B&B: Before Benson Woodworking Company (BWC) and Bensonwood, was B&B, for Benson & Benson, (Tedd Benson and brother, Steve). Together, the Benson brothers start out doing renovation, remodeling, and cabinet making—jobs other builders choose not to do. Later, they start disassembling falling down timber frame structures for clients in exchange for the materials. Steve Benson dies tragically in 1974, and B&B later becomes the Benson Woodworking Company.
Tedd builds woodworking shop in Alstead. Lacking money for materials or labor, Tedd builds a 5,000 SF woodworking shop out of recycled timber frame barns and silos. The woodworking shop, with its simple but strong timber frame joinery, gives Tedd the confidence to move forward with more sophisticated forms of timber framing.
The Smith House/ First use of prefabrication. Tedd works with friend, Mike Burke, to build a new stud-built house with a timbered French country kitchen and dining area. He elects to prefabricate the construction elements in his newly finished woodworking shop, for the added control and precision it allows. This seminal project cements Tedd’s early belief in the advantages of off-site fabrication.
The Taft House/ First full timber frame building/ First BWC house built from “foundation to furniture.” Tedd and Dave Bryant build what the Concord Monitor refers to at the time as “…the first full timber frame house built in NH in over 60 years.” From there, Tedd and his dedicated craftsmen go on to create the home’s exterior and interior doors, stairway, cabinets, built-ins, paneling, moldings, and furniture—all in the new Alstead Woodworking Shop. From this influential project, the importance of control and influence on finishes is realized. This “Green & Green” holistic ethic, arising out of the Arts and Crafts movement, continues to be part of the DNA of the company and informs the way all projects are approached.
Tedd realizes the potential applications for residential structural insulated panels (SIPs) after seeing aluminum-skinned insulating panels at a walk-in freezer manufacturer.
Tedd Benson (with Jim Gruber) publishes first book, Building the Timber Frame House: The Revival of a Forgotten Craft (Scribner’s Sons, 1980; Simon & Schuster,1995). Instrumental in the revival of this centuries-old form of building with heavy timber, the book serves as a manual for builders and designers of timber frame homes. Today, it’s still considered the bible by timber frame enthusiasts around the world.
The Simsbury House/ First stress skin panels. Tedd and Amos Winter develop some of the first stress-skin panels for residential use. With the timber frame providing for the structural loads, the two develop a way to incorporate Bun stock, a rigid foam insulating material, to create a structurally uncompromised, built-up enclosure system. The company continues to produce its own closed panel walls, though with greener materials and greater sophistication than in this early prototype.
Masahiko Ishikawa brings Japanese temple building skills, infusing Bensonwood employees with knowledge about fashioning ultra-precise timber frame connections and ancient techniques of making compound joinery.
Tedd and a small group of timber framers form the Timber Framers Guild of North America, knowing that the timber frame revival needed a vital, well-connected industry to establish a forum for learning and standards.
Rees Acheson joins company. He has a huge impact on company capabilities. Tedd hires Rees to fabricate a portable mortising machine, making it possible to rapidly create timber frame joints with great precision. It is still use today on the largest timbers.
Company purchases early computer for $6,000 and asks Rees Acheson for a whole new strategy for mastering complex compound joinery. Rees develops a trigonometry program with AutoCad output of Hawkindale angles, thus creating specialized software where none existed before. This allows timber framers to layout and cut the many compound angles in hip-and-valley roof structures.
Tedd hires Ben Brungraber, Ph.D./ Fine Engineered Timber Frame Structures. Bensonwood becomes the first company to have a professional engineer dedicated to timber frame design and engineering. Ben elevates the company’s engineered timber frames to new levels, proving to building inspectors the efficacy of his sophisticated compression and tension joinery. From Ben’s extraordinary talent and experience begins the company’s legacy of timber frames as fine engineered structures. Today, Bensonwood has a growing team of dedicated engineers and architects involved in all aspects of wood and metal joinery.
Bensonwood first featured on PBS Television’s This Old House.
Brian Smeltz hired. Lucky for Bensonwood, Ben Brungraber brings Brian Smeltz into the company. He is active in all company operations. A Renaissance man and jack-of-all-trades, Brian proves to be an excellent timber framer, artist, designer, teacher, salesman, and project manager. His enthusiasm and creativity leave an indelible mark on the company.
Bensonwood develops spline joinery to strengthen timber frame connections and allow for more varied timber design, while increasing the load capacities of the structure.
Tedd publishes his second book, The Timber-Frame Home: Design, Construction, Finishing (Taunton Press), providing a comprehensive guide to building a timber framed home.
Bensonwood featured for the second time on PBS’s This Old House on the Wickwire Barn series.
Tedd Benson and Bensonwood lead a Blitz Build of two Habitat for Humanity homes in Pennsylvania.
Bensonwood begins modeling timber frame homes using 3D CAD software.
Boris Noel Interns/ Begins long line of talented interns. Unlike many tradespeople in the United States, those in the European and Asian building trades are highly educated and revered for their mastery. Hungry for outside knowledge, Benson Woodworking Company invites these interns from abroad to simultaneously learn and share the skills of master craftsmen. Collectively, these interns from countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan bring a wealth of information to the company’s growing bank of knowledge.
Tedd creates Open-Built®
By merging the best thinking of open-building proponents like John Habraken and Stewart Brand with his own concepts, Tedd develops a practical, digitally-based design, fabrication, and construction system that revolutionizes how homes are designed and built. Open-Built allows for the disentanglement of mechanical systems from the structure of the house and organizes them for more efficient installation and long-term access. With Open-Built, Bensonwood designers electronically catalogue every design element they create. The 3D Open-Built grid system allows existing design elements to be quickly and easily adapted to any new home design.
Bensonwood works with the Alexandria Seaport Foundation to construct a boat-building shop/classroom for at-risk youth. Through the building and use of wooden boats, full-time apprentices earn their GED and prepare for a career in the building trades. The classroom is a full timber frame built on a re-purposed barge, our first floating frame.
Bensonwood adds a CNC (computer numerical control) high-speed timber cutting machine that crafts timbers and joinery with accuracy to 1/32 of an inch. Driven by Bensonwood’s Open-Built, rule-driven software, the automated machine improves efficiency, reduces cost, and improves accuracy.
Tedd Benson publishes third book, Revised and Updated, The Timber-Frame Home (Taunton Press). This extensively updated and reworked book takes an in-depth look into the process of building a timber frame house and making it into a comfortable home. In the book, Tedd showcases his latest advances; from new design, engineering and joinery, to wiring, plumbing, and glazing.
Bensonwood engineers and timber framers develop keyed beams, a new laminating method that allows greater spans with relatively small timbers and makes the connections visible and aesthetically pleasing.
Bensonwood begins building its own wall panels for improved energy efficiency, electrical routing, and design flexibility. The new panels greatly reduce waste, compared to SIP panels, because window and door openings are built in place rather than cut out and discarded.
Bensonwood demonstrates a timber frame barn raising on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The festival educates the public about cultural traditions that contribute to the American and human experience.
Tedd Benson publishes fourth book, Timberframe: The Art and Craft of the Post-and-Beam Home (Taunton Press). The book presents 25 years of Tedd’s craft and practice, with examples ranging from homes in the Rocky Mountains to New England, from traditional to contemporary, taking readers on a tour of the most beautiful post-and-beam homes in North America.
Bensonwood builds a new, state-of-the art design, fabrication and assembly facility in Walpole, New Hampshire.
Bensonwood is featured in Smithsonian magazine (“Building to a Different Drummer”) for its Walden Cabin, a timber frame replica of Henry David Thoreau’s simple 10’x15′ cabin on the shores of Walden Pond. Timber framing parallels are drawn from this spartan, diminutive cabin to the exquisite high-end homes for which Bensonwood became known.
Bensonwood enters into a joint development agreement with Huber Engineered Woods LLC to develop new wood-based products and applications for home design and construction, and to develop new technologies in home design, subassembly design, modular design, and related processes.
Bensonwood wins the 2006 Small Builder of the Year award from the Partnership for Advanced Technology in Housing (PATH) for its groundbreaking work in Open-Built design and building systems.
Bensonwood begins long-term partnership with MIT on the Open_n Prototype Initiative, with the goal of developing affordable, flexible, high-performance houses. Utilizing Open-Built technologies and prefabricated building systems, the initiative results in Open_1, a multi-use rehab center/home, and OPEN_2, an environmentally-friendly, multipurpose president’s home for Unity College.
Using waste-saving 3D Building Information Modeling (BIM) and visualization software, Bensonwood engineers, fabricates, and constructs the award-winning Loblolly House, one of the most talked about houses of 2006. The shore home’s Bosch aluminum frame is held together with Bensonwood designed and engineered connectors. Designed by Kieran Timberlake Architects, Loblolly House is featured in Wired Magazine and Treehugger.com, as well as in a book and movie by Kieran Timberlake Architects.
Bensonwood, along with over 500 regional volunteers, completes the local Blitz-Build of a Monadnock Habitat for Humanity home for a New Hampshire family of 10. The 2,100/sf home is built in just 8 days.
Bensonwood’s Weston House is the subject of PBS’s This Old House fall season. It is the first time a new home has been featured on the show.
Bensonwood wins “Small Builder of the Year” from Residential Contractor magazine.
Unity House earns LEED Platinum Rating. A year later the college presidents’ residence and Welcome Center is Net-Zero certified.
Bensonwood enters into a joint development agreement with Dow Chemical Company to develop new and improved home building products through the development of new technologies related to products, structural systems, and insulating systems.
Bensonwood launches the 3B Matrix design+build system, offering a myriad of living possibilities while greatly reducing design and engineering costs.
Along with a team led by ZeroEnergy Design, Bensonwood builds super-insulated panels for a Passive House in Vermont that requires no heating system. The home is featured on page 1 of the New York Times business section.
Bensonwood’s OBPlus Wall® is designated as one of BuildingGreen’s Top 10 Products of the Year by the editors of Environmental Building News and GreenSpec®.
Bensonwood builds its first fully-panelized 3B Matrix home featuring its award-winning, R-35 OBPlus Wall®, the highest rated standard wall system available in North America.
Bensonwood builds Maine’s second certified LEED Platinum, Net Zero public building, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ Bosarge Education Center in Boothbay Harbor. This project follows Maine’s first certified LEED Platinum, Net Zero public building, Unity House, a living classroom and president’s residence, also built by Bensonwood.
Bensonwood launches a new company, Unity Homes. An outgrowth of the Open_n Prototype Initiative, Unity Homes features a family of architecturally diverse, ready-to-build, high performance homes.
Tedd Benson Named Co-Chair of Vision 2020 Design+Performance Panel. Tedd will work with other members of the AIA Vision 2020 panel to re-imagine home design and construction in the US and to map a clear path towards sustainability in residential construction by the year 2020.
Bensonwood works with local builders to rebuild the historic Bartonsville covered bridge in Rockingham, Vermont, destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene.
Bensonwood builds Burr & Burton Academy’s Mountain Campus, the centerpiece of Burr & Burton’s “Local Semester Abroad” focusing on landscape, sustainability, and culture.
The LEED Platinum certified Mountain Campus has won several design excellence awards and is a Net Zero Energy model of green performance.
Working with MIT Dean of Architecture and Planning, Adele Santos, and Santos, Prescott & Associates, Bensonwood builds a modern, urban infill project in the greater Boston area, working within tight site constraints to complete the ENERGY STAR home in three weeks.