A Bridge of the Future

Authored by: Darren Watson

Jonathan, our founder, and president, brought me into this bridge project about 5 weeks ahead of the annual Timber Framers Guild (TFG) conference. It is the beautiful realization of an offhand comment made at the Coeur d’Alene TFG conference in 2015 between Jonathan and Richard La Trobe-Bateman.

completed latrobe bridge tfg and new energy works

I was immediately excited to have the opportunity to work on this bridge having seen Richard La Trobe-Bateman and his minimalist pedestrian bridges presented at the 2015 TFG Conference. I was asked to coordinate the temporary installation of this 92’ long 19’ tall bridge on the rooftop plaza of the Edgewater Hotel in Madison, WI, from 2000 miles away using volunteer labor fitting in around the conference sessions. Right away I took to looking at Google Earth to understand just what I had agreed to.

empty rooftop for bridge

“Roof top” turns out to be true though rather deceptive as the hotel cascades from street level down the hill to Lake Mendota six stories below. This did mean that every timber, bolt, and section of scaffolding had to be carried from the valet parking down, and then back up again; 22 steps to and from the build site on the plaza.

timbers down the stairs for bridge

Shortly thereafter Dick Anderson, of Darlington, Wisconsin contacted us expressing an interest in working with us on this temporary bridge. He turned out to be our “Ace in the hole” as he was able to visit the site and make arrangements to have the scaffold delivered and to coordinate with the hotel staff. He also built a model of the bridge purely from pictures and a couple of sketchy dimensions. Dick has a history of working on other traditionally timber framed bridges in his area and having taught high school shop class for the majority of his career he was uniquely qualified to help me wrangle the cats responsible for making this project a success. Dick has written a great blog post with more details and images on this project – I think it is worth a read for sure.

The project began with a further lesson in coordinating from a distance as a missed flight connection in Denver on Thursday night sent me scrambling to find the right combination of flights to get to Madison, WI. Again, Dick was in the right place at the right time. He was able to get the scaffold delivered to the site Friday morning and then take Richard, and his son Will, out to Mike Yaker’s shop where the frame had been delivered – all before I finally arrived late Friday afternoon.

bridge raising in rain

6am Saturday morning started out beautifully, cool and overcast with a light breeze off the lake. Dick and I were able to get the bridge “footings” and scaffolding located and laid out very carefully as we would be building the bridge from both ends to meet in the middle. As the finished bridge would reach 19’ in the air, this initial layout was critical. We added a couple extra inches in length to the overall length to allow us some wiggle room to pull the halves of the bridge together at the end of the assembly instead of ending up too close and having to figure out just how to spread it apart.

By the time this was all said and done the timbers arrived along with the rain, which would be our constant companion through the rest of the day. Fortunately, the rain let up for just long enough to get a bunch of help from the TFG conference goers, allowing us to run all the individual timbers and walk plank assemblies down to the build site.

bridge assembly aerial

Once all the timbers we loaded into the site, construction commenced. Myself, Dick, Richard, Will, and Keith Rockett formed the core assembly team. We were joined intermittently by numerous folks taking a break from the conference sessions to help us out. Dick’s model became an invaluable tool in communicating what was to come next in the assembly sequence as our paper plans soon succumbed to the rain. At the end of the first day, we had completed approximately three-quarters of the bridge. The north half was complete and the south half was nearing the upper stages of assembly.

Sunday morning dawned overcast but DRY. With this turn of the weather, we had a surge of timberframers eager to get involved with the final assembly of the structure which now loomed tall on the plaza right outside of the conference windows. We were able to wield two teams of bridge builders on this day. One completing the final structural assembly of the south half and one installing the walk-board starting with the north end. The walk-board assemblies were able to slide neatly up the previous section eliminating the need to carry these large and heavy units into place.

vertical of latrobe bridge at TFG

In another lesson in relinquishing control, I was pulled away by a session presented by Tedd Benson and two of his most knowledgeable managers on the concept of Lean Manufacturing and distribution of leadership and responsibility – right before we were to begin installing the central walk-board and diagonal cabling that comprises the structural heart of the bridge. I asked Joe Miller, of Fire Tower Engineered Timber who did the engineering design, to take over the installation of these components and off I went to the presentation.

under latrobe bridge

After an hour and a half of manufacturing process enlightenment from some of the best in the industry, I came out to find a scaffold-free completed bridge with people walking over it. This was a highly poignant lesson in trusting in people’s inherent capacity to perform the task in from of them when trusted to do so.

close up of bridge joinery

The bridge stood for a total of 20 hours before we started the disassembly Monday morning at 8am. Again, we were graced with a perfect day and more than adequate work force. By noon all of the bridge and scaffolding had been cleared from the plaza and it was like we had never been there. I was astonished at the speed this structure was dismantled as I was expecting it to take fully two thirds of the install time to remove from the site due to the challenge that the assembly presented.

new energy works team on latrobe bridge

My co-workers along with Richard posed on the finished bridge. Front to back: Sean, me, Richard, Jonathan, David, and Quinn.

I can’t adequately express how fortunate I feel for being given the opportunity to meet and work with Richard and Will La Trobe-Bateman, Dick Anderson, Keith Rockett, George Brinkman, Joe Miller and Fire Tower Engineered Timber. I had a most enjoyable time working with them and all of the other unnamed Guild members making this dream a reality.

latrobe with Arete Structures east coast

The bridge was auctioned off at the Saturday night benefit auction bringing in over $20k for the Timber Framers Guild. Arete Structures, a division of Arete Engineering out of Boone, NC, were the lucky winners of the auction. Atere Structures specializes in custom prefabricated pedestrian bridges so this was a great opportunity for them. Shaun (pictured above with Richard LaTrobe Bateman) and Brian of Arete were there to help with the assembly but unfortunately had to be on a plane before it all came down. However it was great to have them there for the bulk of the project. That first-hand experience of the assembly will hopefully help as they re-build the bridge for one final time in its life.

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.

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.

UPDATE: May 2017 – nearing completion:

Photo (C) Scott Hemenway

Photo (C) Scott Hemenway

Photo (C) Scott Hemenway

NEW CLT building exterior

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.

Building the First Complete CLT Project in New York State

first-clt-building-in-nys-new-energy-works-timberframersWe’re excited to announce that we’re building the first complete Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) building in New York State on our campus in Farmington, New York. Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) construction is an economically and environmentally conscious alternative to steel and concrete construction. The new building will house or fine woodworking division, NEWwoodworks, and offer storage/shipping space for our sister company Pioneer Millworks.

“We’re extremely excited to bring this alternative building method to New York State. We see CLTs as the wave of the future and are investing in our Western New York campus to better position the region and our industry to ride the wave,” states Jonathan, our Founder and President. “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.”

clt-exampleCLTs are large wooden panels, typically consisting of 3, 5, or 7 layers of dimensional lumber, oriented at right angles, glued together. This results in exceptional strength, dimensional stability, and rigidity. The pre-fabricated wall, floor, and roof panels can be installed quickly with little job-site waste. European countries have been utilizing the panels for multi-story buildings with great structural, financial, and environmental success.

timber-frame-of-tomorrowland-new-energy-worksCombining the strength of timbers and CLT panels, the building will utilize a timber frame wrapped by CLT walls and topped by CLT roof panels. The panels will be pre-cut for windows and doors and will arrive by cargo shipment to Farmington NY in early January 2017. Both the timber frame and the panels will be raised in January 2017.

“The 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,” explains Jonathan.

In February of 2015, our fine woodworking division, NEWwoodworks located in Shortsville, NY, suffered a catastrophic event as half of the roof collapsed over their 70-year-old building (no one was injured). The CLT project will be a 21,000 sq ft, single level building, to house both NEWwoodworks and provide storage/shipping for Pioneer Millworks reclaimed wood products.

An example of a CLT project built in Washington DC earlier in 2017.

An example of a CLT project built in Washington DC in 2016.

NEWwoodworks’ manufacturing equipment and craftsmen will be entrusted with 13,000 sq ft while Pioneer Millworks will utilize 8,000 sq ft for reclaimed wood storage and shipping. We broke ground for the foundation on November 15, 2016 behind our timber frame shop.

close-up-fiber2017 will start off with the timber frame raising followed by raising of the CLT panels (walls and roof). We’re also examining a wood fiber insulation which is more environmentally friendly than the majority of alternative options. We’ll share more as progress continues. Contact us with any questions or for a schedule of events: events@newenergyworks .com

The Big Finish – Part 7 in the Welcome Home Series

Timber Home Living magazine continues coverage of the Olsen family home, a reclaimed timber frame raised in 2014. The Olsen’s are nearly complete with their timber frame retreat home near the Berkshires. They’ve combined a mixture of materials and custom fine woodworking for a striking and modern tone. Read more:

the-big-finish-austerlitz-build-part-6-pg-1the-big-finish-austerlitz-build-part-6-pg-4 the-big-finish-austerlitz-build-part-6-pg-2   the-big-finish-austerltiz-build-part-6-pg-3