Timber Frame Builder Brand New after Four Decades
By Rick Reynolds
It has been said that life begins at 40, and in many ways, Bensonwood, a builder of sustainable houses and public buildings, exemplifies that maxim. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Tedd Benson and his colleagues at Bensonwood were critical leaders in the revival of the long dormant, 19th-century art of timber frame construction in America. Through the integration of CNC (computer numeric controlled) machinery and the creation of a modern, panelized, disentangled building enclosure, both made possible through off-site fabrication and rapid on-site assembly, or Montage, the word for that process that’s used in much of Europe.
Emerging into a 21st century world transformed by rapid technical advances and critical environmental challenges, the company was poised to lead the way in high-performance building and sustainable design. But still, more change was on the horizon.
For high-performance homes, in particular, to play a significant role in the health and well-being of their inhabitants and the planet, more people would need to be able to afford one. To drive down the cost, increased volume and standardization would need to be achieved.
And while Bensonwood had become known for its comfortable, healthy, energy-efficient, custom and semi-custom homes, it soon became apparent that the company would need to split into two separate entities to better focus their differing objectives: one based on fully-custom homes and full service, and the other, based on customizable but standardized platforms, where design and engineering could be amortized over multiple units and compressed production time. In 2012, Bensonwood spun off its more standardized line of high-performance houses under the brand, Unity Homes.
So what is the new Bensonwood? True to its DNA, Bensonwood still is in the business of improving people’s lives through the development of better building processes and products. The company is still known for its artful timber frames and industry-leading, high-performance building envelopes. The company still believes in wood for its lasting beauty, durability, sustainability and carbon sequestration. And as a custom builder, the company will still realize its clients’ most challenging dreams.
But, with new, versatile, wood products coming on line, like CLTs (cross laminated timbers), glulams, and other innovative engineered wood products, more and more custom Bensonwood homes and commercial projects have fewer solid-sawn heavy timbers, taking on the more modern forms the new wood products allow. As such, in addition to the robust, traditional mountain/lake style homes and public buildings that many associate with Bensonwood, the company now also caters to the modern wood aesthetic that calls for fewer timber expressions, cleaner lines, unobstructed views, and lots of light.
A Modern Collaboration with Santos Prescott and Associates
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the evolving Bensonwood is the level of service devoted to each project. With a large, in-house complement of architects, designers, engineers, project managers, timber framers, and fabricators, Bensonwood is setup to collaborate directly with the consumer, or with independent architects, builders, and developers, to assure that their most important projects are seamlessly and efficiently realized—and sustainable by design.