Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Choosing A Timber Frame Company

The nature of my architecture business is that I do not work directly for any timber frame company.  I only work for client/owners. In my early years, I represented a very good national timber frame company, designed the projects that I landed, and finally raised the timber frame and panel package, employing my office full of young architect types who adapted well to on-site timber construction. They were great years and I learned every aspect of the business.

I took that knowledge and applied it to my  timber frame architecture practice.  I deliberately stay contractually independent of all timber frame suppliers. The reason I remain independent is that I expect the companies to answer to me as the owner’s representative rather than me answering to a timber frame company.

Every timber framer is not suitable for every project. I recommend companies solely based on their ability to do the things that are required to complete that particular job properly in the area where the project is located. Often that means that I need a company that will travel far. Sometimes I need a company that will do or take responsibility for the timber package and the panel package. Sometimes, I am looking for a particular joinery style or great expertise with particular woods.

Each job in my past has been different, requiring great thought about how to accomplish the fabrication and assembly of the multiple pre-cut systems that make up a timber frame house.  I can sometimes recommend several companies that have shown that they are capable of timber framing a particular project in a particular place.  Sometimes I recommend only a single company, based on my prior experience with that business.

When appropriate companies are chosen for consideration, they are asked to bid the work based on the architect’s drawings. I always design the frames in my houses, so companies can bid apples to apples, rather than having to first design a frame to fit the house and then price it. The bidding companies are encouraged to make a good impression and pay a lot of attention to the client, since the client makes the decisions. We typically see the timber framers best price, since he knows that he is competing for the work, and there is less guesswork as a result of the frame having been previously worked out.