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.

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.

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.

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.

Green Building Seminar More – Much More

Yesterday I attended a green building seminar sponsored by the Western North Carolina Green Building Council.  My expectation was to hear much of the same “stuff” that I’d been reading.  However, presenter Marcus Renner went far beyond.  He didn’t preach “green”, but addressed common sense issues and got to the nuts and bolts of energy efficient, high performance building.

I came away secure with the knowledge that we’ve been building energy efficient homes for years and that much of the building industry is now catching on and working to catch up with the timber frame and panel industries.  This wasn’t the message, since most of the attendees were conventional builders, but to those of us who use insulated panels to build and to wrap our timber frames, he was preaching to the choir.

The seminar covered many technical aspects of building an energy efficient, sustainable home and also addressed the importance of site preparation and maintenance, material selection, and the disposal of waste (just don’t…instead recyle, reuse, repurpose).

We tend to think we know everything about building a better home.  After all, we read all the right books and magazines, watch the right television shows, talk the talk and walk the walk.  However, meeting with other industry professionals and sharing our concerns and options is important.

I did come away with several ideas that I’ll share in the coming days.  So stay tuned.

That said, I’ll sign off for now.

Conditioned Crawl Spaces – Another Option

Many timber frame homes are built on basements, but some of us live on flat land and basements aren’t an option.

Concrete slabs, piers or crawl spaces all work, but the better way to build is over a conditioned crawl space. Ventilation and moisture are controlled. The result is less moisture to damage the underpinnings (joists/piers) and flooring (both subfloor and hardwood flooring). Because there is no moisture drawn into the home from below, your air quality is improved.

Conditioned crawl spaces are another, better way to build. There is a thorough, objective overview of the science of conditioned crawl spaces at BuildingScience.com . This is definitely worth a look!

Of course, conditioned crawl spaces are well suited to timber frames because they give you space to run duct work, install water heaters, and air handlers within a controlled area while not taking up valuable living space.  Since conventionally framed homes have duct work and air handlers installed in (unconditioned) attics and most timber frame homes have no such unused, unconditioned space, a timber frame home and controlled crawl space are a good fit.

That said, I’ll sign off for now.

Sometimes Blue Is Green

Bonded Logic has a great product for insulation that is 85% post-industrial recycled natural fibers.  Ultra Touch, a cotton product with no harmful chemicals,  meets and exceeds all expectations.

It is an exceptional product to use in interior curtain walls as an acoustic insulation.

While we aren’t ready to give up our polyurethane SIPS, this product has a place in the building process.

Visit the Bonded Logic website to find a distributor nearby.