Soaring Timber Frame House

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When we reminisce about our past work, this timber frame house in the Horseshoe Valley makes us smile more than most.

Tucked away in the Horseshoe Valley, this gorgeous yet sturdily-built timber frame house is home to wonderful people who began as clients and finished as friends.  It is not only the beautiful outcome of the work, it is the relationships forged in the process that make us proud.

After all, when building a new house, there is much that could tax any relationship – especially the builder-client relationship. Probably it is riskier still with the myriad undefined details always present in custom construction. Even more true when adding alternative and natural building materials such as timber framing, straw bale, earthen floors and natural plasters to the mix. And then the owner wishes to work alongside the builder and even complete some items on their own? In the wrong hands, this combination could be a costly disaster. Being well versed in all of these challenges, we welcomed the opportunity, accepted the trust imparted in us – and now, cherish the outcome.

Collaboration + Experience = Savings

The owners began with a strong sense of what they wanted, visually, environmentally and in terms of efficiency. They recruited the assistance of a friend who delivered on these desires with an expert concept timber frame house design. At this stage, Evolve was invited to participate in tweaking and fleshing out the construction details. This was critical to our being able to reduce construction costs and ensure quality finishes of difficult details not yet considered in the plans. As an example, Evolve brought to the table a timber framing crew with whom we collaborated on details that reduced the installed cost by nearly $10,000! And by no means did this reduce the grace and visual impact of the final work; when the owners first saw the completed timber frame they wept, so taken they were with the natural beauty and craftsmanship.

Even with the best of intentions, some things just don’t work out as intended. Such was the case with the multi-component heating system. The owners sought a system that could combine inputs from a heat exchanger on a masonry oven, two solar hot water collectors and a high efficiency, condensing boiler. These sources were in turn intended to feed all domestic hot water requirements as well as in-floor radiant heating on two storeys. We had overseen similar arrangements at past sites, though nothing that involved three different heat sources and two different heat demands, all potentially operating at the same time. It turned out to be a tougher request than our experience had led us to expect. After two long heating seasons we finally can say that all is working as intended; no small part due to the owners for their enduring patience.

For us, this reaffirmed two observations:

1. There is no substitute for experience; even with our many past projects and skilled staff we continue to learn.  We can’t imagine the risks an owner might take on with a less experienced team.

2. People will show incredible understanding when you genuinely work to make things right. When we err, we have the will and capacity to always take corrective action.

In the end, we believe that both people and project were an ideal match for one another. Our lasting friendships and the endurance of this new home are testimony to everyone’s successful part in making this true.

The Good Stuff:


  • Traditional mortice and tenon oak timber frame house
  • Site-harvested cedar porch posts
  • Site-harvested and locally milled cedar porch decking
  • Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) construction over part of the roof
  • Insulating Concrete Form (ICF) construction for the foundation
  • Straw bale exterior walls
  • Sustainably harvested (FSC) cedar shake cladding
  • Steel roofing
  • Recycled polyurethane insulation under basement slab

Heat, Hot Water and Electricity

  • Grid inter-tied PV system
  • Solar thermal collectors, high efficiency condensing propane boiler
  • Centrally located wood burning masonry heater complete with bread oven
  • In-floor radiant heat distribution complete with outdoor reset control


  • Rainwater Harvesting System captures runoff from all roof surfaces in a 27,000 litre buried cistern.  Currently used for toilet flushing but specially plumbed to allow existing household fixtures to be connected in the future


  • Adobe floor in the wine cellar to contribute to conditioning of air temperature and humidity
  • Reclaimed barn-board flooring
  • Concrete flooring complete with integral colouring and embossed leaves from found on site by owners
  • Vegetable based concrete floor finishes

Trim and Finishes

  • Custom milled baseboards and casing, finished in natural oils
  • Sustainably harvested (FSC) pine interior doors
  • Custom milled cherry wood main entry door
  • Custom milled wood window sills
  • Custom finished window sills using stones found by the owners on a hiking trip
  • Earthen plaster reliefs formed from a reverse mold made from a site oak tree and finished with artists paints
  • Natural mineral based paints on exterior walls
  • Recycled latex paint on interior walls
  • Natural oils on exposed interior and exterior wood