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Green Basics

Timber Frame

For Timber-Frame Construction, Look for Reclaimed Materials

A time-honored building method

Timber framing, also known as post-and-beam construction, is an ancient building method that is more expensive than conventional stick framing. Still, it is appealing on several levels. A frame of recycled timbers covered with SIPs can make a great-looking house that’s also green.

Time-tested joinery

Modern building codes may require the use of some metal connectors in a timber frame, but the construction essentially relies on traditional methods of joinery, such as dovetail and mortise-and-tenon joints, that are inherently strong and stable. Houses can be designed so that some or most of the frame is exposed, making interiors warm and inviting.

Advantages of an open floor plan without bearing partitions

It isn’t just the look of attractive timbers that can make a space more comfortable. With smart window placement, the openness of a typical timber frame can let in plenty of sunlight, giving great opportunities for daylighting and passive solar heating.

Large timbers allow generous clear-spans without the need for many, if any, interior bearing walls. This makes interior spaces easier to rearrange as the needs of the building’s occupants change.

Timber frames work well with SIPs

Another design option, the use of structural insulated panels (SIPs) as exterior walls, creates a tight, well-insulated building envelope and gives timber-frame buildings a performance edge over standard stick-frame homes. Using SIPs to wrap the timber frame also places the frame within the conditioned space, stabilizing it from the effects of temperature and humidity swings. Straw bales, cob, and leichtlehm are some less conventional wall materials that work well if detailed properly. Factors to consider when choosing infill materials include local availability, desired wall thickness (straw bales produce very thick walls), and the availability of skilled labor.

Big timbers come from big trees, so choose wisely

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