Musings of a Timber Frame Guild Newbie

I think it’s really interesting to see the intersectionality of the building world when I attend specialty conferences. I thought you might enjoy reading my takeaways. 

I have fallen in love with the TFG. I’m a green timber framer, who has just joined the Guild. I attended the TFG annual conference this past weekend as my inaugural event. They are an awesomely connected and caring group of people. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and was delighted to sense almost no machisma, and reveled in meeting so many talented people! There was a gentleness to the group that I can’t quite describe that felt really sweet, the way I think of natural building gatherings. 

While I was there, I observed where the TFG community is at with carbon. They are in a similar place as the rest of the industry, but it’s an easier pill to swallow for them, since their fundamental construction material is mass timber. I think many people in the industry feel squeezed, so maybe that translates to it being hard to rally energy. Tim Krahn, the Canadian engineer I’ve told some of you about, presented at the conference, and unfortunately, I had to miss it. We chatted throughout the conferencen, and Tim assured me that I already had heard the essence of draw down carbon thanks to the good work of Chris, Ace, and Jacob. Regardless, I was disappointed to miss Tim’s own musings, insights, and perspective on the draw down movement.

I was impressed by Tedd Benson. As you may know, Tedd is a timberframer who entered the manufacturing world in a big way. He’s at the extreme end of mechanized timberframing, but his roots are steeped in counter-culture, back to the land, hippee movement (which is near and dear to my heart). He was part of the early wave of passive solar and energy efficiency folks, and developed greater timber framing acumen by working with traditional craftspeople from Japan, Germany, and France. When Tedd spoke yesterday, he communicated the urgent climate crisis message as fervently as I would have. He has the passion for it, for sure. His tenet is: Architecture is not neutral. It either harms or it heals.

I liked the way Tedd spoke of his employees. He always communicated in a way to express gratitude for their talent, contributions, and dedication. He introduced and shared the presentation with two others in the company, his shop foreman of 36 years, and a framer and modeler of 20 years. I got the impression that Dennis, the shop foreman, held a significant leadership role in the TFG for many years and is well respected for his knowledge and care for others.

Someone in the audience asked if Tedd was talking to big companies and he said yes. That his message was the same to them – use sustainably sourced wood + capture carbon = save the planet. He described being a headline feature speaker at a building conference that attracted the likes of the big 5 construction companies in North America. He said that when he spoke about the climate and the need to change our business practices, most people looked at their plates and laps. 

Tedd is sophisticated in his thinking about ecological impacts, and is thinking at a large scale. It makes me curious whom he considers his peers and co-inspirers.

Given the clout that Tedd brings to bear, given the achievements they have made, he is a respected and trusted voice that has the power to influence. It makes me wonder how he might hone his message to be a more effective communicator. What convinces people to act? How do we, as leaders and activists, communicate imperative messages that inspire change?

I met an entire small company called Heritage Natural Finishes. Everyone knew the owner, Autumn Peterson. She’s on the TFG board and is a significant conference sponsor. She hand-makes small batches of natural finishes, and is well established in the timber community. I spent an evening with her crew. The most defining part for me is that a colleague from Dancing Rabbit works for her. Ziggy is a natural builder that I trust with material choice and engage with for best practices in traditional methods. It was nice to see a product I could so readily rely on be associated with the Guild.

I observed that the top sponsor for the conference was Foard Panel. Their panels use eps, xps, and polyiso as insulation. They are obviously a trusted company that supplies high end timber framing projects. Who is talking to Foard Panel about the importance of switching to plant-based? Who’s offering to collaborate? This seems like a great opportunity to introduce plant-based solutions into an established and trusted company. 

I’m glad to have found a community of folks who want to share knowledge and craft, and who are inherently doing work that is in line with the carbon dilemma. Yes, we can always improve, and this seems like another great group of people to build carbon solutions with!I hope you’re also finding community and inspiration in whatever it is that you’re doing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *