Chris Koehn




Chris Koehn

I joined the Timber Framers Guild in the late 1980s, just in time to participate in the Habitat for Humanity project in Pennsylvania. In the early ‘80s while studying in England and working in Germany, I came to deeply admire the ancient timber and stone structures that surrounded me. Trains were missed and classwork was neglected thanks to hours—and days—spent ogling barns and places of worship.

Upon graduating (University of Wisconsin 1984, Political Science, Public Administration, Policy Analysis), I pursued an advanced degree at night while working for a large commercial carpentry firm. After a few years an opportunity to work with a timber framer whose roots were in restoration carpentry presented itself and, fresh on the heels of my Habitat / TFG experience, my fate was sealed.

Over the years I’ve had the great fortune to wear lots of different hats within the timber framing universe. I’ve worked with companies that transitioned from hand-cut to automated operations with the advent of the Hundegger. I’ve worked with start-ups that are hyper-local, I’ve done historic restoration, and I’ve worked for myself in partnership with my wife Ruth, who is a very talented designer. In truth I’ve done as much general contracting as I have hands-on timber framing, and that balance has always felt right to me. Of late I’ve formed a partnership with a local design/build carpentry firm. We are doing fun and challenging stuff for good folks, including lots of traditional and contemporary timber work. While I’m sore most mornings, a fringe benefit is my stock in Motrin is soaring.

The consistent theme throughout my career has been to identify how timber fits in to the entire build program: what are the client’s goals; what is the budget; how do we interface and harmonize with other elements of the build while being sensitive the vernacular mores, local conditions, and materials that (should) drive the design and the build. These values were driven home most tangibly while traveling North America in a quasi-journeyman tour, from 2004 - 2007, with family in tow. I met and worked with many TFG members during that time, learned lots, made lifetime friends, did some really interesting work, and saw firsthand how good—and not so good—design and planning affect the success of a build.

Within the TFG I’ve participated in, instructed for, and managed a number of TFG projects. I've presented at conferences, and chaired the Projects committee for several years. I’m a lifetime member. I believe in the tremendous value of TFG projects as an educational tool; as a fundraising mechanism; and as a PR opportunity. I have seen first-hand how projects can play a part in fostering healthy communities- among the participants as well as within the host communities. These elements should be weighed individually and in aggregate when evaluating prospective TFG involvement.

Outside the TFG I’ve been active in my adopted home community of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. I served on the board and was president of the 90 student independent school our boys attended. During that time I learned lots about not-for-profit board work and how it differs from work in the private sector. I’ve also served on our local Advisory Planning Commission, which advises government on zoning and development issues.

In my spare time I try to keep up with our sons Ansel and Rainer, who some of you may recall as participants in many kid’s workshops at conferences. I also spend a fair amount of time on the water racing sailboats or hiking with Ruth and our dog Copper.

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