A Family Retreat on Canandaigua Lake: Designing Spaces

When we last visited Dan & Laurie’s project on Canandaigua Lake, Pete, one of our design group architects and the design leader for the home, walked us through the site planning. I nabbed Pete again, this time to take a look inside the project at the design considerations for creating the layout and formal floor plans.

Lakeside Family RetreatJust like last time, Pete made a quick inquiry about little orange fish crackers. I had to let him down softly; I had nothing. Looking disappointed for a beat, he moved on reminding me that Dan & Laurie’s site overlooked the lake and came with strict site constraints (not uncommon to building near water) including height restrictions, erosion/sediment concerns, setbacks, and more. He explained that the constraints drove the overall siting of the house and garage, but there were still the interior spaces (and floor plan) to negotiate.

“Dan and Laurie’s project is meant to be a multi-generational home that will act as a central gathering spot for family and friends. Overall the home has an open floor plan with the public spaces centralized on both the main and lower levels which can easily accommodate larger gatherings. Balancing that are private spaces on the ends of the home which allow folks the opportunity to enjoy their quiet space or step inwards to join the party.”

Canandaigua lake home timber frame hybrid floor plan

I was curious about what techniques are used to create a division of space in open floor plans, particularly when the same flooring flows throughout the level. “Great question—we like to make psychological breaks to take the place of walls in open floor plans. Although this project is a hybrid using timber frame and traditional construction, the public spaces fall under the core timber frame. We used the main carrying beams, a bigger timber, to bring visual and physical weight and delineate the great room, kitchen, and dining areas. The great room is also vaulted while the dining and kitchen spaces have flat ceilings. The kitchen island provides a further break between food preparation zones and the dining room,” Pete explained.

timber frame kitchen and great room new energy works

“One less common trait in this home is a single point of entry from the garage and parking areas. Without a dedicated breezeway or mudroom, the goal was to welcome visitors and inhabitants through a cleaner entryway in a style more traditional to guest-only entryways. We designed a lower volume with a flat ceiling softened by lifted timber common rafters, which draw the eye through the entry space to the great room and expanse of windows beyond. There is still a need for organizational spaces…a place to take off shoes, a laundry room…We “hid” these just off the entryway, branching to the right beyond a wing wall and screened behind a pocket door,” continued Pete.

canandaigua timber home new energy works entry

View of the entry door.

entry to canandaigua hybrid timber home

View from the entry.

Given the location of the home, I wanted to know about the views. “Below the curved bottom chord king post trusses, glass wraps the frame at close to ninety-degree angles. You can see through the corners resulting in a nearly 180-degree view of the lake. It’s pretty neat,” Pete obliged.

How about solar heat gain? “Always a consideration,” Pete agreed. “There is morning sun only because the room faces Southeast over the lake. Other windows throughout the home are covered by large overhangs and exterior roofs, so the gain won’t be significant there.”

interior canandaigua lake great room timber frame new energy works

“Oh, also about exterior decks and views—we aim to keep them from wrapping the great room because views are more enjoyable when uninterrupted. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like a piecemeal view broken by slats of a deck railing.”

I recalled that in our previous conversation Pete had stressed a desire to have the house set into the land, as part of the land, rather than perched on it. I asked how that impacted the interior light in the lower-level. “Whenever we have spaces under grade we make every effort to bring natural light to as many sides of the space as possible. Dan and Laurie’s home has light on three sides and includes lake views; it’s a pretty good situation. We gave the stairwell carefully consideration and arranged it in an “L” within a rectangular opening so plenty of western light could spill through to the lower-level family room. Plus, we made every effort to eliminate soffits, carefully planning and utilizing open web trusses—this way the lower-level ceiling height remains constant and the space feels more inviting and comfortable.

timber frame lower level stairs new energy works

“Going back to private spaces, the master suite has a vestibule. It is one of those planned rooms that helps create further division from the more public areas. There’s also a private deck accessible only from the master bedroom. The in-law suite is situated down a hallway off the entry, giving it the feeling of a private branch separate from the main core of the home. We know Laurie’s folks are excited about the suite. While we were raising the exterior timber components and decks, they pointed out the timbers going up on their corner exclaiming to onlookers ‘That’s our bedroom!’,Pete smiled broadly, “Their excitement was infectious.”

exterior timber frame raising new energy works

“The lower-level is also the space for guests. A bedroom, a bunk room, a family room, and what we’re calling a lake bathroom. It will be the spot to stop prior to journeying into the rest of the house after a swim or a visit to the shore.”

Giving Pete thanks for the information, I sent him off with a piece of spearmint gum (the best I could do in lieu of orange fish crackers).

Further into this summer, Laurie and Dan’s project will be complete. We’ll share a bit on the interior design and have plenty of finished images for you then. Thanks for joining this journey! If you’d like to see other projects we’ve general contracted, visit our Case Studies. And to learn more about our teams, visit Meet our People.

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

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.

Events: Gateway Community Visitor’s Center, Schuylerville, NY

This fall, our friends at the Timber Framers Guild will raise the new Gateway Community Visitor’s Center in Schuylerville, NY. The new timber frame building will be constructed at the site of General Burgoyne’s surrender in the Revolutionary War and will serve as the starting point for tourism of historic sites in the upper Hudson Valley. From September 5th through the 15th, instructors will work with more than fifty students and volunteers to process approximately 24,000 board feet of locally sourced white pine and red oak timbers to form the community center.

gI_86503_TFG Schuylerville Raising

Mike Beganyi, our New England representative and timber frame designer for the Schuylerville Community Building Project, and Timber Framers Guild Project Manager Neil Godden have incorporated characteristics of the Dutch barn frames native to the area into the Gateway Community Visitor’s Center plans.

“The timber frame is a modern take on a traditional Dutch style barn that was common in the Hudson Valley”, states Beganyi. “The traditional design has been adapted to meet program requirements for a visitor center which will house interpretive displays rotating exhibits, and host community events.” Large anchor beams with thru tenons and celebrated joinery will tie the frame of locally harvested pine and hardwoods together.

A community hand raising of the Gateway Community Visitor’s Center frame will take place on September 14th and 15th.

Since 1988, the Timber Framers Guild has collaborated with communities to create over seventy-five timber frame structures. Throughout their time, they’ve worked in the US, Canada, Suriname and Poland and have built timber frames for bridges, market pavilions, picnic shelters, park structures and house frames for a Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

TFG Schuylerville Raising Interior

Out on a Limb

Home & Design featured one of our East Coast timber frame homes in a recent edition of their magazine. Architect Mark Kohler ‘went out on a limb’ and purchased five acres of land in Woodbridge, Virginia after visiting a client’s job site in 2001. The Kohlers envisioned a rustic retreat crafted from natural wood, stone, and glass. When Mark’s drawings were near completion, he reached out to us to supply Douglas fir timber framing and reclaimed antique heart-pine flooring (from Pioneer Millworks) for the house. Mark stated,”You associate timber framing with vacation homes in Colorado. It adds to the character and warmth.”

Read Home Design’s take on the project below.

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The Commons

Many of our clients want a connected space that works well as the living room, kitchen and dining area, and are looking for this in a more intimate volume than some of the bigger great rooms we often see in timber framing and other large houses. We call this the Commons. Done well, it can feel just as comfortable when two sit down to read for the evening or twelve come for Easter dinner.

The Commons_THL April 2016