The Artist Studio is a wonderful example of PCEI’s community-building projects, as it has brought together so many meaningful aspects of what we stand for. It is a tranquil space for artists, writers, PCEI staff and community members to enjoy. Overlooking the Nature Center, it has great views of the PCEI campus, downtown Moscow and the University of Idaho campus. Whether it’s a small group or an individual, the Artist Studio is a perfect place for gathering and reflecting. Along with its view, the Studio has a deep connection to our community from the materials used to the volunteers who helped build it. It contains a variety of species of trees locally and sustainably harvested including Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Englemann Spruce and American Elm. Some logs were donated by community members and others were felled trees around Moscow like the nearly 8,000 lb American Elm from East City Park dying from Dutch Elm Disease.
The idea for the design was constructed by two local timber framing artists, Luke Sheneman and Peter Oswald of Nora Creek Timber Frames. Luke and Peter spent nearly a year milling, sanding, cutting and preparing the massive logs into beautiful handcrafted timbers. Luke has a great blog tracking the entire project from start to finish. Much like the raising of the bike pavilion, the construction of the Artist Studio provided hands-on courses for community members to learn the logistics—as well as the benefits—of sustainable construction. PCEI staff, community members, friends and family all came together to participate in the raising of the frame and the final touches to make the Artist Studio a truly unique addition to not only PCEI’s Nature Center but also the City of Moscow.
The structure demonstrates three practices of sustainable building: timber framing, cordwood infill and green roof construction.
What is Timber Framing?
Timber framing is a building method using heavy timbers instead of commercialized lumber. The timbers are milled, squared off and fit exactly within one another and held by a hardwood peg, also known as mortise and tenon joinery. Since the posts and beams are heavy timbers, less materials are necessary to hold the structural weight of the building. With less materials, less interior space is compromised by vertical support posts–this means an open concept floor plan.
The advantage of timber framing is that it allows the builder to use local resources and adapt their building plan to match what is available. Examples of this are shown with the planning, preparing and building of the Artist Studio as Luke’s blog tracks. An additional benefit is how quickly a structure is raised. Once the timber frame is built, the structure may be raised and standing in as little as one day. The preparations are long and laborious, but the outcome is well worth it. Check out this great video from Luke’s blog about the Artist Studio’s raising day.
What is Cordwood Infill?
Cordwood infill is an ancient building technique using logs and mortar to build walls. Mortar holds the logs together, and the space between the mortar walls is typically filled with sawdust for insulation. Logs can be harvested from a variety of places, but the exciting thing is that they are usually cut from wood that is unsuitable for other purposes and may otherwise be left unused. The log ends are exposed on both the outside and inside, creating a unique aesthetic appeal. But aside from being visually pleasing, cordwood infill offers many benefits: it uses only natural materials, is energy efficient, easy to do, requires little maintenance and lasts a long time.
Here is an excellent video from Luke’s blog that further explains cordwood infill and documents the cordwood infill workshop for the Artist Studio.
As the video shows, only the bottom half of the Artist Studio’s walls are cordwood infill. The remainder of the walls is stuccoed with denim insulation. Denim insulation offers a great alternative to traditional insulation because it does not contain fiberglass or chemical irritants. This means it my be installed without health concerns, and because it is made mostly of recycled blue jeans, it requires minimal energy to manufacture. Even if you are not able to use denim insulation, you can do your part to help continue the manufacturing of this great product and help communities in need by donating your old blue jeans. Check out Blue Jeans Go Green for more information.
What is a Green Roof?
A green roof or living roof is one that has plants growing on it. They are layered constructions that take the place of a bare roof, and they can partially or completely cover the structure supporting them. See our Living Roofs at PCEI page for more information.
Blue Jeans Go Green – A denim recycling program: http://www.bluejeansgogreen.org/
Bonded Logic – Manufacturer of UltraTouch Denim Insulation and other nature fiber insulation products: http://www.bondedlogic.com/
Cordwood Construction – A great website with an extensive gallery covering cordwood construction: http://www.cordwoodconstruction.org/
Luke Sheneman’s blog tracking the construction of the Artist’s Studio: http://pceiwriterstudio.blogspot.com/2008/07/kicking-off-pcei-writers-studio-project.html