4 Questions to Answer in Planning Timber Frame Homes

Planning green timber frame homes is, if anything, easier than planning to build a conventional home.  Timber frames and structural insulated panels take the project well into “green” territory before any other decision is made. Using minimally processed materials (heavy timbers) and an unsurpassed enclosure systems makes green building less stressful.

As you do plan your new timber frame home, you’ll need to consider if you want to build as green as possible, whether to seek green building certification, and where to concentrate your efforts. The possibilities are endless, as are the questions and the answers. If you consider these questions early on, you’ll have a big picture understanding and can make other decisions based on these answers.  Timber frame homes allow you to answer “yes” to these questions.

Energy efficiency,  durability, and renewability are key to evaluating any building system. And buildings are a system and should be planned as such. The answers will help you to determine your path to having a home that will serve you and generations well. Answering these questions for each component will give you the “greenest” home, but answering them for the timber frame package takes you a long way toward an energy efficient, sustainable home.colmar timber frame homes

  1. Does it have a long life? Timber frame homes that were built over a thousand years ago are in place and living well today.
  2. Does it save energy? Timber frames, enclosed in insulated panels are hard to beat. The reduced consumption of energy is good for your pocket and for the earth.
  3. Does it minimize contributions to the waste stream? Timbers are minimally processed. Panels are built offsite, minimizing site waste.
  4. Is it renewable and recyclable? Many timbers are grown as a crop. They are a naturally renewable resource and can easily be recycled. Today many barns built hundreds of years ago are being repurposed as homes, flooring, and other building materials.

Plan carefully, considering your site and how to best place your home, the size of your home (don’t over or under build), the materials you use to finish your home. Each step brings more questions, but these four questions will help you to gauge the sustainability of the materials your using.

And when you build, build for generations and…build boldly!

 

 

Energy Efficiency in Timber Frame Homes

Timber frame homes are beautiful, inspiring, charming, and all of the wonderful words that you can consider.  And, when properly designed and constructed, they are also amazingly energy efficient. This doesn’t happen by accident, but with intentional design and construction.

Designing for not only beauty, but also for energy efficiency, should be goals from the start.  You will need to consider size, style, orientation, daylighting, and all the other subtle ways that you can plan forward.  Make it known early in your design meetings that you want your home to be sustainable and to minimize energy usage.

Plan forward for energy efficient fixtures and appliances and to use energy efficient bulbs.  Don’t save money with inefficient appliances and windows.  They will cost you daily.

Structural Insulated Panels are the enclosure of choice for many timber frame companies.  Timber frame homes  and hybrid homes work well with panel systems. A tight home and a well insulated home don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but a well installed panel system covers it all.

We not only promote energy efficiency, but we live it.  Our own 1700 square foot timber frame home, with lots of windows and vaulted ceilings, uses only $2.34 per day ($835 for the year) in electricity.  We heat and cool with a heat pump and don’t have a fireplace or any auxiliary heat source.  We have an electric dryer and a dishwasher.

Last year our energy usage was $3.08 per day ($1,123 for the year).  We had a much colder winter, but we also made some common sense changes.   We don’t run the dishwasher until it’s full.  We hang some clothes out to dry.  Simple choices have saved us almost $300 per year.

So think forward.  Plan your home to save those energy dollars and to be comfortable.  Build a home you’ll love and whatever you do, Build Boldly!

 

 

Building Timber Frames – A Homeowner’s Experience

Goshen Timber Frames has the most amazing clients.  They love timber frames and enjoy sharing their homes.  Sometimes they go further and share their building projects…from soup to nuts.

John and Janice have blogged their hybrid timber frame project  here in Western North Carolina at http://www.buildingourtimberframe.com/sutton .  They are “hands on homeowners”, working evenings, days off, and weekends to build their home.  They subcontracted some of the work, but did much themselves.

Their timber frame is on a small footprint, but it’s a charming home.   You can look at their timber frame plan .  It’s compact and loaded with character, from the poplar bark siding as you come up to the door to the stained concrete basement floor.  What a wonderful timber frame home!

So check out their blog and let us know if you’d like to visit their new home.  Just give me a call at 828-524-8662  Bonnie Pickartz.

And however you build, follow John and Janice and Build Boldly!

Winter in Timber Frame Homes

Many wished for a white Christmas, and many got their wish. The Christmas Storm of 2010 will be remembered as one that snuck upon the East Coast and the South, bringing snow to places that hadn’t seen Christmas snow for decades…or ever. Homes were cloaked in white. Timber frame homes were especially beautiful, with their white roofs and lights through the windows.

Goshen timber frame homes are wrapped in energy efficient panels, keeping the cold out and the warm in. Even with vaulted ceilings and expansive open spaces, no heat was lost. Roofs showed no warm air escaping, no tell-tale lines of heat leaking into the cold.

Timber frame homes are classic.  They can be designed to fit any style that pleases you and can be designed to fit any locale, any neighborhood.   They can have walls of windows to help “daylight” the home and to bring the outdoors in.

Timber frames make perfect smaller homes.  With no need for load bearing walls, spaces open up easily and with flexibility unavailable in other types of construction.

So as you ponder your dream home, think timber frame.  Check out the timber frame plans at Goshen Timber Frames and sign up to be the first to see new plans at TimberStead.  And however you build, build boldly!

Green Building Notes – The Materials in Your Timber Frame Home

Choosing the materials you will use in building and finishing your timber frame home will be a critical next step. Using high quality, environmentally responsible materials is key to building a green home.  Sustainability, energy efficiency, and the impact of the products you use on the health of the homes occupants are the key elements in building your new home.

High performance products that are produced by companies committed to the environment have been and continue to be developed.  Building with regional materials is a responsible way to build with lower embodied energy.  Products that have increased durability and reduced maintenance will continue to pay off long term. Energy efficiency is important in all decisions from appliances to windows.  Be sure to use Energy Star rated components whenever possible.

As a client of Goshen Timber Frames, you will choose to build a home that is either a timber framed home wrapped in R-24 wall and R-40 polyurethane structural insulated panels, a hybrid home consisting of some timber framed areas and other areas built with the same structural insulated panels with timber roof support, or a panelized home built with structural insulated panels with timber roof support. Any of these options have given you a head start on building your home in a green, responsible fashion.

Explore the options for finishing your new home carefully.  Take your time in making these decisions.   Even when you are looking for a cost effective option, you will have many choices.

*  Durability is key to the materials and products you use.  Durable products are less likely to end up in the landfill in a few years.  The manufacturing process is very energy intensive.  The more durable, longer lasting a product is and the less maintenance it requires, the more energy it saves.

*  Gather samples so you can compare the color and quality of your choices.

* While it is comforting to buy from companies with a responsible track record and with names that we’ve heard for years, don’t rule out a newer company who is offering a product that is comparable and is getting good reviews.

*  Buying a product that is available regionally can help keep your project timeline on target.  Waiting for a special order product that has to be shipped from another country or region can cause delays.  Transportation is costly and polluting.  Locally or regionally produced materials save money and are more environmentally responsible.

*  Keep in mind the long term maintenance and longevity of the products you choose.  No matter how much you like a product, research how much time and money will be required to keep it looking good.  Will the product need to be replaced in a few years?  Will the maintenance be a drain on time and resources.

*  Recycled and salvaged building materials can add charm to your home and reduce landfill use.  Sacrificing energy and water efficiency by reusing windows and plumbing fixtures isn’t a good idea, but interior doors, moldings, cabinets, hardware, and lumber are all good choices.

*  High efficiency heating and cooling equipment, properly sized for your home and insulation values, save money and produce less pollution.  Mechanical ventilation is necessary in today’s tight homes.  Energy or heat recovery ventilators will ensure healthy indoor air.

*  Water efficient plumbing fixtures (water conserving showerheads, toilets, and faucets) save water and reduce the demand on septic systems and sewage systems.  Reducing water usage saves on the water system and reduces energy costs to heat the water.

*  Listen carefully to your own voice as you make decisions.  The input of the professionals is critical, but you and your family will live in your home.  Accept their suggestions and advice, but use only what works for you and your family.

The above items are the big picture.   The harder decisions will be smaller, more detailed, but every bit as critical to building a sustainable, energy efficient home.  Your home as a whole is the end result of many, many smaller pieces.   We will start defining energy efficient and sustainable building products early in the design/build process and will be available to help you evaluate your choices.

Building a sustainable, energy efficient timber frame home doesn’t have to be difficult and isn’t rocket science.  Just spend the time and energy necessary to make good choices and you’ll end up with a home built for generations.

And when you build…don’t forget to build boldly.

Two Goshen Timber Frames Going Up This Week

Team Goshen has been busy. This week two new homes will sport Goshen frames! With interest rates down and interest in beautiful, energy efficient, sustainable homes up, Goshen is busy.

Howard and Cindy worked with Goshen to design and build their new home in the far western mountains of North Carolina. A great home!  And Goshen partnered with architect Philip Buchanan to design and build JohnGoshen Timber Frame Home and Barbara’s new timber frame near Asheville.  A great contemporary home with beautiful lines.

Goshen Timber Frames

Timber Frames with SIPS and Energy Efficiency

The very first step in building a sustainable, energy efficient home is to make sure that you have a well insulated shell.  Timber frames and hybrid timber frame homes when enclosed with structural insulated panels are a great beginning.

R-values don’t tell the whole story.  If a wall has a high R-value and isn’t sealed properly, the efficiency is lost.  With most insulated panels thermal breaks are minimized and there should be no leakage.  Windows aren’t as efficient as walls, but proper sealing will minimize the loss of hot and cold air seasonally.

As you plan your new timber frame,  look at the different enclosure options.  At Goshen we enclose all of our homes (and build the hybrid portion of our hybrid timber frames) with polyurethane core structural insulated panels.  They go up quickly, wrapping the home in an energy efficient shell, and offer maximum R-values per inch of thickness.

With an R-40 roof and R-24 walls, we are seeing minimal cooling and heating bills in all of our homes.  Our personal energy bill for the month of July is posted on our Building A Timber Frame Blog .  We didn’t take extraordinary steps to minimize the utility bill,  kept the house at a comfortable temperature, and have been pleased with what we’ve had to spend to heat and cool.

For a look at a hybrid timber frame home raised and enclosed in insulated panels, check out this video by Rick and Debbie in Dahlonega, Georgia. They will soon be moving into

their new home and expect excellent performance from their panels (and exceptional beauty from their timber frame home). I’m sure they won’t be disappointed on either account.

So, do your research and build an energy efficient home and enjoy the benefits for many, many years.

Timber Frames – A World Apart

Our recent visit to the International Builders’ Show reinforced our knowledge that a timber frame is a world apart from a conventionally framed home.

As we visited the vendors and viewed the new products, one of the things that kept coming to mind was that many were addressing problems that don’t arise in timber frame construction.   Insulation, infiltration, remodeling issues (bearing walls), design issues (bearing walls), and much other information was alien to us.  Polyurethane posts and trim were interesting, as were fake beams that weighed about as much as a cardboard box and finished to look like distressed timber.  You’ve got to love ingenuity.

Since we use structural insulated panels to wrap our homes, we didn’t have to discuss the differences in how to insulate between studs in stud walls.  We didn’t have to discuss the different truss configurations.  Our timbers take care of everything.

Timber Frames seem to solve many of the problems that builders are struggling with today.   We see more timber frames today than in recent history and I expect we will see even more as the importance of a sustainable structure is acknowledged.

Structural Insulated Panels – Your Timber Frame Enclosure Choices

Timber frame homes are most often enclosed with structural insulated panels.  The panels offer exceptional performance, quick dry-in, and minimize onsite waste.

While expanded polystyrene panels offer all of the above and are widely used throughout the industry, polyurethane is the choice of some companies, including Goshen Timber Frames.

There are discussions about the “greenness” of both products everywhere.  Since both are petroleum based products, the purist will argue that neither should be used in construction.  However, the long term energy savings offset this argument.

A recent Environmental Building News article (you can read about it here) brings into focus some of the differences and argues that polyurethane is the better choice for above ground applications.  A search for discussions about the panels will find manufacturers and salesmen of both products making a case for their product.  However, independent research has led Goshen to use only polyurethane, as the best, safest, most efficient enclosure system.  We are not invested in either product and have made our decisions based on our years of success with polyurethane and our own research.

There are many, many more companies manufacturing expanded polystyrene panels than polyurethane panels.   The process of manufacturing polyurethane panels requires a greater investment and fewer companies are willing to make that investment.  This should not be seen as a vote for EPS as the better product, just the most economical to manufacture.

Discuss your enclosure options with your timber frame company.   While I firmly believe that panels are the best way to enclose, I also believe that polyurethane panels are the best of the best.

That said, I”ll sign off for now.