2023 Conference Session: Is There Life After Timber Framing?

Is There Life After Timber Framing?
Adam Riley

We’re all on a path toward mastery of our craft. Whether that’s design, engineering, timber framing, or general contracting, the people we meet at TFG conferences are bent on continuous improvement and generally making the world a better place. That’s what I love about the Guild and why I have come back to share some insights about running a mission-driven company that fights climate change and funds my personal goals and adventures. I’m not here to talk anyone out of timber framing. That’s a sacred way of building with deep roots around the world. In my experience, it’s also a challenging way to make a living that often drags the practitioners into projects that don’t align with their personal or company values. I will share some of the “ah-hah!” moments in my career that prompted me to sell my timber framing shop to focus on high-performance building and some of the lessons I’ve learned on the roller coaster of small business. I’ll use some of my company’s projects as case studies for how and why we should all build “Pretty Good Houses” as a baseline and what are the other standards to consider if we really want to raise the bar, radically improve the built environment, and, just maybe, save the world by getting to what Paul Hawken calls “drawdown” in our lifetimes. I would also like to engage the audience in a discussion of how to market and practice sustainable building (profitably!) so we can all benefit from each other’s wisdom in that arena. Please bring your curiosity and best ideas to the table.

About the Speaker: Adam Riley
Adam was born in New Hampshire, and raised in Maine and New Hampshire among the hardy Yankees of northern New England and the rich history of timber-framed homes, barns, churches, and town halls. He earned his bachelor's in civil engineering from the University of Vermont in 1994 and moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to climb and ski and build log homes. It was there, restoring log homes just a few decades old, that he came to appreciate the quality of the buildings he had moved away from in New England. In an effort to learn how to build a complicated octagonal roof for a log mansion, he bought one of Tedd Benson‘s timber frame books and went back to meet Tedd in New Hampshire. That meeting turned into an interview and a job as a project manager from 1998 to 2001. That was a great career opportunity among a really talented group of folks at a fun company, but after living and skiing in the Tetons, Adam could no longer live happily in New Hampshire. He moved back to Jackson Hole in 2001 and started a small construction company which he ran for five years. In 2005 he moved to Victor, Idaho, and became a partner at Teton Timberframes. He ran that business for 17 years and sold the shop operations to his foreman, Walker Janney, in 2021. Adam kept the design-build side of the company and re-branded as Cloud 9 Builders, specializing in healthy, high-performance homes. Cloud 9 exists to build homes that are good for people and good for the planet. The company builds two or three net-zero energy and Passive houses each year in the Teton Valley and Jackson Hole. Adam is now working on replacing himself in the company’s daily operations so he can spend more time skiing and sailing with his family.

Elevating the design of timber structures
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