal timing, etc. to enable you all to pull off an amazing, wonderful, beautiful, efficient, stunning, one-of-a-kind home for us.
It is quite difficult to express the deep sense of gratitude we feel towards everyone that contributed to the Jewel…many of which I don’t have the ability to send this to, or even be able to name. The artistic, creative flair combined with real-life practicality is a major component of our place we will love for many years to come.
Please pass on our thanks to everyone that was involved. We look forward to visits from any and all as time goes by.
Sincerely,
Phil and Rocio
Dayton, Oregon”

Against traditional shou sugi ban charred siding, a warm-toned reclaimed oak door welcomes all to the Jewel.

Inside the NEW Jewel a ridge skylight allows natural light to filter in throughout the home.

Detailed execution of all pieces and parts make up this Jewel, including custom Walnut cabinetry and island.