Timber-frame construction has an ancient pedigree, dating back to the 19th century and before. Kris Calvin of Earthwood Homes in Sisters has mastered the old-school skills - and he's also bringing advanced technology to bear to enhance his work.
Calvin and the Earthwood Homes crew is currently at work on a project for Mike and Liz Behrenfeld of Corvallis. Mike conceived the design for a modest living space and an office/shop outbuilding. The project calls for a unique roofline.
"It's four valleys all coming together in a single point, which is something we've never done before," Calvin told The Nugget.
That aspect of the project demanded some creative solutions to questions of load bearing and great attention to the joinery.
"We've done our best to make it look like cabinetry on a large scale," Calvin said.
A significant element of the project is the use of 3D modeling.
"It is the first job where I've used a 3D modeling program, not just for conceptual sketching, but complete frame production detailing," Calvin said. "And the program is absolutely the coolest thing since sliced bread."
Remarkably, the SketchUp program is downloadable for free.
The unique roof structure called for some complex angle-cutting on roof and support beams. Ordinarily, that would require Calvin to execute some headache-inducing trigonometry. With SketchUp, he draws painstakingly, then can examine the confluence of beams from every angle and "simply ask 'what are you?' instead of figuring it out."
The program offers benefits to the designer, but it may be even more important for clients and vendors. Because it is so easy to navigate, a layperson can pick it up quickly and, as Behrenfeld describes it, "fly though the building."
Lighting is a complicated question for the style of house, and it required some consultation with a lighting expert.
"Lighting decisions are really important on timber frames," Calvin said. "You really have to plan the lighting in advance."
Calvin sent the 3D file to Tom Dumolt of Globe Lighting in Bend. Dumolt quickly learned to navigate the program and figured out what would work.
"He came up with a solution that's going to work really well for that application," Calvin said.
Behrenfeld said it took him about a half-hour to learn to navigate the program so that he could explore his future home from every angle. He discovered an attic access door that was not what he wanted. Changing the dimension of the door also required changing a key design element. Both Berenfeld and Calvin said they'd never have noticed the issue without seeing it in three dimensions.
"It gives you a lot more insight into things you wouldn't have caught on a flat piece of paper," Behrenfeld said.
That means heading off problems before they get too far down the road to fix.
"As a result of being able to see it in 3D (Mike) quickly spotted some design miscommunications that most likely would not have been caught until after timber was ordered and it was either too late or too costly to fix down the road," Calvin noted. "This was a huge deal in saving everyone involved a lot of time, cost and hard feelings."
The program even allows for color texture selection.
"You can get a sense of what would be aesthetically pleasing and still accomplish what you want to accomplish," said Behrenfeld.
Calvin is so sold on the value of the "3D for everyone" program that he is planning to teach classes in its use, probably in the fall.
"I've been living in a 2D world in black and white for the longest time," Calvin reflected. "This is kind of revolutionary for me."