Archive for September, 2011

AFT+OVE

September 27th, 2011


Advanced Framing Techniques and Optimum Value Engineering are the abbreviations in the title. They are very relevant topics when it comes to homes built with improved energy performance. The greatest part of the equation is it comes with lower material and labor costs. How you might ask? The answer is through the use of intelligent design, engineered wood products, and optimum use of those products. One of the most effective methods of saving materials the the process of “in line framing” which is the process of maintaining “load paths” via alignment of structural members spacing. If the roof system is using trusses spaced 24″ o/c, it makes perfect sense to line the studs in the wall below it at the same spacing, even if it requires 2×6 studs in lieu of 2×4 studs to do it. Matter of fact, a better insulation R value can be maintained in that switch anyway. Then, if there is a floor below it, the same spacing needs to be maintained to continue the load path while simultaneously reducing the amount of lumber used. The great ecological part of the use of engineered wood is they make use of modern forestries’ smaller, fast growing trees and scrap lumber to churn out super products like LSL (laminated strand lumber), PSL (parallel strand lumber), and LVL (laminated strand lumber). These beams and headers are notorious for being stable and uniformed by comparison to their conventional counterparts. In combination with “in line framing”, “right sized headers” many times eliminates the use of a double top plate due to no vertical load being applied, amounting to even more lumber savings. Wall construction utilizing “California” corners and ladder framing at “T” intersections add to the mix of energy conservation by creating insulation “damming” pockets and crevaces. All the principles discussed in this post make Component Construction not only the preferred framing solution of the future, but the energy concious correct answer of the present.


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“Element”arily Superior

September 24th, 2011


In the interest of offering construction solutions that reflect the theme of my last post, we need to review the forces of nature that come into play. Construction, to the point of “dry in” that could take as little time as a week or as much time as several months. This website is a proponent of Component Construction for that very reason; to limit the exposure of the structure to the elements during the construction process (as well as alot of other meaningful reasons). Engineered wood products are not simply components though. They are also the materials which envelope the structure, and add to energy conciousness by means of practical application. There are various high performance products available, but Huber Engineered Wood is some of the best, and therein is the mission statement of Timberology, public exposure to the best of the best. Of course, weathering shelter from the elements is not a static process, it is a continual one. The products shown here are ones that address the ongoing process, in the most efficient manner. AdvanTech floor sheathing boasting a 50 year limited warranty, is probably the most respected and used with the general contractors in my area. Coastal eastern states understand the need to protect against moisture issues, such as mold and rotting wood. Utilizing what they term “advanced resin technology” AdvanTech is resistant to moisture, and does not warp, cup or delaminate under wet conditions. Any home builder who has experienced such severe rain conditions where holes have to be drilled in the sheathing to drain the water can appreciate this. Other attributes of the product include excellent nail holding capacity and strength in bending stiffness, when compared against OSB or plywood. Huber’s Zip System is another exclusively unique line of products design to withstand extreme coastal conditions. Zip wall sheathing reduces air leakage against traditional house wrap, both from the outside in and from letting conditioned air to escape outwards. These structural PS-2 rated panels stop moisture penetration while lowering the utility bill at the same time. As mentioned, the panel is a perfect fit in maintaining the R value as a protective barrier for the home’s insulation. The seams are taped with their propriatary taping product (manufactured by 3M) which actually replaces the housewrap normally used. Similarily, roof felt can be extracted from the building list of materials when using the Zip roof sheathing. The costs of using products of this nature are proporsionally returned in energy performance over the course of the home’s lifespan. The gift to our earth that returns the enviromenetally sound favor. This leads me to the element chart illustrated. Five elements can be said to describe the chemical make up of our planet. What caught my interest here is Timberology is the combination of wood and metal. Fit’s in quite “naturally” with the element chart, from which the other forces of nature are given.


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EPA’s “Star of Approval”

September 21st, 2011


The Environmental Protection Agency has an edict we, as inhabitants of this planet, need to take heed. The program Energy Star gives us all the opportunity to participate in taking the appropriate steps to acheive energy efficiency, and maybe help us to salvage a shread of decency. The decency would come from leaving (at least our part of) the earth in better shape than what we found it in. What appears on the surface as inconsequencial random flashes of brilliance, could begin a movement towards spontaneous “correct” actions for the preservation of our environment. There are many eye opening statements listed on the site, like over half of the energy used in a homes goes towards heating and cooling. Another “gem” is the energy used in the average house is double the greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to the average automobile. The whole time we figured if we got rid of those gas guzzlering cars, we could turn this global warming trend around. Well most of us at least, it is always easier to just to deny it exsists! There are wallet motivators, such as cutting annual energy bills by $200 by using efficient heating and cooling systems. How about not doing what your parent’s told you would save money; leaving the thermostat at a constant level? Using an programmable thermostat can save $180 annually for people who are away from their homes during set times throughout the week. Also there are various tax credits available albeit expensive propostions such as residential wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps, and various methods of solar energy collection. It is simplier to display some discretion in choosing appliances bearing the Energy Star label, changing your air filter once a month, maybe even checking some of the duct systems for obvious leaks. New housing has move forward starting in 2011, with more stringent guidelines, such as the new line of insulative headers and structural materials that will fit into a 5 1/2″ wall (2×6) verses the conventional 3 1/2″ wall (2×4) for the increased insulation obviously. Some of the “hoops of fire” general contractors have to face to qualify for the Energy Star label include: high performance windows, tight contruction techniques and ductwork, efficient heating and cooling systems, and Energy Star approved lighting and appliances. Our motivation to display the label should not be of financial compensation. It should come from doing the right thing at the right time in due respect of our “star material inheritance”. It is our human legacy.


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Staple Maple

September 19th, 2011


Fall leaves have begin to drop their colorful carpet from the staple of the cabinet industry, the maple tree. As we are working on completing a project where we are matching the existing furniture and “feel” of the home, durable maple wood is called into action. These raised panel doors and drawer fronts bear a nice grain which is closely packed. Maple is an extremely hard surfaced lumber which makes it impervious to abrasions and indentations. There is a naturally occuring pattern of sugar or mineral streaks to give maple character. It’s characteristics of durability and versatility are matched only by it’s smooth, even grain in which there are few color variations. This closely packed grain has another advantage ideal for cabinets making especially; it resists humidity, which is particularily essential in a kitchen setting. It’s is not unusual to see maple used to match an existing situation because it was very popular in the 50′s. Where exacting sizes are required, it is best to employ an experienced cabinetry maker. The choice of stain here is a dark cherry. Maple wood responds well to stain and absorbs it excellently. The scientific name for maple is Acer. Interestingly, later on this was adapted by an electronics company, as the monitor I am peering into right now has the same name.


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Style Enhances Built-In Functional Space

September 14th, 2011



As the family unit weathers the economic storm which present itself, now more than ever is a need to make less square footage more functional. Shown here are two examples of function and form joining to create horizontal and vertical spaceousness in classical built-in style. Built-in’s require a certain permanance conventional furniture doesn’t. Furniture can be arrange and rearranged in endless combinations while the built-in stands alone, singular in stature, while other pieces move around it. Reminds me of the statement made regarding slot poker machines, now illegal in South Carolina, in the peak of their popularity. An “oldtimer” once said to me, “never trust anything that backs itself into a corner and takes on all comers”. It really requires a certain commitment by the home owner to allow that specific area it occupies the “trust” of unending support. This is even more of a reason for the built-in to have enduring classic style to inevitably blend in with whatever should surround it. These two illustrated pieces seem to meet that type of criteria. First, they are painted the neutral color of white which basically becomes invisible against whatever mood or color the other pieces of the room lend it. Second, the soft close doors on the units can house those items that do not need to been seen, keeping the room with a clean sense of order. Thirdly, there is plenty of storage for items that are meant to be seen and enjoyed, wherein everything seems to have it’s own special place. The home owner can coordinate countless number of options, flavors, and tastes according to mood. This enduring quality of the built-in make it one of the most satisfying and yet frustrating household piece any home owner has to decide on. Satisfying for it’s classic beauty and blendability. Frustrating due to it’s static nature of placement. Like the sun in our solar system, everything has to rotate around it as it “put’s it’s back to the wall and takes on all comers”.


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Bat and Bridge

September 12th, 2011



Ok so this time when Eric Dunn hit the road for adventure and, oh yeah, to accomplish some work at the same time, he headed to a great American city to conduct work. The big hints where he traveled to is in the title. Obiviously, in a long weekend he didn’t even attempt building the world’s largest baseball bat. Even with a huge crew (it was just him traveling by himself) he couldn’t have built a bridge in that time span. He is a great welder and all, but finishing a bridge is even beyond his scope of work. Looking at some of the things he has finished there are pretty remarkable in their own right though. The very impressively designed “juliette” balcony is a well balanced design of scrolls with a warm touch of a center heart. If your look closely, there is a circle above the heart which looks like a head to me, and underneath a dagger. Of course I have the tendancy to dramatize, so maybe I am reading too much into it. Mentioning Juliette of Shakespeare’s fame has that effect on me. Speaking of mediveal style architecture, take a moment to study the pedestal with the vessal style sink. Even the railing along the stairs shows the flair of this timespan. Which ultimately leads to the swiveling barstools, which is the biggest hit (another bat reference) for the homeowners. What they really liked was not having legs to mar up their tiled floors. Eric made these very comfortable in size, where you could really jump into them and relax. The swiveling feature makes them very easy to get in and out of. The best feature is the look which demonstrates Eric’s abilities not only to make something beautiful, but to do it in such a way as it becomes functional at the same time. It is not a surprise to myself, or for that matter, anyone who has used Mr. Dunn, his creativity is matched only by his talent of turning steel into a work of art. Most of the time, I move his work to his own page dedicated to his eclectic style moving from classic to modern and beyond. This post was to showcase some of what he has done for one customer. The Dunn Metalworks page has many more items of interest and I encourage you to review them on this site. Have torch will travel is his motto, so if you have an interest in Eric’s ability, give us a holler. By the way, for those of you who are slow, the world’s biggest bat could only belong to Louisville.
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Truss Mecca

September 8th, 2011


Here is a rare inside look at one of the countries’ newest and modern truss fabrication facilities. The whole plant is run on servers which optimize each lumber cut to avoid waste and every setup for efficiency. The gantry roof truss fabrication system displays the truss on a computer screen so operators can evaluate how they want the truss set up. Then, once the selections are made, “hockey puck” type stops move automatically into position. The Cyber Saw cuts the major runs of components, all blades move simultaneuosly to the correct position from the servers commands. It is important to note all pre-cut lumber is stored under cover to maintain the 19% moisture content requirement prior to fabrication. The smaller lumber runs are cut on the Specialty Miter saws, in which the servers purvey what the lumber requirements are for the day’s run, and optimize the lumber so that each board get the maximum yield. This is very interesting, each cut returns to 90 degree center, and in a micro-second, the board is analyzed it terms of specific wane so the cut is perfectly centered. Each board is labeled as illustrated with the job number, the component number and letter designation as well as how many of each type (ie: 5 of 6). This process is actually done before the cuts are made. Cut lumber is stored on wheeled carts that can be easily moved into position around the assembly tables as necessary. Roof trusses are manufactured on a gantry system, where once they are assembled and tacked together with hammers, the initial roller passes over and sets the connector plates on both the top and bottom of the truss. It is then air ejected out of the table on sets of rollers that transfer this semi pressed truss to a series of larger rollers. The larger set of rollers carry the truss the entire lenght of the building to the final press roller through to the stacking and sorting area outside of the building. Once the plate placement is checked and verified for correctness, the truss is stacked then banded together, removed from the racks, and stored in the yard awaiting shipment to the jobsite. Floor trusses are manufactured the 4×2 direction in a flip jig system, in which the truss is completely pressed after being tacked together with hammers, and turned over for the opposite side to be pressed in place. In this manner, every roll of the press start a new truss as it finishes another.
There is an incredible amount of truss production this plant can yield, especially considering it could be run 24 hours a day with two full shifts. There is over 250 feet of roof jigging gantry style, which means over six medium to large roof trusses potentially could be manufactured at one time. There are two floor truss machines where two completed trusses come off these lines with every roll. This plant is a monster in terms of having the latest machinery technology coupled with a tremendous amount of potential production capacity.
This is not the most important asset of the plant, however. That distinction is reserved for the people who man the lines and manage its operations. As you observe the plant in operation, you cannot help but be impressed with the effortlessness of how work is performed. There is a underlined emphasis on direction and purpose as you watch the fluidity of motion in progress. It is clearly evident experienced personnel create an atmosphere of professionalism in which productivity and enjoyment of the tasks at hand make working here a positive experience, both to those who work and those observe the work taking place. Truly the mecca of the truss world.


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Of Trees and Treads

September 5th, 2011

Joachims Futuristic View



Take a look at a couple of “visionaries” who have moved beyond the traditional methodolgies of building therory into futuristic concepts worth investigating. Mitchell Joachim’s “Fab Tree Hab”proposes growing homes from live native trees. The home, which is nearly completely editable, grafts on to nature through a process of what he terms as “pleaching”. In invoking the spirit of Thomas Jefferson and Henry David Thoreau, just to name a few, Joachim sets out to return to the rustic and naturalistic instincts of the forefathers of the ecological movement. He encourages structure, growth and form in the use of “life sustaining flows (capturing rain water at the roof top which transfers through living home, feeding it, at the same time as cooling it) and renewal (producing food for inhabitants and their animals). I applaud his efforts to find solutions comprised of natural substances, working in harmony with nature, rather than against it. As he so eloquently points out “imagine a society based on the slow farming of trees for housing structures instead of the industrial manufacture of felled timber.”
The second ecological solution comes from Re-tread Products, Inc which may not be as scientifically innovative as the Fab Tree Hab, still meets it stated commitment as “benefically using waste tires in an environmentally acceptable manner”. Through a patented process, this company proposes using these recycled tires for seawalls, dam and erosion control, retaining walls, military and police firearm ranges (they capture the bullets), and earthquake housing. Their video states in 2006, there were 300 million removed tires, or one for every man woman and child in the United States. RTP points to the current disposal of these waste tires as grind, bury, or burn, all of which are harmful to our environment. The tire log is proposed as a environmentally neutral product that is very cost effective, making it not “recycled” but “upcycled”.
Of course, I could not leave this subject without tying everything neatly together. What does it better than the 90′s cartoon who said it best? Nothing I can think of… ’cause it is better than bad, it’s good.

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Change Is Inenvitable (except from a vending machine)

September 1st, 2011


September 1st finds me in a contemplative mood. Looking at some of the recent jobs in the shop, in this case a new set of cabinets ordered and some newel posts being prepared for upcoming stair orders, I began to think about change. From something as simple as the various changes our products go through, to the larger issues of where this repressed economy is taking the occupants of the world to, an understanding the necessity of change is required. The age old adage “the only thing constant is change” is unqualifiably true, of course. Developing the survival skills in an economic climate of less available monitary options and increased competition for every opportunity may requiring dialing in a bit more precisely though. I am not entirely sure that adaptation this go round perhaps will not involve reinvention. While we once felt secure in saying the tides will reverse, and fortunes will flourish once again, the prospects are quickly dimming. We may have reached the point of post depressionary times, but you cannot honestly evaluate the present economy as anything but tenuous, strained, and ambiguous.
The need for change becomes critical. This is sink or swim time. If what you have been doing is no longer effective of providing you and your family with the livestyle you have become accustom to, you have two choices (but probably a combination of both). The first is obvious; to cut back on excesses and conserve present resources. Spend less and economize more. Cut out the unnecessary expeditures and streamline all expenses, conciously separating “wants” from “needs”. Objectively analyzing all facets of your life to find out what is truly required. The second choice is the more difficult process of deciding how the change is to be implemented and how drastic the change needs to be in order to work. As I mentioned, to decide to reinvent or adapt.
Reinvention is a required when one comes to the self realization the necessity of change is so inenvitable there is really no other choice. We, as human beings, struggle to keep within the framework of what is known, what we “know” we are capable of. The comfortability of how we have approached the work world before keeps us from developing ourselves into the “unknown” of what we could become should we decide it is no longer a viable approach. Truth is, when you feel uncomfortable you are headed in the right direction. It is only then when you are living in the present, for what is a world of “known”? Simply put, it is the past.
Adaption is more often the safer choice (but almost always the one that yields the least results). A acknowledgement we are not exactly where we need to be, but with a slight tweak here or there, maybe we can hold on till the sun shines again. Playing to ones strenghts, reinforces our beliefs we are headed down the right path, and with the right recalibrations somehow things will work out for the best.
Sounds like I am trying to convince myself when my mind is already made up, doesn’t it? I wish I wasn’t such a coward…

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