New Energy Works unveils state-of-the-art hybrid construction

FARMINGTON — Owners and employees of New Energy Works owe a lot to the heavy winter snowfall of 2015.

Had it not caused the heartbreaking collapse of their 15,000-square-foot wood-working warehouse in Shortsville, they might not have designed and built New York state’s first complete cross laminated timber (CLT) building at the company’s main campus in Farmington.

Tomorrowland is what employees of the 30-year-old company call the new 21,000-square-foot structure, a rich and aromatic hybrid of mass timber, heavy timber and CLTs.

Industry experts got a closer look Friday as the company hosted Building Energy Pro Tours, a program of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. They poked into corners, handled new materials and inspected joinery and hardware.

A master craftsman’s paradise, the timber frame mega-structure is a true hidden gem, tucked behind Comfort Inn and Suites on Route 96. It will house New Energy Works’ fine woodworking division, NEWwoodworks, and offer storage and shipping space for New Energy Works’ sister company, Pioneer Millworks.

Architect Ty Allen described the building’s design process as being a “special opportunity” to test-drive CLT construction, which he and many believe will be the environmentally friendly wave of the future for commercial and residential projects.

But what is CLT, exactly? It’s like plywood on steroids.

They’re large wooden panels, typically consisting of three, five, or seven layers of 2-inch thick dimensional lumber, oriented at right angles, and glued together. The panels average 8 feet tall and 38 feet long.

The result is a massive sheet of wood, an economically and environmentally conscious alternative to steel and concrete construction, and a material that’s new to the U.S. building industry, Allen said.

“It goes up fast,” he said. The building, started in late January in “the dead of winter,” was built from 38-foot panels that came from a company in Austria. New Energy Works passed over several other producers in the U.S. and Canada because “the carbon footprint was less to ship over water as opposed to land.”

And to the delight of woodworkers and timberframers far and wide, the trunk of a 60-year-old broadleaf maple, in its original form and able to support up to 30,000 pounds, helps to hold up the building’s massive roof. Aptly named Atlas, the tree promises to do a better job than the post-World War II structure in Shortsville ever could.

Also featured in the fine design of the project is Steico wood fiber insulation, an eco-friendly alternative to foam-based insulation.

The building is clad with Pioneer Millworks’ Shou Sugi Ban Shallow Char and Color Char larch panels. The front and rear porch roofs are 30,000 pounds each, constructed of peg and nail laminated timbers from reclaimed wood. The Pioneer Mills room features two remarkable bowstring trusses as both design and structural elements.

On hand Friday were representatives from KLH, the Austria-based CLT manufacturer, Marvin Windows and Global Wholesale Supply, manufacturers of Steico Wood Fiber Insulation.

Allen said employees will start moving in over the next couple of weeks, with a formal ribbon cutting to follow.

“It’s a special building made with wood for people who make things of wood,” said Allen. Individual and group tours are always welcome.

“We want to welcome the community,” said Allen. “We’ve had a good long-term relationship with the town, and we’re hoping that more people understand what we do and that we’re here, and care more about great buildings.”

New Energy Works is at 1180 Commercial Drive in Farmington, behind the Comfort Inn on Route 96. The company designs and builds environmentally responsible timber frames across the U.S. from facilities in New York and Oregon. It specializes in the design, engineering, manufacturing and building of timber frame structures, enclosure systems, fine woodworking and recycled and sustainable wood products. New Energy Works has LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional) staff members, is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, and is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified.