Green Building Notes – Your Timber Frame Journey Begins

One of the first things you should do as you begin your design/build process is make a decision as to whether you will build a “green certified” home. If you decide to do this later in the process, you may have to take steps backwards and redo some things in the construction process. Certification is widely believed to add value, so if you are going to sell the home, this may be a wise option. It also requires oversight and a decision about the class of certification you wish to achieve. As the trend to build homes to meet higher green standards moves forward, certification may or may not have a large impact on the economic value of the home. What will continue to be important is the quality of the home and the measures taken to ensure that the home is built to the highest standards.

We’ve included a checklist of issues that should be addressed in the green design/build process whether you choose to have your home certified or not. Also included is a comparison of the two most common green building standards. Both LEED and NAHB Green Building certifications require builders who are registered within the programs. You must determine which, if either, certification you are seeking early in your design/build process. They both offer extensive documentation. Nationwide there are local and regional certifications that offer similar certifications. They also provide documentation and lists of inspectors who can help you meet their requirements.

Our goal is to provide a list of best practices for building your new Goshen home that are important whether or not you decide to build a green certified home. The Goshen Timber Frames Guidelines are meant to provide a direction and to help you as you wade through the seemingly overwhelming “green building” books, articles, and websites. These guidelines are not meant to meet requirements for any certification program. They will help you to build a green home.

Once you have selected the items on which you will focus and include in your building process, documentation is important. Copies of invoices and inspections, photos, drawings, and any notes you make should be logged faithfully. Start a notebook and be diligent in your documentation.

The location of your new home will be the first step in building your green home. The value of your green home begins with the land on which it sits. Careful site evaluation early in the project will guide your design process in the right direction.

* Will you be building in a rural or an urban area?
* Will your site require extensive site development?
* Will your site allow for your home to be situated for active or passive solar energy or for daylighting?
* Will local or subdivision building requirements allow you to build a home in the size/style you wish?
* Are there important natural features that need to be preserved.

Site the home to minimize the impact on the land. By keeping roads and utility access short you less your impact on the land and save money. Try your best to utilize previously used or degraded areas for the building, parking, and roads.

More local building departments are requiring onsite water management. Working to make sure that stormwater is managed, preventing runoff that will carry topsoil away and will pollute streams, and using a resevoir system to capture rainwater to use for irrigation are all ways to be a responsible landholder.

Protect trees during construction. Fence the trees at the drip line to avoid construction traffic and debris.

Landscaping will play an important part in the energy efficiency of your new home. Trees to protect the home from the glaring sun will significantly reduce cooling costs.

Timber Frame Home Plans and Your Land

The decision to build your timber frame home was probably not made overnight. You read books and magazines, watched television shows and did your research on the Internet. Timber frames are built not only with chisels and mallets, but with dreams and heart.

Your timber frame home plan is critical to making this home the home of your dreams. It has to fit your lifestyle, your budget, and first and foremost…the land it will sit on. If you have a preconceived plan in mind, even before you buy your property, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, find the right property, then design your new timber frame to fit well on that site.  

Timber frames offer great opportunities to design a home with daylighting, no wasted space, accessibility, sustainability, energy efficiency, and all the charm and character you want, whether a very contemporary home, a farmhouse, a lodge, or a cottage. Your site will define the footprint and the orientation.

Armed with the lay of your land, your home can be designed (whether from an existing plan that is revised to work for you or custom designed) to make the best use of all the site’s features. If the amazing view was the defining factor in purchasing your land, then design a home that takes in that view from most of the rooms. If the shelter of surrounding trees is important, design your home so that you walk out into the shade and shelter. Design to fit with the local vernacular. Your timber frame should feel that it belongs on the land, that the land was there, awaiting its arrival.

So, armed with this information, go out and find your perfect land to build the perfect timber frame home. If you have the perfect land, design that home now, whether you’ll build next year or in ten years. The blueprint will give you time to “live” with your plan and to think about how you live and plan to live. The least expensive changes are made right there on paper.

And, don’t forget to BUILD BOLDLY.

Green Tax Credits for Your Timber Frame Project

Credits are available for a number of energy efficient projects in your timber frame home.  Whether you are planning a new home or considering upgrades to make your home even more energy efficient, there are federal and state tax credits available.

Some credits expire in 2010 and others will be available for several years, so you can plan your projects accordingly. State credits vary greatly and some incentives are made available by counties. Energy providers offer incentives for energy efficient homes. A timber frame home, enclosed in energy efficient insulated panels, is a great start, but making wise choices for everything from plumbing to heating and cooling can help you to recoup some of the money you spend to save money.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (http://dsireusa.org/) offers a look at what is available in each state, including amounts and dates.  The Energy Star website provides guidelines for federal tax credits.

While most contractors are well versed in these incentives, homeowners should do their own research and work with their contractor to ensure maximum benefits from the programs.   In North Carolina, a homeowner can receive up to 65% in combined federal and state tax credits for a geothermal system.

As you plan your timber frame, consider how you can take advantage of the credits, rebates, and incentives available. You are planning for long term efficiency and recouping costs quickly, so plan wisely.

Green Building Pro Expo – Visit Goshen Timber Frames

Last week Green Building Pro provided everyone interested in green building the opportunity to participate in talks given by industry leaders.  Attendees included architects, engineers, builders, suppliers, and others interested in building better, more sustainable homes, buildings, cities and lifestyles.  Goshen Timber Frames is pleased to have been a participant.

Timber frames, enclosed with structural insulated panels, offer an easy solution to building a home that will use minimal energy to heat and cool and a home built with a rapidly renewable resource.  Since Goshen has long been committed to building the right way, long before “green” became a touch phrase, it was easy to see the fit into the newer building paradigm.

 

Goshen Timber Frames at Green Building Expo

Building a Smaller Timber Frame Home

Building a smaller timber frame home isn’t rocket science.  Timber frames lend themselves to smaller, more efficient space.  With many homeowners making the choice to build homes that require less space, less maintenance, and are more cost efficient to build and to maintain, timber frame homes are a practical choice.

A smaller home doesn’t have to be cramped and crowded.  It can live large with open spaces and less wasted space.  Timber frame design typically makes the best use of space that might be a hallway in a conventionally framed home.  With no bearing walls, there a few barriers to the way a home flows.

Of course, if you are building on a lot suitable for a basement, including living space both above and below the  main floor means you can minimize the footprint of your home.  Your first floor may include the more public areas, living room, dining room, kitchen and often the master bedroom.  Within your timber frame, the living room, dining room, and kitchen are all “rooms without borders” and flow easily from one to the other.

Porches and decks, extended outdoor living spaces, are important in a smaller home.   Expanding the living space outdoors is another way to make your home live larger.  Timber frame porches and outdoor living space create shelter from inclement weather, but let you enjoy nature at its best and sometimes most violent.

While homeowners across the country are beginning to realize that smaller homes can be the direction to take for more energy efficient, sustainable living, our timber frame homes have always been designed to make best use of space and to allow their occupants to live large without wasted space.

Visit http://www.buildingatimberframe.com to see how large a 1700 square foot home can live.

And however you build, whatever you build, just Build Boldly.

Earth Day Every Day with Timber Frames

Timber frames have been built for centuries, the Bible refers to timbers and joinery. However, when it became easy to turn timbers into boards and nail them together instead of using labor intensive joinery, timber frames were no longer a common way to build.

The fact that timber frames are more structurally sound and last centuries instead of decades wasn’t an issue.  It should be.  Timbers are minimally processed and often wood is used that would instead go to the chipper mill and become some sort of “wood product” that requires much processing.

So for timber framers, every day is Earth Day.  Most are committed to building more sustainable, energy efficient buildings.  Many consciously work to lessen their personal carbon footprint and to “live lightly on the land”.

We encourage you to take steps, whether small or large, to reserve resources. Change a lightbulb, turn off a light, plant a tree, use cloth grocery bags, shop locally…the list is endless and many things are easier to do than the way you might be doing it.

And, if you are considering a new home, consider a timber frame enclosed with energy efficient panels.

Timber Frames Are Not Disposable Homes

How many homes have you lived in that were well past their prime?  Maybe they were drafty or maybe the floors weren’t quite level.  Maybe the windows leaked badly or the ridge was beginning to sag.  Many homes that have been built in the past century were not built to last.  They were built quickly with little oversight.  Timber frames are still standing…and still useful…centuries after they were carefully crafted from the materials at hand. 

Timber frames are not disposable homes.  They are sustainable in every sense of the word.   Today, we understand what our ancestors understood, that a building should last, that it should serve generations.

As we hear the words “green building” and “sustainable”, we need to focus on just what that means to the building process.   We can conserve energy and resources by building efficiently and we can conserve even more energy and resources by building a home that will withstand the forces of nature and time.  A timber frame won’t have to be shored up or torn down.  A timber frame can be renovate without destroying the structure.

So, think about what is going to the landfill today from homes that just couldn’t be saved.   Don’t add to that problem.  Think of the future as you plan and build your new home.

And whatever you do…build boldly.

Timber Frames – Custom Framing

WNC Magazine has a great article about the Pickartz’ new timber frame home in their March/April issue.   This insightful piece catches the spirit and character of this timber frame project.

We spent many years planning our new home and were certain that it needed to fit not only our lifestyle, but our style (such as it is).

Timber frames are special homes.  They offer each owner the opportunity to develop a plan that just “fits”.  With spaces that aren’t confined by bearing walls, they can design around much loved furniture.

You can visit the Pickartz home either in person (by calling Bonnie at Goshen) or virtually (at http://www.buildingatimberframe.com ).  It is compact and charming.

So check out the magazine online or pick up a copy.   This is their annual home and garden issue and you will find great information.

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.

Timber Frames and Daylighting

Daylighting is a design and build technique that allows window placement so that natural daylight can be used as internal lighting in homes and buildings.  Timber frames make daylighting an easy and natural process.

In a timber frame home, the posts and beams carry the structure, with panels (or another enclosure method) wrapped around this superstructure.   Walls can literally be built with windows, but that probably isn’t a good choice in most homes simply because of the energy efficiency.  However, it is wise to install as many properly placed windows as feasible to minimize the electric light needed during the day.

Natural light provides a more comfortable light and, limiting the number of lights that need to burn is an energy saving measure.

Dalighting should be considered for all new homes, working with your designer and timber framer to place windows to take advantage of the orientation of your timber frame.   There are many options … windows, skylights, clerestory windows, light shelves, and even sunrooms.   Using your site and orientation, the style of home you chose, and your lifestyle, the architect or designer will help you to make choices that will enhance the light in your new home.

Don’t discount the comfort factor of natural light.

And remember to not only build, but build boldly!