a recent advertorial

So we recently decided to break a few rules of advertising in a timber porn magazine. It came from how I've been feeling recently as the industry struggles with the balance between craft and what it takes to make a living.

"It's Not About the Marketing
"For most of our 25 years as a timber frame company, New Energy Works has been blessed with a talented marketing staff. The job of sharing just who we are can be challenging, and these folks help us express this with fine graphics, a strong presence on the Internet, and even a hip logo. It’s all good stuff.

"But at a recent home show, a timber frame company owner was telling me that he had fired most of his staff, and was pretty happy just having all his timber framing sourced, cut, and raised by subcontractors. “After all,” he reasoned, “it’s really just about the marketing.”

"His words stunned me.

"By expressing structure as craft and combining that with extraordinary energy efficiency and a caring business environment, timber framing has rocketed to the forefront of residential construction. This couldn’t have happened without sawdust in our blood and dirt under our fingernails.

"When a New Energy Works frame goes up, it does so by the same joiners who worked on it in the shop, with the support of their coworkers who have helped design and engineer it, and often in conjunction with other coworkers who will enclose it, even be responsible for the home’s completion.

"There are questions you can ask your timber framer to gain a thorough understanding of the timber framing process. Although there are no completely right or wrong answers, a picture will evolve that will help you find a timber frame company for your needs.

• Do you do your own timber framing (e.g. engineering, cutting, finishing, raising)? If not, why not?
• Do you use the most modern and safe equipment, as well as employ fine handwork, when needed?
• Do you offer dry and stable timbers (both reclaimed and properly dried) so the joinery stays tight?
• What are your sanding and finishing options?
• Do your own crews raise the frame, no matter where it is?
• What about specialty enclosure options and installation?
• How long have your key people been with you? Are they involved in the timber frame community, including the guild and business council, continually learning as well as serving?

"Our homes represent an extraordinary effort among a complex and experienced team to deliver an expression of our life’s work. Our clients often come to know us as individuals, and appreciate the effort we’ve made on their behalf. While there may not be perfectly correct answers to all your questions, one thing is absolute:

"Timber framing is not about the marketing."

The image above is from our handraising of Chris and Susi Carlberg's new wine tasting room at Christopher Bridge Winery in Oregon City. A favorite photo.


springing back

We just had our one year anniversary of the timber frame raising here at the Vermont Street Project. Started digging in March, raised the frame in May, worked through the summer of 106 degree days and a fall of finishing details, moved in the week before Christmas... then slept. For the last 4 months we've slept, at least in this journaling world.

But last week we opened our eyes to find the ecoroof ready to be installed on the studio, and knew it was time to stand up, arch the back in a slow, body-yawn type of motion like the cat-post-nap, and git back at 'er. Thanks for checking back once in a while. Thank you Silke, Jennifer, even you Josh for the gentle reminders. Thanks for the kind interest. Perhaps I'm back. I do, not surprisingly, have a great deal to say.The studio isn't complete, except for the exterior, but when it is it will be my Portland work place and a one bedroom apartment you could stay at... for a short time! Unlike the main house, which has a metal roof and is designed to catch rainwater in a sistern for drinking, bathing et al, the studio has a pretty flat pitch. We wanted to play a bit with timbers and post modernism. This gave us the opportunity to place dirt and plants up there. Ecoroof, green roof, living roof. All the same thing and there's ecological benefit. Not a ton, but some.

In a heavy urban setting, plants on top can help mitigate the heat-island created by too much concrete, asphalt and rubber in one place. Chicago comes to mind as a city that has embraced this effort. I don't live in a heavy urban setting. Here's my list of value for this roof:
1) Initial storm surges from hard rains tend to overload the storm water runoff in our city. The soils and plantings can be one small part of lessening this by holdng on to some of this water for a bit. 2) Of lesser value, the plantings will actually help the roof lengthen its life, thereby requiring less material overtime. This is done simply by blocking the ultraviolet and harsh sun.And we enjoyed the process. here's Maxine painting with sedums. We used five varieties of sedum cuttings, which I will be happy to supply you upon request. They were distributed in a lightweight soil mixture of basalt, compost and humus. All I had for structure was about 15lbs/sq.ft available for the saturated soil weight, so we went pretty shallow, just under 3 inches deep. This made us put in a simple irrigation system with a moisture sensor, for those few times in summer when even sedum would die.



It's quiet here in my common room on Vermont Street, the living room part of our new home that is open to kitchen and eating areas. Jake is off playing at Devon's, who has digital games. (Jake recently informed Maxine and me with great frustration that he is the last child in America without any digital games or direct TV. He'll live.) The rain on our metal roof is the steady and quiet white noise of today's background, adding to an atmosphere of rest. The wood stove pops and sends out a warm embrace.Maxine says I sprained my back on Mt. Hood yesterday in part because it was so clear that I could use a day or two just being. Just being on the couch. Ice has become my good friend all day. I realize it's been 3 weeks from my last post, and the "remember me" function on the host page doesn't remember me. I'm thinking it is just being snarfy. Now would be a good time for catching up a tad.A great nagging concern during the construction of this home was that when completed, it would not meet my standards. In our career at New Energy Works Timber Frame Homes, we've done fine work. We've been blessed with great clients, and they've expressed their thanks and their enjoyment of the home. But I simply did not know what to expect upon moving into one of our works, deep inside.

I am blown away by what we have created, of what we do as a company.

My irrationally high bar has been reached. Maxine agrees. ( Jake too, although he wishes it was closer to Devon.) Maxine has been saying that she feels like she is house sitting for someone very special, and that soon they are coming home, and we will be asked to leave. In late evening I sit and gaze at the sculpture in which we live and watch shadows, space and tone.

The house welcomed us and our family for our Christmas gathering. Sure there were packing boxes about, and we certainly didn't know how to work everything. People cut you a lot of slack in moments like this. The new space shone through the chaos.Now the holiday season ends. We're back to work finishing a thousand details and the studio next door. Maxine cooks fresh pirogies for the gang and Val sees his chance to deconstruct the ginger bread house, leaving only teeth marks.