This New Energy Works project in North Georgia was recently featured in a feature editorial by our friends at Green Building + Design Magazine (GB+D) in the “Warmth of Wood” Winter 2022 issue that focuses on sustainable modern designs and the beauty & practicality of wood in the design + build industry.
Featuring an interview with our own David Shirley AIA, NCARB from our west coast team, the sweeping feature touches on almost every aspect of New Energy Works including design, timber frame, high-performance enclosures, fine woodworking from NEWwoodworks, and reclaimed wood from our sister company Pioneer Millworks.
I’ve been timber framing for more than 30 years. Very often over this time we’ve worked with owner builders. These folks span the same wide range as any other custom builder, from hands off the tools and just managing everyone, to placing every form, nailing every connector, and setting the last piece of bathroom tile.
Mostly though, it’s somewhere in between, smack in the middle. Scott & Jill are that way, and on a recent stop in after we’d been done with our part for a couple months, I was once again reminded of my oft-stated, “Human potential is an amazing thing”.
When I first visited their site in Sisters, Oregon, the two were busy clearing brush and building a pump house. They could see where they were going, had the views of The Three Sisters Mountain Range captured just right, and knew how the driveway and entry porch would eventually welcome guests. My coworker David had finished their plans but truthfully, Scott had sent us about the most detailed set of preliminaries we have ever received. They knew what they wanted.
These are images of a well organized, quality job site. And of so much of a dream unfolding. I once asked those two how they are still so much in love (as was evident, if you get my drift). “Shared dreams and the perfect partner,” was about the response. Stay with us over the next months. We’ll visit again and share the progress.
Bryan Bleier from our HPEz team and Kyle Barber from our design team recently attended the 16th annual PhiusCon(formerly North American Passive House Conference) at the historic Palmer House in Chicago IL. The guys specifically attended this year’s conference to connect with like-minded professionals in the industry and talk about New Energy Works investment in our High Performance Made Easier ™ (HPEz) enclosure systems as well as the teams ongoing commitment to develop sustainable and accessible higher performing homes.
PhiusCon is the leading passive building conference for climate-specific zero energy design, construction, and building science expertise. The conference is presented by parent organization Phius which is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization committed to decarbonizing the built environment by making high-performance passive building the mainstream market standard. Phius also certifies the majority of passive house projects in North America with their locally tailored, globally applicable passive building standard.
Anthony Venezia has been spending his weekends this past year building a highly crafted high-performance home in Canandaigua New York. This construction project is designed to be a modern and sustainable home for Anthony and his family and features dark stained Douglas fir timber accents as well as two-tone Shou Sugi Ban exterior siding and white oak flooring & stair treads from our sister company Pioneer Millworks.
Most importantly, the home utilizes our High Performance Made Easier ™ (HPEz) enclosure system which enabled Anthony and Luke to construct the home to the efficiency standards they wanted to achieve with the project.
Now that the family home is nearing completion, we caught up with Anthony to discuss how the project got started, why he wanted to build sustainably, and what it was like building a home for his family with a high-performance enclosure system that was manufactured off-site.
Q: How did this high-performance construction project get started?
Our HPEz (High Performance Made Easier™) team has been busy in the past year crafting and installing enclosure systems for numerous projects throughout the country. In addition to designing our own High-Performance enclosure systems, on select projects we offer off-site manufacture of panelization systems as a subcontractor.
One of those projects is a Pre-Certified Passive House near Philadelphia PA where our team partnered with Holzraum System to manufacture and install their Holzraum XP20 Wall Systems on a home designed by architect Macht Architecture and built by Hanson Fine Homebuilding. Our team also installed the floor and roof system on site as well, focusing on the intricate panel joining process to ensure the home meets Passive House thermal envelope standards.
“Holzraum System came to us with this project, they did the 3D computer model configurations of the enclosure and other components. Once they had it in architectural drawings, we helped them break it into panel sections for manufacturing in our HPEz shop,” Kevin Gilbert, Construction Superintendent from our team told us.
For one couple in rural Connecticut the concept was to create a multigenerational space to enjoy with their five children, friends, and extended family. Part of a sweeping master plan for their property, this understated antiqued party barn is intended to adapt as the family grows and ages over time.
Architect Mark P. Finlay, who has a long-standing relationship with the family, defined the core concept for this family barn as a multigenerational building with a long-term plan. The current incarnation of the space is that of a party barn where the owners children can spend time with their friends out of the main house while remaining on the family property.
“It’s a multigenerational design.” Explains Mark. “We worked it through and talked about the functions of the building, how it’s going to work, who is going to use it, how it would be used in 20 years versus now. We really talked through the whole thing. It’s part of a three generation, or 50-year, plan. It is a building with a singular design idea that will work really well in the future because it can adapt to a lot of different functions.”
For owners Doug Doetsch and his wife Susan Manning, their roots of apple farming in the Catskills Mountain Region of New York run deep. Doug has apple farming in his blood, tracing his ties to the area back five generations on both sides of his family including apple farms of the 1800’s, through prohibition era bootlegging of hard cider and applejack, to his own childhood growing up on orchards in the area. Apple farming is something of a Doetsch legacy.
After moving away for thirty-or-so years to establish a career in international finance law, Doug returned to his roots and recently founded Seminary Hill, an organic orchard & cidery in Callicoon.
With the help of renowned orchardist Michael Philips and an expansive team of local like-minded folks, the Seminary Hill team started planning the holistic twelve acre orchard in 2012. It now includes more than 1,500 trees with an astonishing 60 varieties of American, English, and French heirloom apples and pears with plans to expand in the coming decade. The orchards ecosystem is based on the sympathetic planting of pollinating and pest-repellent plants and flowers so that the apples and pears can be grown without the use of chemical pesticides. Organic all the way.
We’ve added a new building with new semi-automated tooling to produce the latest evolution of our Matrix Wall™ systems–we’re calling it HPEz, High-Performance Made Easier–to our campus in Farmington NY. Earlier this month we ran the very first wall panel for calibration and plain old getting-to-know-the-tools practice:
Tucked into Puget Sound in Washington, this site allows the homeowners to feed their passions: boating, family time, and entertaining. Easy access for boats and creating spaces large enough to house large family and friends gatherings drove the design, secondary only to the desire for a “refined lodge” aesthetic.
Known as a full timber frame, the entirety of the home and garage were crafted with timbers, specifically reclaimed Douglas fir timbers. When plans began, the designwas quite traditional. “The more we looked at the site and the possible views, the more it transitioned, evolved,” explained David Shirley, AIA, member of our designteam. “We angled the house in a soft arc of sorts which maximized views of the Sound as well as those of the Cascade Mountain range in the distance.” This change capitalized on the views and the natural wrap of the land.
Waving corn fields and tight rows of soybeans have given way to smooth grass, colorful signage, and numerous clusters of homes within the Town of Farmington in Ontario County, NY. Grow though the Town has, respecting and celebrating their rural roots is of utmost importance to the community. When LNB approached the Town about a site that was home to the second oldest structure in the County, a farmhouse that has stood for two centuries, there was some skepticism. But at the core LNB is about community. The Town became excited by the bank’s proposal: LNB wanted to embrace the old homestead, the Hathaway House, endeavoring to preserve, celebrate, and open it to the community as part of their new branch.
(More on the history of the home and property was provided by the Hathaway Sisters, who shared stories, photos, and personal memories around the old homestead, as celebrated by LNB here.)
We’re excited share more of the story on our long-time banking partner, LNB (Lyons National Bank), and their newest community branch which we raised just up the road from our Farmington, NY shop.
While the branch is quickly heading towards completion, we wanted to re-cap some of the processes involved in getting there:
LNB has a focus on people and is always very involved in the local communities, ethos that parallel our own. The Farmington branch site includes a historic home that is being preserved and refreshed. A new timber frame, connecting to the historic home, will accommodate the bank’s main operations.
State College, PA: Homeowners Jim and Cheryl came to us with a dream home request: design and craft a home for two which could also easily accommodate much larger gatherings with family and friends. The resulting simple and classic cruciform plan for their hybrid timber frame home fits the couple while incorporating space—inside and out—for others.
Jim and Cheryl, their children, and their friends attended the same university near State College in PA where game season is a great reason to join together. The couple found a site nestled at the base of a long rise to the mountains on one side, and open to expansive views into Nittney Valley on the other. “We wanted to take advantage of the views and offer additional space for intensive entertaining to flow outside,” explained Ty Allen, our design/build manager. “The result is nearly 2,000 sq ft of outdoor deck, porch, and patio space in addition to interior living areas.”
LNB (The Lyons National Bank) recently broke ground for a new branch in Farmington, NY. The site includes a historic home that is being preserved and refreshed. A new timber frame, connecting to the historic home, will be raised to accommodate the bank’s main operations.
“As a company, we’ve long been clients of LNB; we admire their deliberate focus on the individual and business needs of each community they join–and their commitment to doing right by the planet,” said Bryan, project lead from our timber frame engineering team. “We’ve been privileged to work with LNB on several of their branches and we’re excited that they’re opening just down the road from our headquarters in Farmington.”
Below: A previous project with LNB for their Canandaigua NY branch included a timber frame core crafted with reclaimed Douglas fir timbers sourced by Pioneer Millworks.
Perhaps our most passionate filter, everything we do is based on the premise that we have but one earth, and it needs us to do better. In a sweet bit of coincidence, this also means that the house we build is more comfortable for you: There are fewer drafts, less outside noise, a more responsive heating and cooling system, and cleaner indoor air quality. The utility bill is less, as well.
We have pre-panelized our energy-efficient wall system, the Matrix Wall, since 1993, and have been involved with over 2,000,000 square feet of structural insulated panels (SIPs). The combination of wall and roof components create our HPE (High-Performance Enclosure System). While recent improvements to the nationally recognized Residential Energy Code for new construction are exciting, these traditional energy requirements have always been inadequate, and continue to be so. In the last half dozen years we’ve seen the interest in thoughtful energy design skyrocket among our clients. We’re thrilled!
This renewed interest, in combination with new understanding and technologies in off-site pre-construction, suggests our enclosure practices have been spot on. 2020 will see a substantial evolution of our HPE efforts through the addition of a new line of European semi-automated wall and floor building equipment.
This video showcases the framing line:
When we “semi-automate” our processes, we’re not eliminating jobs, we’re doing better work more efficiently while allowing our coworkers to work longer into their career and be safer as they do so. By increasing the amount of off-site pre-panelization we can do, our goal is to bring our quality and expertise on energy and resource efficiencies to more homes, to more builders, making High Performance Easier. We code name this effort HPEz. Here are some of the wins we see:
• Less Labor—Using more automation, reduces overall and on-site labor.
In November of 2018 we had a community raising for the Mount Angel Abbey’s Benedictine Brewery. One hundred volunteers gathered early, listened thoughtfully to a strategy introduction and a safety meeting, and got it done.
Of the people who showed up to help, about 50 or so were from Mount Angel Abbey, the monastery at the top of the hill where we were working. We had our team and timber framers from companies who are part of the Timber Framers Guild from all around come to help. (You can read about that amazing day in a previous blog post, and we’ve included the raising video at the end of this post.)
This season, the Brewery has been up and running with plenty On Tap. We’re excited to be working with them again, this time extending their covered outdoor space to accommodate and shelter more folks:
When we met Nancy and Larry to first chat about their timber frame home aspirations, we learned that Larry is a beekeeper and suddenly we were as full of questions about beekeeping as we were with answers to home designing and building. The couple shares a special affinity for nature, much like our various teams (if you’ve ever read our bios, you’ll see a reoccurring theme of ‘hiking, biking, and being outdoors’). Taking a look at the bucolic piece of farm and woodlands near Ithaca, NY was one of the first steps to designing the couple’s home. Ty Allen, AIA, our design build manager and architect, met with Larry and Nancy on their site to explore the possibilities. Ty shared with us a bit about the overall project and process:
“When we walked the site it became clear we could create a design that would give Larry and Nancy a home which engaged with both the surrounding woods and open spaces. We knew they wanted something of manageable size and easy to maintain where they could enjoy their retirement,” Ty shared.
Recently we did a project with Black Oak Builders and Barry Price Architecture in Saugerties, NY. Interestingly for us, the majority of the project was not timber frame (though they do have a sweet little timber piece off the side of the garage that may someday house a small maple sugaring operation). No, in this case Black Oak Builders reached out to us to partner on the enclosure system for three additions to this 1800’s home; a master bedroom suite, an office/bedroom wing, and a two-story garage.
Our goal with High Performance Enclosures (HPE) is simple—to help builders achieve better building performance for their clients and to make the projects go as smoothly as possible. With our knowledge in systems building (from years in timber framing, as well as construction experience in our Finger Lakes backyard) we can bring the nuances of off-site construction to enclosure building and pre-panelization to those looking for custom solutions. Our construction team built 66 panels in about 2 weeks and headed out in a snowstorm to install the them in January. This off-site minimizes the time needed on-site, saving projects weeks and speeding up the deliverable of a finished space to a client.
The enclosure was our MartixS wall system. Built of 2×6 framing, ½ OSB, 60mm wood-fiber insulation (Steico in this case), house wrap, and vertical strapping for attachment of the siding. All designed to fit within the 8’6” shipping constraints. The Steico wood fiber insulation allows one less petroleum-based element in the system and an opportunity for carbon sequestration—both pieces that help our buildings carry a load in slowing climate change. Used with the Mento Plus house wrap (a weather resistant barrier that is extremely waterproof and air tight while allowing the wall to dry to the exterior) and the tightness of the panels themselves, the performance of these new spaces should make a sizable impact to the client’s comfort, HVAC costs, and do a favor for our planet.
The owners of this timber frame lakeside retreat enjoyed the original lake farmhouse on the site for many years. When it became apparent that their beloved lake house had outlived its use, they made the bittersweet decision to deconstruct it in favor of a new home.
The land, the lake, and home’s impact there was a driving force in the design. Our design team started with respecting the local vernacular and maintaining existing trees and then included advanced enclosure and mechanical systems, FSC-certified® and reclaimed wood flooring and siding, roofing made of recycled wood fiber and rubber, and a geothermal heat system—all resulting in energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact.
The broad stroke design of this home harkens to sap houses and agricultural structures of the Northeast and the flare of mountain homes for a balance of rugged and modern aesthetics. Forms evoke the traditional, such as the clerestory and the cylindrical stair tower but are tempered within via the non-traditional great room space and helical, modern stairs.
“Often I find the most beautiful designs are when you can see the function of a structure. I enjoy thinking of a balance of the purpose of a structure and function, and how the builders achieve that goal,” shared Shannon, homeowner of the Circle in a Square project. “I enjoy seeing the inner workings of things. That’s why I love timber frame structures. Take a home and its many reasons for being; there is an endless way of accomplishing the goal. You need a roof and walls and other parts and ways for them to be held up and attached. The timber frame is probably one of the most unique ways of showing how that can be done.”
Project enclosure systems are one of the biggest areas to benefit from high-performance building techniques, and there are several options: SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) and our Matrix & Matrix-S Wall system, to name a few. As we push for better envelopes and efficiencies with every project, we’re applying decades of experience in creating turnkey timber frame structures to crafting prefabricated wall systems.
“When you buy a car, no one shows up at your house with all the parts and builds your new car in your driveway, right? So why build walls on-site?” asked Eric, our Timber Frame General Manager.
A project’s design is further developed in building modeling software where potential problems can be identified and solved immediately, prior to fabrication and prior to being on-site. Redundancy assures accuracy: we believe in building it twice—virtually then actually. Creating these systems off-site allows for a climate-controlled environment, reduction in material waste during construction (off-site and on-site), and increases the efficiency/speed of site production. All while minimizing our coworkers’ time out of town.
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.
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?
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:
“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.
Much of our design and construction planning focuses on reducing the energy our projects consume, not only to the benefit of those enjoying the home, but to the larger community and the planet. One of the best ways to influence this: special consideration, planning, and detailing of wall and roof systems (aka: the project’s envelope). I chatted with Ty Allen AIA, our design-build manager, who took us a bit deeper our current innovations and processes with our home enclosures:
Megan: Thanks for walking through this, Ty. I’m curious, what do you think are the key things to consider when you are designing the building envelope for a high-performance home?
Ty: Air leakage is one of the biggest areas of energy and efficiency loss. Think of it this way; you can have as much insulation you want, but if you leave the front door open, it doesn’t matter. Add up all of the thousands of potential points of air leakage, and it can quickly turn into a big energy and efficiency loss.
Generally, when we think about envelope design, one of the most fundamental things we want to do is define the pressure boundary. In other words, the line throughout the building in the wall-makeup where you’re creating airtightness. If there’s a break in the pressure boundary, say cold air leaking through the floor system into the living room, performance is lost.
After using Cross Laminated Timbers (CLTs) from KLH to form our fine woodworking shop we were excited to incorporate the big wooden panels into other projects. We’re working again with the CLT manufacturing, design, and engineering teams at KLH, this time to raise a complete CLT home in Scappoose, Oregon.
Our team has been raising/joining the CLTs this week. Here’s an animation of the planned process:
And a few current progress photos from the craftsmen on site:
On one of our typical cool, rainy, and windy Autumn days in upstate New York, I had the chance to chat with Laurie who was enjoying some sun and warmth down in Texas. We worked with Laurie and her husband Dan for over a year designing, building, and completing their multi-generational lakeside retreat home in nearby Canandaigua, NY. I asked Laurie if she would share her take on what it was like to build and decorate a custom timber frame home. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I know I spent much of our conversation nodding and smiling. Here’s what she shared:
Megan: So much is about the build site. Why Canandaigua?
Thank you to all who joined the celebration of the opening of our CLT building, the first complete CLT in New York State. While cutting a ribbon is as common as champagne for celebrations of this sort, we opted to go with something a bit more “us”. Surrounded by a crowd of co-workers and fans, our fearless leader, Jonathan, wielded a chain saw to cut a timber at the main entry. See the sawdust fly in our symbolic opening:
It has been quite a ride involving nearly every coworker to create this building. We’re excited to have our fine woodworkers of NEWwoodworks settling in and sharing their craft with us daily. Our sister company, Pioneer Millworks, is enjoying smooth shipping and receiving from their new storage space at the back of the building. We’re anxious to experience the performance of this structure over the typically bitter New York winter. We have high expectations from the combination of CLTs, timber frame, and wood fiber (out-sulation).
If you’d like to see the opening ceremony event in its entirety check below. And for other vids of our adventures check out our YouTube page.
A week in Poland and Germany learning about wood fiber insulation? “That seems like a lot of wood fiber insulation,” was the first thought that went through my mind. “Never been to Poland but Germany was great, and it’s been a long time,” I’m pretty sure was the second.
Three days into the trip having flown into Gdansk, Poland, driven to and toured a plant in a place called Czarna Woda, and now Eric Fraser and I are sitting in a training room in Czarnków. The German-based company Steico we were visiting affectionately calls it Steico School; learning more about vapor open assemblies and dewpoint potential (trust me, it’s very interesting)—then the question came with sort-of knowing trepidation:
“…how long did it take?”
The answer was straight and clear from our sharp, young, Polish instructor, through his thick accent:
Twenty years to move the needle enough to make a noticeable difference. Twenty years to change the thinking of enough individuals to affect the masses. Once it had entered the mainstream vernacular, twenty years to normalize high-performance building to the point where it has fully entered the consciousness of everyday Europeans looking to build a place they would raise their family and call home. The answer was at once overwhelming, yet inspiring.
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.
“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:
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.
Today we’ve grown to 25 coworkers in timber framing, carpentry, design, engineering, and millworks, and the buzz is on.
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 my mind raced with the many recent thoughts about working on something like a precious gem, or what we’re calling a NEW Jewel.
So many of our clients now are building smaller homes because they simply don’t need a bigger one. Seems smart for many reasons: less vacuuming, less heating and cooling, less taxes. And for many, less strain on the finances as we get to the point where retirement shines bright and hopeful.
I’ve closely followed the whole Tiny House thing, and a few of my friends have been drawn to it. There’s plenty about it on the web, but simply put they’re tightly designed and crafted homes of 200-400 square feet, often built on a chassis and wheels. Cool idea, but hard to live in for most, I’d reckon. For the jewel of a home in my own mind, I wanted to start with 1,000 square feet. Enough room for a pleasant common area, a couple of away rooms for bed and work, a couple of bathrooms and yes to a mudroom and pantry. (For Phil and Rocio’s, we ended up with 1,140 square feet.)
Wood fiber installation, another product which is new to the US. Also referred to as “out-sulation” since it is installed on the outside of projects, the Wood Fiber panels offer 3.5R per inch, are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, and are a carbon sink – for each 1 m3 used, up to 1 tonne of CO2 is bound within the product. Made by Steico, we found this product installed with a fair amount of ease and is performing well.
The custom CNC cut corner tree received a coat of stain and is now sheltered behind glass.
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.
Just 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.”
In our experience, homes are most successful when they adapt, age, and grow with their inhabitants. It’s always pleasing when we can plan ahead for changes, such as transitioning a weekend vacation space to full-time home. Hank and Julie have given us such an opportunity. The couple has a delightful build site in Vermont and enlisted our team to design their vacation home, which will eventually become their full-time retirement retreat.
Sublime views between ski areas to the north and south guided the overall home orientation, and specifically the great room layout, for Hank and Julie’s project.
Careful consideration was also given to the traditional Vermont farmhouse vernacular. The design acknowledges this aesthetic with a main gable roofline that intersects with an asymmetrical salt box gable roofline. It incorporates the couple’s desire for mountain-rustic style with mixed exterior materials and subtle timber elements. The corner of the home’s “L” shaped layout is defined with a stair tower that has evenly stacked windows and will feature shou sugi ban siding.
With a combination of woodlands and open agricultural space, the site will allow the home to be set partially within the trees at the end of a curving drive through open land. A banked garage is angled into the hillside, giving the front of the home a modest street-side facade.
A new home build in Pine Plains, NY offers an example of the design flexibility of heavy timber, showcasing contemporary and minimalistic timber framing.
Designed by Amalgam Studio, each bent is open and airy, blending timber and steel. We crafted the bents using double 4×10’s, sandwiching ½” steel plates at critical locations. Powder-coated steel tension tie-rod connections span the width of the home joining the posts together. They bring structural stability while keeping the frame light.
Prior to assembly, each stick received a custom ‘burned’ finish. Charring the Douglas fir creates a deep color tone and raised grain texture. We’re excited to use this old technique to bring a new twist to traditional materials.
This project is aiming for a few awards and possibly Passive House status. We’ll share more as Black Oak Builders finish out the project.
Special thanks to Ben Albury of Amalgam Studio for the great images and raising video.
The final (final!) Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels have been installed on our CLT project. Forming the front corner of the building these panels represent a piece of the flexibility of building with solid wood panels and speak to our passion for planet, forest, tree, and wood.
Our fine woodworking division, NEWwoodworks, used ingenuity, software, and CNC tooling to draw, layout, and cut the “tree” design. Our timber frame and construction teams, including Jason, Kevin, and Jim, installed the panels on a chilly Monday morning. Roofing and final enclosure, including wood fiber insulation, are underway.
Residents of Indiana, Doug and Tammy have called Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan their second home for 18 years. The site they’ve enjoyed over those years includes lake frontage and views worth talking about. (Mike W captured the panoramic above from the peak of the frame on crisp day.) The couple frequented several timber home shows where they met New Energy Works Drake Ambrosino, and we’ve helped them bring it to reality this Winter.
We were told the weather is usually great in Grand Traverse, but that lake-effect snow is no joke near the water. While Darren, Mike, Anthony, and Noah were raising the frame, some tough weather hit the site. For nearly two weeks the temperatures ranged from just above zero into the teens with daily snow. The flakes didn’t diminish the team’s energy as they joined the custom stained Douglas fir main frame, front porch, and rear balconies.
We 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.
Many thanks to Adjusters International BLC. When our roof collapsed their team was unfaltering. They were there to explain the insurance policy, help the process along, and get us what we needed.
The 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.
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.”
Jim & Rebecca came to us with a dream for a timber frame barn that would be a centerpiece to their hilltop property in Castle Rock, CO. What a spot to call home! Our timber frame team arrived from Oregon to spend three weeks on-site raising the frame and enclosing the barn – all while soaking in the scenery.
Over the next few weeks, the team learned that Jim had fallen in love with timber frames in Ohio and made it a goal to call one his own. That’s our kinda’ goal; our thanks to Jim & Rebecca for enlisting us to build this 80′ by 32′ rough sawn Douglas fir timber frame barn.
The barn doesn’t use any true trusses, but has plenty of traditional mortise and tenon joinery crafted in our McMinnville, OR shop by Darren, Mike, Jimmy, Todd, and David. A clerestory brings light into the structure while a ‘tower’ adds dynamic space.
Timber Home Living magazine documented the Olsen’s journey to building their family retreat in the Berkshires from 2014 to completion in 2016. What happens during a custom home building project? Starting with our design team join the story from the Olsen’s point of view as we craft the timber frame, enclosure, and custom woodworking. Click through each part of the eight part series below to get the inside scoop.
“I definitely think we designed the right size house with the perfect layout. The house lives on the land and captures views. We’re so happy we decided to build this house and we’re so happy we decided to work with New Energy Works.” – Greg Olsen.
We can’t thank Greg enough for his kind words, but we can try! Many, many thanks to Greg and Dee for working with us and becoming part of our community. Designing, raising, enclosing, and completing the fine woodworking for their home was truly a pleasure. Please enjoy this final article by Timber Home Living magazine of the Olsen’s retreat home journey. (And if you missed the others, click here.)
We’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.”
CLTs 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 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:
We started this job in the end of the summer of 2015 when Dan Hill and Ryan Rojas from Arbor South Design-Build approached us about building a timber frame for their client’s lake cabin on Odell Lake, Oregon. Our crew had a great time working on the project. We had 3 of our long-time team members (myself, Todd, Jimmy) plus we added our new project engineer, Quinn, to the mix so that he could see all the intricacies of how one of these projects go together on the ground. (He’s now migrated to the office to start his frame joining education.)
Odell Lake is a stunning mountain lake with beautiful vistas and HUGE fish. The cabin is in an area of Historical Significance, which means that though the owners are building a new cabin they don’t actually own the land beneath. The cabins in this area are all on a long-term lease with the US Forest Service. Because of its historical designation, the site had to have an archaeological survey done to ensure that there weren’t any important artifacts the new structure was going to disturb. It was a gamble for the owners to take as this area had been a prime fishing spot for not only the last hundred years, but for millennia before. A few arrowheads and pottery shards were found but nothing significant enough to stop the project.
Timber Home Living magazine continues coverage of the Olsen family home, a reclaimed timber frame raised in 2014. Progress on the home continues as our construction team encloses the frame with high efficiency SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) and our Matrix Wall:
Jonathan & Maxine were interviewed by AOL Real Estate after hearing The Vermont Street Project had won Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s Home of the Year in the Houses 2011 issue. Filmed about a year ago, we still take our hats off to the production team for capturing their story so well. Enjoy the video!