Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CutMyTimber trained in Passive House

I think we all agree that homes need to be more energy efficient. There is a lot of talk about different systems and standards. I was trained and involved in many Minergie projects in the past.
Dr. Wolfgang Feist,German Professor and founder of the Passive House Institute went a step further and developed one of the highest green building standards in the world.
CutMyTimber spent a lot of time researching and testing various standards, products and software tools. We came to the conclusion that at this point the Passive House standard is probably the most advanced and thought-out green building standard at this point.
Therefore it’s no surprise that there is a strong move in Passive House all over North America. We are fortunate to have many local PH experts in Vancouver.  This was probably also the reason why the very first Passive House Designer/Consultant course took place in Vancouver.
I was one of the 25 professionals that took this very interesting course. We had a really good crowd mixed with engineers, architects, builders, building inspectors, green building consultants and building scientists.
What is a Passive House?
Basically a Passive House is a high performance building that uses solar (south windows) and interior heat gains (people, electronics, etc.)  Please see Passipedia for more details.
Passive Houses require less than 15 kWh/(m²yr) for heating or cooling (relating to the living space).
(Graphic: PH Institute)

In a nutshell following points are essential for Passive House design:
1.   Building shape, Compactness (Area/Volume ratio)
2.   Building orientation and window position/Solar exposure
3.   Building shell: High performance walls, roofs and foundation.
4.   Windows: Triple pane, double low e glazing windows with U-values of <0.8W/m2K
5.   Airtightness: Extreme tight building envelope (0.6 ach@50Pa)
6.   Thermal bridge free construction
7.   Heat recovery ventilation system


Following a few slides from our course.

First morning: Malcolm Isaacs and Dr. Guido Wimmers start the course and introduce the other instructors Dr. Andrea Frisque and Stefan Lotz. I felt very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable and passionate Passive House training team. Our instructors didn’t just talk about Passive House. All of them are very actively involved with the PH Institute in Germany, they are involved in current Passive House projects and clearly they knew their stuff and truly believe in Passive Buildings. Thanks again for such a great course.
Compactness and orientation of a building has a huge impact of heat and cooling energy consumption. The more compact a building is the better. Ideal building orientation is North-South.

The Building shell is one of the most important elements of a Passive Building. We require highly insulated and airtight walls. Ideally free of thermal bridges or penetrations. A Passive House should have R40 or better walls and R45 or better roof  (depending on location and many other factors). Malcolm explains a Passive House compatible floor to wall connection detail.

Thermal bridges that can’t be avoided need to be calculated. The calculation results have to be entered in the Passive House Software (PHPP). PHPP will consider these in the overall energy calculation.

Penetrations in the building envelope should be avoided in order to achieve an airtight building.  We learned about innovative products that can be used if there is no way to avoid a penetration. Unfortunately these grummets are not available in North America yet.

We learned a lot about the newest generation of windows. High quality windows triple pane, double low e glazing windows with U-values of <0.8W/m2K are essential for a Passive Building. Innovative window manufacturers came up with insulated window frames.
Unfortunately it’s hard to get windows with PH proprieties in North America. Many companies are working on it and it looks like we will see a new generation of window on the market soon.  

Because of the tight building shell a controlled air exchange is really important in a Passive House. A heat recovery ventilation system (HRV) is part of every passive house and requires proper planning.
Today’s Heat recovery units achieve efficiencies of 90% or more. Malcolm presents a few of the most efficient units currently available.

We also got exposed to a few of the currently available Passive House building Materials. Without pushing certain brands or products we had a chance to see new wind and vapor barriers, sealing tapes, ventilation ducts and nozzles.

Guido Wimmers opens the champagne at the end of the first Passive House Course in Canada. Many Thanks again to Guido, Malcolm, Andrea and Stephan for such a great course!! To my classmates: It was nice to meet you all and I hope we can pursue the Passive House move and be part of the local PH community.  
I can’t wait to design or manufacture our first Passive House.

Stefan Schneider, CutMyTimber INC.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Timber Frame Raising in Oregon, USA

The frame we cut a few weeks ago has been successfully delivered and installed.

The building site is beautiful, in the middle of Oregon's wine country. How much nicer could it possibly be?

The raising crew was lucky and had mostly nice weather. They did an amazing job and managed to install the frame in less than 3 days.The pre-cut SIP panels got installed in 3 days as well.

All  CNC pre-cut joinery fit perfectly.  The high level of details paid off and made for a stress free installation on site. Things like chamfered tenons, pre-drilled peg holes and proper labeling make a HUGE difference for the assembly crew. Read more about how we fabricated this timber frame in an earlier blog.

Nice and tight!!! Traditional tapered shoulder girt to post connection with hidden spline and position tenon.

Thanks again to my team, the raising crew, and everybody involved. You all did a wonderful job!!
Congratulations to the new owner of the house. I am sure this timber frame will last for generations making it a pleasant healthy home for you and your guest. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

CutMyTimber visiting IDSWest show October 14-17, 2010

Last Friday evening Guido Holdener from Equilibrium Consulting and myself decided to leave the traditional building  world for a few hours.  We visited to Interior Design show IDSwest.
We very much enjoyed extending our horizon and look at some of the finest design and artwork BC has to offer.It was a pleasure to see some very innovative and creative interior designers, artists, and architects.

Laminated, plywood-style exterior garden bench. Very cool!!

The main focus of our visit was the showcase home from our friends at Preform Construction in Surrey.
On display was their second iteration of their very successful pre-designed modular home. The home on display was a 1000sf house.

The modular concept glanced with top notch build and finishing quality, smart design, and very spacious feel inside. I absolutely loved the modern interior with hight ceilings, bright withe walls, lots of glass, and sharp edges. And of course Preform followed their strategy of highly energy efficient and green homes.

Congratulations to Ryan Spong at Preform Construction and his team as well as architect Tony Robins at AA Robins Architect fort a great design and concept.

Very well done! Design and realization. Hopefully this high level showcase home will get more future home owners excited for smart homes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

CutMyTimber at University of British Columbia CAWP Open House

The Centre for Advanced Wood Processing (CAWP) is Canada's national centre of excellence for education and research related to wood products processing and advanced wood products manufacturing. CAWP offers a wide range of training courses, continuing education programs,  and industry services, conducts applied research, and assists industry toemploy students to work on special projects by coordinating a cooperative education program.

Last Thursday, October 7th 2010 the CAWP hosted an open house day. The CutMyTimber Founders Greg Howes and Stefan Schneider were present for this important and very interesting event.

Industry leaders such as Hundegger, Cadwork, MasterCam, SCM-Group, Leuco, and others where present:

The Hundegger Canada Crew: Markus Schellenberg with his very nice wife
and of course the machine doesn't run without a tech team. These Europeans always smile if there is a beer mug around. This one is made of Fir and milled on the 5-axis K2 joinery machine (in the background):

Hundegger ran some demos on their K2-5 axis machine. The type of machine that CutMyTimber is using for most of their complex projects:

But as impressive as the K2 is the real big news was the presentation of their soon to be released (in Europe first) 6 axis K2-Robot with fully automatic tool changer:

Of course the machine doesn't run without software. Cadwork was present as well:

same with the 5-axis SCM router. Software from MasterCam:

Software and machine are capable to mill about any shape and angle. Bellow a few samples:

The event also featured multiple speakers from different organizations and companies:

A great occasion for CutMyTimber C.E.O Stefan Schneider to talk about Digital manufacturing and the future of building:

Main part of the speech was the difference between BIM and FIM and why it is critical to use accurate  Fabrication Information Models in order to produce today's buildings and building components:

The 2nd part of the presentation was about the transfer from architectural data into a 3D FIM model, process definition, export to CAM software and various processing methods for steel and timber parts as well as prefab wall panels:
Accurate and very detailed Cadwork 3D FIM model

Cadwork to Hundegger K2 CNC interface and Hundegger EKP single part CAM system

Finshed scarf joint detail cut by Hundegger K2 joinery machine

Same process for steel I-beams and steel plates. Stefan shows a video of a Steel I-beam processor in action.

And of course in the end a short outlook about the future of building. This is what CutMyTimber is all about:

....of course that leads to surprised faces and great discussions:

a big THANK YOU to the UBC CAWP team for organizing a great event!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Timber frame fabrication in Cascadia

Last week was an intense series of long days during which we cut 148 timbers into a net 6,200 board feet of Oregon Douglas fir in 28 hours of machine time on a 5-axis  Hundegger K2 joinery machine.

Oregon has some of the best Douglas fir on the planet and it is a great pleasure to work with it and combine advanced design technologies with traditional craftsmanship.  Working with a great team only adds to the experience.

Beautifully timbers, Technology and craftsmanship is the recipe for some great timber frames. The process starts in the office with very detailed and throughout 3D design:

We use the 3D computer model to select timbers. We try to use the nicest timbers for highly visible faces. The less nice stuff goes towards the non visible outside. It's absolutely critical to have perfectly straight parts for the exterior wall columns and gable rafters. Again the mobile netbook computer makes it easy to have complete control while sorting timbers.

Some of the more involved parts. The more complex the parts are the more we love the K2 joinery machine!!
Hip Rafter and Roof-Header with dovetail connection.

Finished dormer posts with 5ft lenght cut to make the post narrower on top. Seat-cut and mortise for dormer rafter and housing for eave plate.

The K2 ran continuously each work day while we also completed all the required craft work.

The brand new Makita KB-312 planer is amazing and a lot of fun. We ran thru 2 sets of knives to ensure an absolutely clean surface.

Old Bavarian craftsman-ship never gets rusty. " Gelernt ist gelernt !!!"

We test-fit every part to ensure a tight fit and no hand work on construction site.

Girt to post connection with Maple hardwood spline and positioning tenon. We test fit prior to final planing and sanding to ensure parts don't have to be handled once they are clean and sanded.

We use cutting edge CNC technology to produce traditional timber framing connections such as dovetails, spline and tapered shoulders with mortise and tenons.

We chamfer all tenons to ensure quick and hassle free installation. A little touch that makes a huge difference for the install crew!!

And of course proper labeling !! Certain parts have to be installed in a specific direction.

4x8" knee braces:
We used a laser cut steel template to trace our braces.

We used Landark to finish the wood.  The smell of beeswax and citrus is great.  Here is a photo of some great timbers and a team member applying the finish.

The Douglas fir was absolutely beautiful and a pleasure to work with.

Last but not least: Proper edge protection and wrapping for shipping. Edges are really fragile and need to be protected !!

Check out pictures of the installed Timber Frame.