Crafting and Embracing the Flexibility of Glulams

“That’s not a glulam!” I said, incredulously. 

“It is!” Eric insisted with a laugh, raising his hands in defense.


Seeing as Eric is one of the most sincere and honest people around, I figured he had to be right. “Okay,” I replied. “Let’s talk glulams.”

Glulam use around the world has developed into some crazy, creative, and nearly unbelievable structures:

Glulams have been incorporated around the world for very intricate and challenging designs, such as this pavilion project for the 2015 Mulan World Expo by X-TU’s Architects in France.

Some of the basics on glued laminated timbers (glulams) that I commonly hear: they come in just about any size and shape (meaning they can make spans that solid timber simply doesn’t grow to); they can achieve geometric shapes and structural performance that is otherwise unattainable with solid timber; they’re inherently stable and dry; they have visible layers of wood. As a visual person the look is always top of mind for me which is where this conversation started:

The project that started this conversation…what do you think of the curving bottom chord of this timber and steel truss? Solid or glulam? (Check out the end of this post for the answer.)

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Celebrate Good Times! Gathering spaces for celebrations and collaborations.

The Lodge at the William Noah Allyn (Welch Allyn) Conference Center. Photo c Mary Buttoph.

As the change of seasons approaches with Winter easing into Spring, we’ve noticed our calendars filling with celebrations, conferences, benefits, and parties. The locations vary greatly in size and complexity, but all offer a sense of community, warmth, and growth—we’re excited for the experiences they’ll provide. All of this scheduling has inspired us to share your existing timber frame event spaces and take a look forward to what’s ramping up in community building spaces:

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Timber Frame and Solar: SunCommon’s Solar Canopy

 

Combining solar with timber framing? We’re all in. We’ve teamed up with SunCommon, a solar energy company with locations in Vermont and New York to bring their latest innovation, the Solar Canopy, to life.

These structures are making solar even easier to add to businesses and homes. The canopies are great for over driveways, parking areas, patios, wood piles, or serving as new outdoor spaces. We like this project as an energy producer, gathering spot, and outdoor storage space–the uses are nearly limitless.

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Design Parti! Smith Mountain Lake Living

“No fish and no gum today?”

I was sorry to disappoint Pete for our design discussion, but I was indeed empty handed except for my notebook and pen. I reluctantly shook my head. With his usual cheer and chuckle, Pete continued, “That’s okay, Megan. Next time…both.”

I had sequestered Pete on the porch this sunny afternoon to learn more about a large lake home project the team had designed. It was raised late last year on Smith Mountain Lake and, rumor has it, is steadily nearing completion.

An early rendering of the Smith Mountain Lake project.

“I can’t say I’m feeling very linguistic today,” Pete admitted. It turned out he had been doing sheer wall calculations, which meant crunching numbers, all morning. Regardless of a head full of figures and formulas, we managed a good conversation diving into details of the design/build for this family vacation home. I even learned a new term:

“It all starts with a parti,” Pete began. I wasn’t aware of project parties, but that sounded good to me. This elicited a big smile and shake of the head from Pete. “No, not a party, a parti or parti pris—the central design idea we develop with the homeowners and then use to define, build, and detail a home. We constantly test our designs against this theme to be sure we’re creating in the right direction. In this case, the parti narrowed down to creating a home that sits nicely into the landscape, accepts and welcomes upon arrival, has great views and lake access while providing space where all of the family could be together comfortably under one roof.”

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West Coast High

Has it really been a decade since we opened in Oregon? No. Actually, it’s been 9 years. Summer, 2008 I landed out here after a few years of research and prep just in time for the roughest economic face plant many of us have known (and I’ve known 4 others in our 30 years).

I liken that whole beginning to parachuting out of an airplane amidst blue skies into a thick but fluffy-enough bunch of clouds. Once inside, there was some suggestive bumping about, some troublesome turbulence, but not a clear sign yet of what lay ahead. Then suddenly I break through those clouds and the scene below me opens like a battlefield movie: burning buildings, scorched earth, hungry villagers with widening eyes and the air full of acrid smoke. (Yes, yes I’m exaggerating for effect. There were no burning buildings.)

That was the starting of our west coast effort at the beginning of that darned big recession. In looking back, it might have been better to hang out on the beach for 4 or 5 years rather than make the effort we did to build our business in such a setting. But I am neither prescient nor idle, and so work we did.

…and we’ve made great progress, and well, we’re pretty glad we didn’t just hang out on the beach. I would have gone insane.

Sean seems to be our resident selfie expert. Here he captured himself along with a few of the rest of us west coasters: Darren, Richard La Trobe (artist and bridge maker), me, David, and Quinn.

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