Andy Stauffer was recently interviewed on a Timber Frame Podcast, and discussed the local timber frame market here in Colorado, and his experience running our sister company, Colorado Timber Homes. Listen to the podcast below!
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This is the timber frame podcast. An informal walk through the fascinating world of timber framing, alternative design and groundbreaking construction trends. We interview those on the front line of timber frame innovation as well as industry leaders in architecture, construction and engineering. Here is your host, Jack Dickenson.
Jack: Thank you again for listening to the timber frame podcast. This is Jack Dickenson [with Texas Timber Frames] and today my guest is Andy Stauffer of Stauffer & Sons Construction and Colorado Timber Homes. He is a General Contractor and a builder of timber homes in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I had the pleasure of meeting him a number of years ago when we were looking at doing a little bit of work up in Colorado. He was one of the people that I stopped and talked to and he really is the only one that I maintain constant contact with. We have a lot of similar values, lots of the same ideas about construction and quality of build for our companies and maintaining that high reputation. He has some interesting things to say about the market in Colorado right now and especially Colorado Springs after the devastating fire that they faced this last summer [the Waldo Canyon Fire] and also some of the opportunities he is seeing in the market place for smaller well built timber frame homes and homes that feature a lot of timber accents and energy efficiency in that market. It was a pleasure to talk to Andy today and here is the interview.
Jack: Andy, it’s a pleasure to have you on the podcast. Thanks so much for taking a few minutes of your day and talk to me about your company. Can you tell me a little bit about Colorado Timber Homes and Stauffer & Sons construction?
Andy: You got it Jack, and I appreciate being with you. Stauffer & Sons Construction and Colorado Timber Homes are kind of one and the same company. We have been in business for about 14 years here in Colorado Springs in the front range area in Colorado and Colorado Timber Homes came about probably about seven years ago and as a general contractor as well as a framing contractor, we were noticing that the market was really starting to the reflect—the architecture was really starting to reflect—more of a mountain mentality which is Colorado Springs actually the homes till then were a little more urban and for unknown reasons you know the grandeur and beauty of Colorado just wasn’t making its way into the kind of metropolitan and suburban areas and probably about seven/eight years eight years ago is when we started see a shift here in Colorado Springs which was to incorporate more of what’s seen in Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, Telluride, Aspen, those areas… so as a framing contractor we started to see the plans that builders were bringing us, have more and more… usually just timber accents. You could see a gable timber and a couple of beams and a couple of post so maybe some timber trusses in the great room, poles, things like that and it didn’t take us too long until this was “hey you know, this is going to keep up” and we find that we were uniquely qualified because we kind of became pretty passionate, pretty quick about timber. We started a company that I called Colorado Timber Truss company and so basically we started a shop where we were manufacturing timber components in our shop for our own projects as well as kind of hawking those out on the market.
Jack: Sure, yeah.
Andy: And that was fun because it was early days and it’s funny because we really… right out of the starting gate, we had this true mortise and tenon joinery, whereas everything up to that point was just “cut and butt” and a lot of gusset plates because that’s the quick and easy response by a market that doesn’t really grasp the true timber frame and so I started doing that and it didn’t take us too long before we said “well, how far do we want to take this?” “Do we just want to be a component company? Do we want to want to start manufacturing timber? …and you know “Where the general contracting come in to play here?” “Do we want to just be a GC and build timber frame homes?” and pretty quickly we just reformed the company into Colorado Timber Homes and from a general contracting perspective we really started to develop that component of things where hey, we’ll build your home and we’re going to push as much as possible and as much the market is asking for. We are going to push, push timber frame construction all the way from just some components on the light end of things to full timber frame homes on the far end of the spectrum, and everything in between. And so that’s how Colorado timber homes formed and today we are we are out of the framing business for the most part but from our general contracting position, we’re building homes up in the mountains here in Colorado Springs and at every chance we get, we’re pushing timber.
Jack: Yeah I got it. I will tell you I’m jealous about the way you build the way you build and from conversations before about you knows the beautiful places in Colorado and generally those are the spots where people can afford the timber frame homes. You know that land isn’t always cheap and certainly not cheap to build on. You know with the difficult sites to develop and get the dirt work and the rock work done to the extent that it needs to. So I know that you built some amazing, some structures in some amazing places and I imagine you’re having some pretty good weather there too right now aren’t you?
Andy: Oh boy, Jack today I just got in from about 70°, blue skies… just sitting on the corner there enjoying my sandwich. Colorado Springs’ downtown is really coming around, it’s..
Jack: Is it? I don’t remember downtown Colorado Springs being very well-developed. Have they made a real effort there?
Andy: Yeah, we’re getting there. So you know and it’s fun as a young company and you know, I’m 40 years old and got 25 years ahead of me before I kind of start to turn over the reins to my boys if they’ll join me, right now they’re in high school. I have a downtown office where this is about two blocks from Tejon Street which is the main drive and I just love everything about it—it’s very fun to be part of a growing community. We’re already a pretty good size: we’re the second largest city in Colorado, just south of Denver, but definitely nice places: a lot of places up against the foothills, in Colorado Springs we start down at the Broadmoor which is anchored by the five star Broadmoor hotel which is pretty, well, internationally known, and then it just kind of goes right up the range—we‘ve got the Air Force Academy here; the area where we had the Waldo Canyon fire where we lost about 350 homes to a wildfire over the summer, and then beyond that you go up to Monument and Caste Rock and Denver and beyond and that’s kind of our sweet spot in our market where we’re building home generally that are gonna be up in those foothills in the Springs that have that mountain feel but then as well—and you know you and I have talked about this before—we’re building things generally within a couple-hour radius of Colorado Springs which generally will take us up into mountain communities where folks are buying 30-100 acres and putting a retirement home up or just a vacation home.
Jack: it’s a beautiful place and you mentioned the devastating fires that you experienced last summer. I remember talking to you while those were going on… obviously it’s tragedy to see those people lose their homes but it’s also, you know, the flipside of that is that they need to be built again. Have you seen anything with your company about an opportunity that to rebuild bigger and better.
Andy: absolutely it’s been, boy, close to 5 months since everything went down, I went into high gear right after the fire and I just attended a whole lot of community meetings with a real sensitivity towards not being an ambulance-chaser—a guy coming in and hawking my wares, so to speak, so I kind of laid low there planning and strategizing, because the silver lining there really was that there’s a lot of nice beautiful homes that were built in that area… I get folks in my office here that really run from one end of the spectrum where they’re still just [rebuilding?] to the other end of the spectrum where they’re just tickled pink that they’re going to get this insurance money to where they can can rebuild their old, dilapidated home that they really, you know, they had a little time to where they got their personal affects out of the house, and they did and they’re going to build very nice homes. Generally the new homes will be the same size or sometimes larger. But people are feeling down, and it really depends on the settlement from the insurance company whether or not people are going to really have the fun time and rebuild with gusto, or just going to kinda of go in and just rebuild what they had. So it just runs the gamut as far as who I find across the table from me here in my office.
Jack: Like you say, if you can look at it with a positive outlook, most people can turn around and build a homes that’s may be more efficient and something that might have more value… obviously the land is incredibly valuable there on that mountain…
Andy: Yeah, it’s an interesting setup their because it wasn’t an area that was thick with trees… definitely had some trees… a lot of scrub oak here in those foothills, there’s definitely some scar effect but then many of those homes have just gorgeous views of Colorado Springs and the city lights and everything so that’s nice… generally they are going to be able to reclaim it… but yeah the type of homes that… and it’s interesting because there’s a lot of community meetings that are coming out of that and I think Colorado Springs’ community is going to be a model for future disaster areas. …that they can kind of see “well, how did they handle it in the first week? … in the first month? …and six months and beyond?” from various perspectives you know, but kind of pertaining to this phone call is the rebuilding effort. I went to a sustainability meeting which clearly not everybody has to go to, and I looked around and of the dozens if not hundreds of core builders in this Colorado Springs market, and there was like 3 of us and it was kind of a neat opportunity for me because I’ve got upwards of 25 to 40 homeowners that have attended that sustainability meeting that was put on by the local university as well as the city planners and then quickly they start to see who the builders are in the room, and what those builders have to share with their own expertise and that really got me a foothold. In a neighborhood where there was just one gal that had a real passion for rebuilding sustainably and I started a dialogue with her and before you know it I was under contract with her then her neighbor, and now I’m up to about eight homes that I’m under contract on.
Jack: Well that’s interesting, I really wanted to talk to you about how sustainability and energy efficiency in your building style and how timber construction kind of played into the market there and it sounds like it couldn’t be hotter, and more important.
Andy: Absolutely and it’s an interesting dynamic because Colorado Springs is a very conservative community, politically, philosophically, socially and otherwise, and I’m a pretty conservative guy myself. But as a—the thing that I enjoy doing from a construction aspect is taking the essence of “what we are trying to achieve with sustainability?” and giving all I can as a professional in my industry and just as a citizen of this community and this planet, trying to sift through the hype and the “feel-good” knee-jerk type reactions that I think are… I bill myself as being a good steward of our environment as God’s creation… you know, don’t waste, don’t just throw things out indiscriminately… you know use good practices that maximize your use of square footage and energy systems and so forth and get away from those things that have, you know, high level of capital in the media market but really don’t translate and have any traction and good “meat and potatoes” kind of sustainable practices and there’s probably a whole other conversation there, Jack.
Jack: Yeah, when you talk about LEED points and getting LEED levels on construction projects, sometimes you come across things that you know that may earn points but are actually counter-intuitive.
Andy: Oh, absolutely. I remember a couple of years ago a gentleman came in and he said “I want to build a house for the wife and I and we are empty nesters and we wan to build green and get a LEED certification and stuff like that” and didn’t even know exactly what he was asking for, and that’s fine and he was asking the right questions and I came pretty quickly and said “so ho big a house are you building?” and he said “I’m thinking 7,500 square-feet?” and I said “Buddy, you passed ‘green’ about 4,000 square feet ago.” People should be able to build whatever they want as long as they’re not reckless and treading on the rights of others, but if—really and truly—the word’ coming out of his mouth are “we want to be sustainable, we want to be sensitive to sustainable practices and the environment” and all of that… the two don’t jive with each other, clearly. So, I’m about the motivation behind it, but I’m also about, okay, you know, how do we actually see that through a very tangible results-based measures whereas you know on another example: we did a LEED platinum home up in Divide Colorado which is about 30 minutes outside of Colorado Springs and that was a wonderful experience because we had not done a LEED home until that point and we had a gentleman and his wife who came to us and said “we’d like to hire you as our builder” and said “we want to do LEED Platinum you’re gonna help us get there” and he was an environmental engineer with the US Army Corps of Engineers, and he taught us a whole lot about obtaining LEED points and obtaining LEED platinum certification. One of the steps was, to tail off of one of the points you made, where you earn points but they’re not so practical: one thing they said is “to obtain LEED points, you shouldn’t have a lot of leftover concrete after you pour your foundation and slab or whatever,” to which we said “ok, fine… what would you have us do, so to speak?” And the dialogue unfolds with our LEED provider and then we were kind of reading through the manual and they said “well, here’s a provision where we’ll give you a LEED point if you take that concrete and fashion it into like landscape pavers or something like that, then that concrete will have a use for the long term as long as it’s landscape pavers.” So on the surface, this makes a lot of sense and I think if you were to just initially propose this idea on anyone who’s really bent on trying to see an efficient use of material, but the knee-jerk is to say “wow, what a great solution” well, after four sheets of plywood and a dozen to twenty 2x4s later, you have to make for these paver forms, and you’re pouring pavers out of it, a couple of days later the concrete is cured, you bust it all apart and… what do you do with all your plywood and 2x4s? It goes into the construction dumpster. So here’s a value-added product that was designed to be used in making walls and ceilings and all of that and we are just doing the temporary concrete to make sure you’re getting the certification.
Jack: yeah, there are those kinds of things that can be extremely important and there can be things that are that end up being for lack of better term kind of “guilt tax.”
Andy: Exactly, and that’s a great way of putting it. You also have humans on the planet and we’re also trying to create jobs, we’re also trying to create communities, so I think it’s a balancing act of “sure, we’re going to be chopping down trees, and sure we’re going to be building houses out of wood and other materials but how do we do that sustainably?” and there’s plenty of widespread, commercially viable ways of doing so and those are, I think, what we really need to focus on.
Jack: Sure. Well it’s interesting you were talking about you know some of the materials that you are using for the concrete forms and that got me thinking about, you know, kind of what you’re seeing as far as building materials—we know that you like to use timber in your construction—but are you still using SIPs (structural insulated panels)? I know that’s kind with your relationship with Riverbend Timber Framing—that was a major component of what you were selling. Is that something you’re still using?
Andy: Absolutely. I’m a big fan of structural insulated panels. And they come with a price tag, so what we need to do is we sit down with customers in the beginning where I think you and I were talking offline a bit ago, where we can rehash that conversation where Timber Frame construction and structural insulated panels—those two are kind of a marriage made in heaven and we can kind of circle back on that, but when someone comes to me and they describe… pretty quickly I cut to the chase and ask “okay what type of home? What kind of square-footage? What level of finishes? What’s your budget?” and I tried early in my career when I was a little bit shy about asking “how much money do you want to spend?” …I can’t tell you how many times I ran in circles with the customer and we’d get a week in and a month in and then finally the number is known, and it’s like “ugh… this doesn’t add up! This doesn’t work.” If you want to go with timber frame and structural insulated panel and anything beyond conventional construction which is kind of 2×6, 2×4 construction, with truss roofs, that kind of thing… you can’t squeeze in into an already tight budget and try and squeeze timber and SIPs into that. And that’s not to say that the cost of building the timber or even enveloping that timber frame in a SIP exoskeleton so to speak… that’s not to say that’s it’s exorbitant, but definitely it’s a factor above conventional frames and construction so I would say you know right out of the starting gate, you’re probably 25% to 30% more for a timber frame structure with a structural insulated panel house in the final cost than if you were to do conventional, so that can scare people off then we can take that conversation to the next level and when we look at it at over 10 years and 20 years that‘s where the energy efficiency of the SIP package —that’s where that initial investment starts to pay off. It’s just as important, you know I’ve found I just cut to the chase real quick, and I can tell when someone comes into my office and they’ve been dreaming about timber frame construction for years, and —you know Jack, you’ve been to the all the timber trade shows—and it’s kind of funny when you can see people kind of walking across the floor of the trade show floor and they’re kind of making a beeline for you and they have got a three-ring binder under their arm and they spread it out in front of you and they’ve been clipping magazines for years and dreaming about this… generally those are our timber frame customers.
Jack: Yeah, they’ve done the research and they know why they want the timber frame and… those are people who have been dreaming a long time.
Andy: And that’s fun, because with timber frame construction, you know there’s a certain utilitarian aspect if you’re just building a house in a neighborhood where your chief concerns are resale, and building like kind and quality with those homes around you. Like with Waldo Canyon, the community is actually “Mountain Shadows,” in Colorado Springs and you had a neighborhood that is very much city-sized lots between 4,000 and 6,000 square-foot lots for many of the smaller ones and then maybe even up to a quarter-acre or a third of an acre on the larger ones… there’s a huge consideration for, you know, “what else is in the neighborhood? And how how big a house do I want? And what level of finish?” and I think in some cases there, I think someone would be ill-advised to try and put a timber frame home in where that timber frame home might be 25% to 35% higher than their neighbor right next to them.
Jack: Sure. And you can’t see it from there the outside—there is no reason why the retail value should jump in accordance since it’s really featured on the inside of the house.
Andy: Sure, so you know that certainly comes into play but generally here again with 90% of the homes we’re doing, and certainly 100% of the the timber frame homes we’ve done are where someone had at least an acre. Where they have a little bit of room to spread out.
Jack: And that’s land they will increase over time—that acreage itself is an investment and so putting in an investment of a house that they know is going to last centuries and be energy-efficient…that all ties together in the investment and so that makes sense of that level.
Andy: I’ll tell you what too—with a house that is not being in a neighborhood but if somebody actually has an acre or even more… maybe five acres and above, I tend to get this sense that the homes, more often than not, we are building the home for them (and typically they are empty nesters) but they are definitely looking at it with an eye towards “Hey, we would love for this home to remain in our family for generations” …and you can do that with the stick-frame conventional home but it just has kind of a different feel. Well no, not even kind of—its an entirely different feel if somebody says “hey this is”—maybe the profile that I’m building here: is empty nesters I’ve got three or four kids that are grown and I have grand kids and they have done well in life and they have some money to spend. And they’re looking for that home for themselves, as far as “Hey, we wanna grow old and gray in this,” and we always kinda joke “Hey, are they gonna cart you out of the house in a pine box someday” and that’s usually the case. But then there’s this “hey, this home will be home base for our entire family” where I’m sitting down talking to the patriarch or matriarch of the family and we’re building this and it’s the Ponderosa—it’s the place kids and the grand-kids are going to return to on holidays and for family reunions and everything And that’s really where you start looking at it and then say “Okay, 30% more and I get big heavy timber trusses and bents and this home just feels like it’s going to be here for 100 or 150 years, it’s an easy decision.
Jack: That’s exactly right to put that very well. We see the same thing down here. So, in working with that same group of customers, are you seeing that the design trends in Colorado with that customer base are staying the same, changing, evolving?
Andy: Yeah and you and I have had some conversation about this and I’ll tell you what: I know that the podcast here is not you know necessarily to plug Texas Timber Frames, but I gotta hand it to you in that the style of timber frames package that you’re putting together both in terms of the overall house and then when you get into the real fine furniture-like details of what you guys are putting together that’s where there’s a certain amount of the market that’s like “Oh, big heavy timber. That’s wonderful but we usually see like we talked about people are little are a little more education and those details really matter and the style really matters because… if you look at like a Riverbend timber frame, it’s a very reputable company that I’ve had a great relationship with in the past and I still do, but they’re much more of an east coast and lake front type of timber package—not that you couldn’t go to them and say “here’s what I’m trying to do—Colorado/Mountains/Southwest” or you know “Colorado/Mountain/Contemporary” which is you another thing I’d like to double back on … they’re just inherently… usually you know their timbers are getting stained, usually they don’t even get stained—it’s more of a clear coat and like a blonde color… we have a lot of oak, and you can see that fitting within a cape-cod style, or they’re on the Great Lakes near Chicago, and I saw a lot of Riverbend Plans that fit in perfectly there. But here in Colorado, I mean think about it: this is Colorado! This is the iconic Rocky Mountain State here in the United States and its, you know, you go to Beaver Creek, and Vail and Telluride and Breckenridge, timber frame and to a lesser extent or at a different level: log homes, there’s a desire in the market for what I call Colorado Contemporary. So you know in that style as you get in to heavy timber: heavy timber does not have to be super ornate, it can be nice if it has real clean lines and some etched details and chamfers and things like that… you know certainly we can into scissor trusses and arch trusses and that heavy timber is used not to an excess, but traditionally in the exterior of a home like an entry or a great room and your heavier areas, and flanking areas like the master suite or maybe you do a horizontal beam on the ceiling of just like a ridge beam in the some of the secondary areas, then the exteriors: tying a little bit here and a little bit there but with clean lines, clean working surfaces…. I mean think about it: like when I have people in my office and I say “hey what are we going for?”…just as a test sometimes it’s like “now, how would you describe the home? Would you describe it as “rustic”?” and, I think you know where I’m going with that—people bristle sometimes when you use the word “rustic” and it’s usually the gal. The guys are like “yeah okay, rustic, that’s fine.” You know the guy is thinking “rustic/log/gnarly/heavy timber” but the gals are usually the ones saying “no no no! If you’re thinking ‘rustic,’ you misheard.” They want kind of “clean”—they don’t want to have their stainless steel sub-zero refrigerator—or even not ‘gold plated’ stuff but just other stainless steel surfaces (granite surfaces, etc)—they don’t want it to be so sparkly juxtaposed with these heavy gnarly rustic timbers. They want kind of clean where you can go up and run your hand along it and it feels good and it’s warm and inviting. So that’s kind of that Colorado Mountain contemporary that we’ve been doing.
Jack: Yeah, it’s very similar to some of the aesthetic that we’re seen being driven and in Austin and with some of the architects in Houston and Dallas. The homes themselves aren’t in Houston and Dallas but they are being built by people moving away from those places or building a second home like you said and they are working with architects who are, like you say, you know going towards that contemporary aesthetic that really has those those very stark vertical and horizontal lines and everything is very clean and almost feels logical is almost feels like it’s coming out of the left side of your brain and all that is very awesome but if you throw a beautiful wood floor in there with some timber accents or a timber frame that is efficiently and cleanly built like you say, you know—no bark on the timber or you know not a distressed piece but something very clean and that matches kind of the aesthetic all of a sudden that kind of cool feeling that you get from the granite and the stainless steel like you said it all gets warmed up and it’s just like the missing ingredient: it’s like the salt in the chili that was almost really good and now you just nailed it. With that kind of design and then if you go so far as to make those timbers actually structural and you build an extremely high quality house that’s going to last for centuries you know architects a scene that as… holy cow you’re opening my eyes a little bit to this I’m using sustainable materials that are responsibly harvested and sticking with the aesthetic that I would like to see but I’m bringing in a sense of warmth that my clients really like and then it makes sense to me and I’m building something that’s going to be a legacy you know for them and for me and my brand as an architect and as a firm. It’s is interesting to hear you say that about Colorado because we have seen some similar things obviously we’ve built some very rustic homes and they’re very cool: I mean places that you will mistake for an old barn if there wasn’t furniture inside and those are great but we are seeing kind of the other side and it’s interesting how flexible timber framing can be and the use of timber can be in varying aesthetics and it kind of opens up our window and we try not to be as pigeonholed as a company to say well we have this look we kind of want to stay accessible to everyone and not go too far in any one direction I guess.
Andy: Well put on all fronts there. And I think the key is the a lot of the homeowners that we are talking to: a profile starts to emerge of just who is that demographic and more often than not one or both of them (usually the guy) is an engineer. And name your type of engineer: it doesn’t even matter—it’s just an engineer with an engineer’s mind and so I think when when you start talking you know log or timber you know as well as I do is that’s kind of a boxers-or-briefs-type question: it doesn’t even take two seconds for someone to answer that. They’re either one or the other. And more so and I’m not just saying this because I’m in the timber camp than the log camp but I think you are definitely starting to see to switch, like when you asked me about log construction it’s like: ahh, I’m a huge fan on one level, which is if I’m going to go stay in the mountains at like a bed and breakfast cabin or something like that I’m looking for a nice big old rusty log cabin with just a huge hearth and natural stone and all that that’s just I love it. But, yeah, I sure wouldn’t want to own one and maintain one right so… nice to visit, you know, but a whole lot less so when you own it and that investment is actually a drain on your wallet because you know, the maintenance and the upkeep and just tweaking over the life of a log home. It’s just considerable and I think you need to go into it with your eyes wide open if you’re gonna go that route. Timber is just all of the other aspects which is that it makes good sense.
Jack: And I think you nailed it when you said it’s a place I would love to visit or stay for a few days or a week or two weeks you know on the side of a mountain river I mean how could it be any more perfect but to me, seeing of that wood, all the time is monotonous. How do you break that up? You start thinking about breaking that up somehow because everything is orange. Everything is brown, so you kind of have two figure how to work with that whereas with a timber frame you’ve got a skeleton that makes logical sense and you can see how it’s its holding up the structure. I think exposed structure whether it’s metal or wood or any other innovative exposed structure has a subliminal connection when you are in that space that makes you feel more comfortable because you see how it goes together. You don’t get that same feeling with 2x4s.
Andy: Absolutely: how many times are you in a scenario where you’re in a poorly-designed home where the architect very much like an architect (more of a designer) designed arches in a home or something and I’ll see that all the time and it just bugs the heck out of me, where they say “hey, we’re going to have lots of arches in this home” and you have an arch between two walls, but there’s nothing there that ties the arch in the way of like a column type of thing. So it will just be an arch between two walls rather than an arch that is resolved by having a column where you see “I can see a load that is deposited on the arch; the arch transfers its load over to the sides; and then the sites actually down to the ground by way of those columns. That’s form follows function: the function is the arch, the function is the support of it, and you know you can see the structure—that’s kind of the whole arts and crafts thing like “hey, let it shine! Let’s not hide this behind a wall” and I’m wondering (and I think I know the answer to this): for me, I have an educated eye, so I always know what I’m looking for the most part and I can ferret out something like “that’s in discord—that doesn’t make sense… that’s 2+2=6 and we both know that’s not the answer.” I think though on a more subliminal level the average lay-person can also see that. They don’t know what it is but they just feel… I mean call it feng shui, call it you know something else there but they feel there’s something not going on that should be going on which is: I know we have a load up high, that transfers down, and it resolves down below.
Jack: I couldn’t agree more.
Andy: we know a lot about timber—what you see is what you get: I know you are going to be limited in what people are for today. People are saying “hey I want this great room, I don’t want posts all over…” I mean we haven’t built out there, but I think I read about a home in the Lake Tahoe area where they had like 400 lbs snow loads! We’ve been upwards of 150 lb snow loads here in Colorado, and if you’re trying to achieve that with 8 inch or 10 inch oak or Douglas fir and trying to get 20, 22, 24 and god forbid—30 foot spans, you’re not going to do it conventionally.
I think the goal is embrace the architectural aspect of timber frame as much as possible—try not to break those rules but if I need to throw hidden steel gusset plates and knife plates in between timbers to handle those loads, I’m all over it. So I’m not a purist in that sense—it’s like “hey, any way it takes to skin this cat, I’m in.”
Jack: Yeah, I agree. And then it has to be driven by the customer who you know is the boss on that on those kinds of decisions and you can kind of let them know what the situation is in front of them and let them make decisions he do you want to bring you want to bring more timber in here? Do you want to add some steel? But we have got this engineering challenge—how we are going to at least produce this and to be open to that anything is really important?
Andy: and we use a term frequently and I’m a broken record on it but I always use with my subcontractors and vendors: nothing in a vacuum. There’s not a single decision you can make in the construction world that exists in its own little space that is not affected or does not something if not everything around it. You know what I mean? So when you are when you’re designing your home and saying we want to go timber frame saying we have this much money and this kind of budget, okay, there decisions where this is a balancing act one right after the other. But as soon as you start to throw in structural considerations, and structural challenges and then you do that along with your floor plan and your flow and your use of space, and your mechanical systems and everything… you know it’s funny, as I’m going through it, I’m thinking of some of the prospects we’ve lost due to themselves where they said “well I am either going to use a builder or I’m going to build this myself” and when they’ve gone out and built it themselves on a couple of occasions, I’ve had people come back and say “Wow! I really learned this the hard way—there’s a lot to this!”
Jack: and just a few mistakes can get you in trouble too—you want to be open and say “yeah you know it’s your decision” but only couple of mistakes and the cost of a builder is a drop in the bucket compared with trying to fix that the things that a builder might have caught.
Andy: Well, I tell people “can you save money? Absolutely! IF everything goes according to plan,” and that’s a big if.
Jack: Well, is there anything that you want to add about Colorado timber homes or yourself we’re kind of wrapping up here so I don’t want to take too much more of your time.
Andy: Sure just to speak real quickly to our relationship with Texas Timber Frames, it’s been a good one—you and I haven’t talked a whole lot… we just wrapped up a job as you know on the Broadmoor Hotel, and just wanna let you know boy that has got raving fans out here in Colorado.
Jack: that’s awesome—the pictures are incredible.
Andy: Yeah and just to kind of let your listeners know here, the Broadmoor hotel, like we talked about, is a renowned hotel in Colorado Springs they came to me back in March kind of frustrated that they weren’t getting… let me back up a sec: Philip Anschutz, a gentleman out of Denver bought the Broadmoor Hotel and started to put money into it and he took what was an old meeting facility and wedding venue and he just said “this is Colorado let’s make it look like a mountain lodge” and we’re calling it the Cheyenne Mountain Lodge and they weren’t getting quite the joy out of the architects they were working with, so I so I put my eye on it and pretty quickly bought you guys (Texas Timber Frame) in and you guys came up with one heck of a nice design. Absolutely, with the big heavy timbers on the porte cochere there, and anyway we hit all their targets on budget and schedule, and they opened on time to the Space Symposium that they have every year which was the day after we finished. You know they had hundreds of people in there and I’ve heard many times since then that they have a nice reception there.
Jack: yeah, I know that was a high-profile one and to knock that out of the park is huge. So if people wanna get in touch with you should they go to the your website?
Andy: you know, we have two of them—www.coloradotimberhomes.com and quite frankly, we’ve put a little more money in the our staufferandsons.com website. By the way Jack, the sons as I think you know are a freshman, a sophomore, and a senior in high school but we’ve also got one on way now.
Jack: holy cow! Congratulations! That must have been a surprise!
Andy: Yeah, we have nice little 15 year gap between the third and fourth sons, so we’re trying to carry on a tradition here of building homes under the Stauffer & Sons name and I think we’ll be taken care of for the next generation it looks like.
Jack: Yes, I’ve got a daughter on the way she is due in December. I appreciate it Andy, thanks so much for coming onto the podcast it was really an interesting discussion and I look forward to having you again sometime.
Andy: great I appreciate it Jack. Thank you.