Green Building Notes – Designing Your Timber Frame

The design of your timber frame home will determine how well you live in it and how much you enjoy it.  Size does matter and with careful planning, a smaller home can provide more appropriate and more liveable space than a much larger home.  There is much to be said of the “human scale”.  We all live more comfortably in space that fits our scale.

The style of your new home will be your next critical decision.   The style should fit with the local vernacular.   It should look and feel like it belongs in the area.  If you are building in an area of eclectic  homes, many styles built over many years, you have lots of options.  If you are building in an area where the homes are more similar than dissimilar, think about a home that will blend in.  Mistakes, such as building a log home in an area of very traditional homes,  will decrease the value of your home.   Keep colors and finishes in mind as you work on the design of your home.  While we each want our homes to be unique and charming, we don’t want to own the home that everyone means when they say “oh, yes, that house”. Timeless architecture will serve you much better than a trendy style.   By building a home with fewer corners and using simple geometry you maximize your budget and minimize building materials.

The size of your home should be determined by the needs of your family.  If your family visits twice a year and there are sixteen people in your home for three days, do you need to build to accomodate sixteen people for the other three hundred and forty six days of the year?  A timber frame, hybrid, or panelized home will feel larger than a conventionally framed or modular home.  There are fewer structural wall requirements, fewer halls, higher ceilings with more volume.  Open spaces accomodate groups of people more easily than smaller, enclosed rooms.  Think seriously about the long term issues of energy usage and maintenance and about the shorter term costs to build and the extra materials required to construct your home.  Smaller requires fewer resources to build and fewer resources to maintain.  Careful planning as you design your home will pay off long term.

Energy efficiency will be designed into your home.  Design a well insulated home with high performance windows.  Design for sustainable energy with passive solar, daylighting, and natural ventilation.

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.

Green Building Notes – Your Timber Frame Journey

Green Building, in it’s new and sometimes abused persona, is not really a new concept.  It has always been important to use resources wisely, to build with the materials at hand, and to conserve energy.  New technology has helped us to achieve some of these goals, but if we look back, we see that many before us have built green, without all the hype.  Adobe homes protected Native Americans in the Southwest from sweltering heat, wattle and daub homes used materials at hand to build shelters, skyscrapers built in the late 1800’s made use of urban space.  So while architects, designers, and builders today would like to take credit for this movement, they are truly just making the public more aware of the importance of building green.

The goal of Goshen’s Green Building Notes is to inform and educate.  Choices are many and often confusing.  Whether you choose to build a home that is certified by one of the many certification programs, (LEED, NAHB, many local and regional options), or to build a home using best practices without certification, is a very personal and budgetary decision.

Goshen Timber Frames has designed and built green homes for many years.  We’ve helped our clients design and build homes that fit their lifestyle and budgets while not encouraging them to overbuild.  Our material and energy efficient homes sit quietly nationwide, enjoyed by families of all ages and economies.   

Your site will be all important as you move forward with your project.  Whether you own your land or you are just beginning the search for a site for your new home, you need to consider how the land lays, how your home will be sited, and the impact of building on the site.  If you are building in the mountains, The Mountain Home Guide is a good place to start.  This guide was created with much input and thought by professionals in North Carolina.  

If you are looking at land, consider how you will live in your new home.  Are you a “house mouse” or a “field mouse”?  Will you spend much time outdoors or do you prefer to spend your time inside?  This will impact everything from how your home is sited to how it is designed.  Don’t hurry this process.  Changes after the fact are time consuming and expensive.  

The smallest footprint will have the smallest impact.  This is critical to your new home and should be taken very seriously.  But, just as you shouldn’t build too much home for your lifestyle, don’t underbuild either.  Your home won’t serve you well if you have to add on to live comfortably.  There is a perfect fit for everyone.  

Designing your home to work for you and to fit on the land will take time and energy.  You will need to walk the land, visit with local builders who are familar with not only building, but with the regional landscape, have a local excavator out and discuss the impact of building on the site and how the landcape will change in order to accomodate your new home.  If you are building for a view, take a ladder to the site, climb up and look around.  This will likely be your first floor view.  If the site is challenging, consider renting a lull or bucket to get an even higher view.   Take your time.  If you have the luxury of visiting the site during all four seasons, you are far ahead of the game.

Building green encompasses every aspect of designing and building your home.  As you move forward, you will have to make many choices.  We’ve listed some of these choices and offered some suggestions.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of books and other resources available on green building.  It is a touch phrase and has become a hot topic.  In our next few posts, Goshen we will to offer some of the simplest decisions you can make that offer the largest impact.

New Timber Frame Home Plans

Timber frame home plans are as varied as the people who build and live in them.  At Goshen, we’ve worked with hundreds of clients over the years and have designed almost every style of home.    Many of these plans are now on our website as an inspiration to those who are on the “timber frame journey”.

We often add new plans.  Plans that make the cut offer style and floor plans that work. Here is a sneak preview of a couple of plans that will soon be added to our website.

The Chandler offers curb appeal and a lot of room on a smaller footprint. This plan works well in almost any location.  Designed as a hybrid, it can also be a full timber frame.

The West Oak is simple in design and long on style.  With a first floor master suite and two additional bedrooms upstairs, it offers space and flexibility.

Check out The Chandler and The West Oak.

 

If you’d like more information on one of these plans or on any of Goshen’s other designs or design services, just drop us an email. These timber frame plans and others are available to purchase at TimberStead Timber Frame Home Plans.

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.

Timber Frame Porches Add Outdoor Living Space

Timber frame porches add much to your home.  Whether they offer grand and exciting views of majestic mountains and relaxing water or are reminiscent of Grandma’s front porch and overlook a front lawn, they expand your living space. Your home feels larger when opened up to the outdoors.  That cup of coffee tastes better when sipped from a rocker on the porch.

Porches shelter us from wind, rain, and sun.  They are inviting and welcoming to all who approach. Timber frame porches frame the scenery in massive timbers and remind us of the trees that are living forward as posts and beams.

Sitting on the porch with family and friends brings everyone closer.  Conversation is easier and time spent is well spent. Pets are welcome and enjoy being part of the family as they move in closer. Dogs know that they are only a stick’s throw away from a game.

If you are planning your timber frame home, don’t short change your porches and if you aren’t planning on building a new home, a timber frame porch can add wonderful living space, value, and charm to your existing home.

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.