Design Week Portland: Crafting With Heavy Timbers

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Design Week Portland 2017 has come to a close, but not before New Energy Works threw an event showcasing residential heavy timber framing and solar panels. On April 26th, 2017 outside of New Energy Works SE Portland Studio in Oregon, a couple of our timber framers raised heavy timbers crafting an 18 foot by 10 foot carport structure.

Quinn, Darren and Mike finishing up the frame.

Quinn, Darren, and Mike finish 
up the frame.

Zero nuts, bolts and screws. Just wood joinery.

Zero nuts, bolts and screws.
Just wood joinery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After completing the frame, our colleagues at Syncro Solor came by and attached four, 345 watt,
solar panels to the top. Synchro Solar is a locally-owned, full service solar energy contractor serving Oregon and Southwest Washington that specializes in the design and installation of completely custom solar electric and solar water heating systems.

4 solar panels atop Douglas fir timbers

4 solar panels atop Douglas fir timbers

The event was from 2 – 4 pm. Our guests were a range of architects, builders, and artisans. We shared information about timber framing, cross laminated timber, the environment and what New Energy Works is all about.

Jonathan Orpin presents to DWP guests about timber framing.

Jonathan Orpin presents to DWP guests about timber framing.

The morning had started out a bit rainy, but the sun broke free of the clouds and we ventured outside to have a closer look at the carport and the timber framers manipulating timbers.

Checking out the timber frame as a group.

Checking out the timber frame
as a group.

Darren using a large drill into Douglas fir timber.

Darren drilling into a Douglas fir timber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re excited to send all proceeds and donations from the event went to Community Energy Project. With hundreds of trained volunteers, they reach low-income households, providing life-changing services to thousands of diverse clients. They offer free community workshops that teach practical skills to make homes safer and more energy efficient as well as in-home services to weatherize and repair homes for people in need. To further help support Community Energy Project buy tickets to their spring social event here.

Community Energy Project's booth at the event.

Community Energy Project’s booth at the event.

Our thanks to everyone who attended and our friends at Synchro Solar and Community Energy Project, for joining us on this venture. As well as a special thanks to Cascade Wester Representatives for all of their help with equipment and supplies.

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.

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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.

From Forest to Structure: Maple tree “Atlas” becomes a main post in our CLT project

A tree for a mass timber project? What started as an idea branched into reality as our team selected a west coast Broad Leaf Maple tree to be a central post in our Cross Laminated Timber project. Mike W, one of our timber craftsmen and an avid nature lover, applied his skills and artistic eye from unloading the big Maple in Oregon to hand-crafting the joinery and leading the raising in New York. Along the way he formed an attachment to this “post” and named it ‘Atlas’. He shares his adventure with Atlas below:

moving tree into shopThis tree had a purpose, a destiny even. The 60-year-old Acer Macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple was selected by my co-workers Randy and Noah (from Randy’s land) for its particular size, shape, and branch structure. It would become a load-bearing post and not just any post – it will support a 30,000 lb gravity load and an 84 foot glulam beam line in our new Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) building in Farmington, NY (the first complete CLT building in New York State!).

Using some experience from previous projects, the support of my colleagues, and a little book knowledge I picked up at the Timber Framers Guild conference, I got started.

tools of the trade for tree joineryFirst, I snapped out the reference lines – this would orientate the precise position of the beam pocket and base cut (where all the pressure is). Second, I set the tree onto sawhorses and played with the overall shape. This was my favorite part because it is all about balance and feel. This was where I got to imagine how the piece I was working was going to orientate when it was done. I had to get high over the tree and observe its relationship with the lines I snapped. I even laid down and looked at it from the side, imagining how it will look as the post I wanted it to be.

tree in shopOnce I was set on the position of the tree in relation to the joinery I began to mark my datum lines and started layout of the beam pocket. One thing to mention is that plans were for the beam pocket to be made up of two upright co-dominates. (Co-dominate, in this case, refers to how the main trunk splits and becomes two. This is a fun thing I learned from our newest addition in the timber frame shop, Noah Mize.  He comes from an arborist background and is very knowledgeable.) I got out the laser to guide my cuts, after all it is the 21st century.

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A little customization on the joinery. According to Mike, it represents “With love from the west coast to the east coast.”

The chisel work was a true joy. The chisel seemed to glide effortlessly allowing me to really push for precision, without losing sight of efficiency. That was the first upright. The second proved to be much more difficult. Long story short I had to tap out the lap joint all upside down and overhead. I had to squat on a block of wood 7″ off the ground while operating my chisel at shoulder height to make a flat which was facing the ground. Awkward, to say the least. To add to the difficulty the location of the work was right near the union, or point where the trunk splits into two. Needless to say the grain got harder and ran in all directions at once, or so it seemed.

tree joinery mcminnvilleThe time for the post bottom cut was upon us. Randy brought in his O44 chainsaw with a 42″ bar to preform this work. We made a couple test cuts and away we went. The final cut was cleaned up with a 12″ planner to flat with the layout marks re-written on the fresh surface.

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Our McMinnville and Portland OR teams, as well as our Farmington NY teams, signed the base of Atlas prior to raising.

With the base cut done this was no longer a tree; it was a post. I could imagine myself as this post, holding my arms out wide supporting the timber [much like Atlas]. I can truly say it was my honor to pour my love and energy into tree. It was my privilege to be part of giving this tree to its new life, a post at the heart of our new fine woodworking shop.

Mike was a key part to raising Atlas earlier this week. The post is now in place and connected to the frame, supporting substantial glulam timbers. More CLT panels are going into place and will shelter Atlas for decades to come. A video and photos of the raising are below:

Raising Atlas Video

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Atlas arrived to Farmington, NY on a typically snowy January day.

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Mike readies Atlas for raising.

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Mike applied leverage and muscle to turn Atlas into the precise orientation for the frame.

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A Lakeside Home: Transformation with Integrity

lake home remodel w timberThe challenge was set: take a well-loved 1980’s family home and transform both aesthetics and functionality. Our design and build teams embraced the challenge with gusto. Ty Allen, head of our Design/Build groups and our in-house Architect, gave us the cliff notes.

During our first site visit we captured this image of the home's roadside facade.

During the first site visit Ty and team captured this image of the home’s roadside facade.

The homeowners built their family lake home over 25 years ago. They raised their children and made countless memories. Yet, the 1980’s contemporary design was no longer meeting all of their needs and had become dated in style. We were building a new timber frame home on a neighboring lake and we’re told that project was part of the inspiration for couple to join our community and incorporate timber framing into their lives.

Ty explained, “I think 80’s contemporary homes are the best type of existing home to transform. They are often a clean slate with open volumes and simple details.” Remodeling requires balance – the changes for this home would be bold. “We wanted to respect the integrity of the existing home, using what was already existing as a springboard to modernizing how the home looks, feels, and works.”

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The original roadside facade (above) and with updates (below).

orig car port and front of house“A good example is the porte co·chère,” continued Ty. From the road it was difficult to tell what the structure was particularly as the roof flowed down from the house as one mass over the car port. The existing porte co·chère was removed and re-imagined, presenting a gable end on the roadside facade. “Rotating the roof lines defined the porte co·chère and allowed it to have impact. It is the primary focus the facade while maintaining the original purpose of the space.”

 

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Tear off of the original car port.

The naked timber frame of the new porte co·chère.

The naked timber frame of the new porte co·chère.

timber entry car port lake home remodel

Rotating the roof lines to present a gable end on the roadside facade redefined the car port as a focal point while maintaining function.

Under the new carport a custom door from NEWwoodworks welcomes guests.

Under the new carport a custom door from NEWwoodworks welcomes guests.

drawing out the garage additionA major new functional improvement: a three car garage. The home’s original single car garage was ideally situated for transformation into the transitional space (mud room) from the new garage into the home. Our team had several visits to the build-site to stake out the garage addition. While accommodating set-backs and other regulations, they worked to get the angle, the flow, of foundation for the new garagethe new structure to fit best with the existing garage, house, and driveway and be considerate of lake views. “We wanted to create a courtyard effect with easy access to the home so the setting of the garage was key. The mud room offers the first garage with roof going onglimpses of the lake as you transition through it from the garage or as visitors move down the drive in front of it.”completed garage with timber by new energy worksThe lakeside facade had a large span of roof and large windows which allowed harsh western sun into the home. “We were deliberate about the fenestration [window placement]. The placement and scale of glass needed to lower solar heat gain was carefully balanced with taking in lake views.” The new fenestration, updated Marvin windows, breaks in the roof lines, and an expansive covered porch improved efficiency and style. Covered space on the lakeside not only provides more enjoyable year-round shelter from the elements for the homeowners, their family and friends, but for the home as well.

The lake side of the home before (top) and with the remodel nearly complete (bottom).

The lake side of the home before (top) and with the remodel nearly complete (bottom).

Inside the home timber elements were added to the great room and entry. Beginning at the porte co·chère entry, the same truss style flows through the central great room and back outside to the lakeside porch. What’s next? An interior timber ‘bridge’ is on the list. It will replace the current loft-bridge to connect the bedrooms on the upper level.

interior timber truss in lake home great room remodel

 

Interested in seeing more of our projects? See our website galleries. Want more images of this lake home remodel? See the below photo collection:

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Updating the lakeside facade and a glimpse of the back of the new garage.

Updating the lakeside facade and a glimpse of the back of the new garage.

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The home's boat launch also features timber framing.

The home’s boat launch also features timber framing.

Stone for the new chimney.

Stone for the new chimney.

New walls.

New walls.

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A Family Retreat on Canandaigua Lake: Working the Land

“I’ll give you the whole story if you share those with me.” I glanced at the white box with orange fish dancing across the outside. Crackers for information, the deal of the day. With a smile I handed the box over to Pete, one of our design group architects and the design leader on our current Canandaigua Lake general contracting project.lake-retreat-rendering2“So Megan,” Pete began in his usual serious-but-joking-and-easygoing manner, “You want to know about the Canandaigua Family Retreat? Well, Dan & Laurie have been looking for the right site for about three years now. They gave us a call and asked if we’d come check out the spot they’d found. They felt really good about it, but wanted our take, which I thought was pretty cool. I like being involved from the beginning, especially because I had a good idea of what they wanted their project encompass.”

getfile-7“Had their three year search reached an end?” I asked as the crackers disappeared with unnatural speed.

“It had,” he confirmed. “We knew our design plans would be influenced by stringent site constraints associated with being near the water (height restrictions, erosion/sediment concerns, set-backs, etc) and the nature of the narrow, deeply sloping land. But it was perfect for Dan & Laurie’s home.”

timber frame raising canandaigua lake new energy works

I attended the raising (more on this in another post) and I agree with Pete; it is a great spot. It is nestled into the hillside and it maintains privacy even though it is on the lake. The land slopes away allowing views of the water through pockets of mature trees. I couldn’t help thinking it was as if the land had secret views of the lake, but hey, I’m a romantic at heart.

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The steep site offers elevated views of Canandaigua Lake.

“Why Canandiagua Lake? Why timber framing?”

Pete grabbed another handful of crackers before answering, “Laurie grew up visiting a family lake home – who doesn’t love those? Canandiagua is a good ‘meeting’ spot for Dan, Laurie, their kids, parents, and extended family. A central location everyone likes.

A few years back they checked out a lake home that happened to be a timber frame we’d built in the 2000’s. They loved it and were inspired to build their own on Canandaigua.”

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Extensive excavation and landscaping work was the first step in preparing Dan and Laurie’s site for their new home.

“Were there any special design considerations for the site, for the project?”

Pete grinned quickly before responding. “The short answer is the steep site,” he paused, flashing a grin again, “but you want to know more than that, right?” Another handful of crackers later he continued, “We wanted to create a nice way to get from the detached garage to the house, from guest parking to the house, from the house down to the water. Reducing the necessity of long, continuous stairs, descent and assent around the site was key. Extensive excavation and landscaping work was the first step in the solution. Ted Collins Landscaping has been a huge help there.”

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The home is set into the land, a part of the hillside. ICFs were used for the foundation and here are filled with concrete.

“I wanted to set the house into the site rather than rest it on top of the site. This minimizes some of the challenges of living on a hill and keeps the overall height within restrictions. Setting deeper into the land also helps the structure become more a part of the land, living with the land. Another benefit to sitting the house into the site was easier connections to the garage and parking. Plus, it brings everything closer to the lake.”

A pause for more crackers. At this point I was thinking about taking them away before the entire box was demolished and I was left with nothing for future interviewees. “There were a bunch of existing retainer walls,” he continued, “that were in disrepair. The plan we have replaces those with feature boulder walls against grading. They’re functionally stable, organic, and way prettier. There will be more natural paths of stepping stones, each with intentional pauses to break up the steps between structures.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant by ‘pauses’. “Like stair landings?”

“Yep. And some larger flats that will work as gathering areas along the way down to the lake.”

“Neat.” I smiled as ingratiatingly as possible. I had to move him out of my office before my crackers were entirely gone. “I’m going to ask you about this home several more times, but give me summary of the project and we’ll call it a wrap.”

img_20161031_090117275_hdr“This is a retreat home for Dan & Laurie and their family. It will be the central hub for all major gatherings and vacations. It is a single story with spaces throughout capturing views of the lake. We crafted a Douglas fir frame with a custom finish and inside it will have an in-law suite and a master suite on the main level. The walk-out lower will have a bunk room, guess suite, and rec room. Landscaping will include native plants and pleasant paths.”

“Great!” I reached slowly for the box of crackers, pulling them from his grasp. “Thanks Pete.”

Looking somewhat forlorn, he replied, “Sure thing, Megan.”

I’ll share pictures and details of the raising in a later blog. Below is a picture of current progress. Roofing and enclosure are nearly complete. Our construction team has been thankful for a fairly easy winter (so far!) in the Northeast.

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