MONTPELIER — A business that builds traditional timber-frame buildings will celebrate its arrival in the Capital City on Friday.
TimberHomes Vermont will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house, attended by Mayor Anne Watson and other city officials, at its new location on Elm Street on the outskirts of the city from 4 to 5 p.m.
The location is the “sister shop” of the business that first opened in 2003-04 at the Vershire Mountain School, a farm-based semester school that teaches high school students how to build a cow barn. Partners Josh Jackson and David Hooke then decided to start TimberHomes.
Other partners joined, and the business has grown over the last 14 years. In 2016, TimberHomes changed its bylaws to become an employee-owned company.
The company decided to open a second location in Montpelier, since several employees lived in the city and Jackson lived in Middlesex, where he uses a 20-by-30-foot wall tent in his front yard to build timber frames.
TimberHomes looked for a suitable site and settled on a nine-acre flat meadow between Pearl Street Motors and Vermont Tree Expert on Elm Street. The project called for a 4,320-square-foot traditional timber-frame building at a cost of $650,000. Originally scheduled to open in January, the project was on budget, if not a little behind, after a key employee left last fall, Jackson said.
The company also entered into a temporary tax stabilization agreement with the city that will lower its municipal property taxes by $1,587 for the first three years. It also got a city and state exemption from the sprinkler ordinance, since it plans to install a state-of-the-art fire alarm system.
Other selling points for approval included pledges to build a picnic shelter and a canoe launch on the nearby North Branch River. There will also be electric vehicle charging stations, and the company has pledged to support community-based learning programs and internships for students.
“We found the process very smooth, especially the city government, but also the small amount of work we had to do with the state,” TimberHomes partner Timo Bradley said.
The building design itself may be the best promotion for the business: The classic timber-frame structure incorporates many of the features the business offers in the range of structures it builds. These include timber-framed homes, mountain lodges, meeting houses, barns, kiosks and park structures.
“It’s a hybrid structure, and you can see heavy timbers, trusses, purlins and on the outside, a stick-built, cellulose-insulated shell,” Jackson said. “The timber frame is doing the work (of supporting the weight of the building), and it’s allowing us to have a room that’s 48 feet wide.
“So, working on large timbers, sometimes, we can be working with timbers 24 or 30 feet in length. Building large things like that, it’s amazing to have an open space that’s 72 feet by 44 feet,” he added.
Bradley said all the wood for the building was sourced in Vermont, including white oak from Putney, pine from Newbury and black cherry from Hardwick.
It also boasts a high energy efficiency rating because of the design, heating system and insulation. Jackson said the thick concrete floor acts as a “huge thermal battery,” providing radiant heating for the building, despite the cavernous interior. The feature comes in handy since the operation will frequently open cargo doors to transport its materials.
“We also paid a lot of attention during the design and construction to air sealing and our thermal envelope. Efficiency Vermont came in and did a blow-door testing of the building, and it exceeded the standard that you would need to hit to meet passive house (energy efficiency), even with the giant doors,” Jackson said.
Jackson hopes visitors to the open house would be inspired to think about timber-frame construction, despite the initial higher cost.
“People appreciate well-made things,” Jackson said. “They cost more, for sure, than things that aren’t so well. But they save a lot of energy, and in this day and age, that’s an increasingly appreciated fact.”