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Incorporating Natural Light Within Your Home

Natural light is a very important component in your new home design.  There are numerous ways you can utilize specific techniques to take advantage of the sun, but also keep excessive sunlight out.  Here are a few examples:


Building orientation:

This is probably the most important factor in deciding how your home will react to its natural surroundings and thus daylighting conditions. I have included several discussions about this in some of my previous blogs, so feel free to refer to my articles that address designing for specific climates.  I will point out though that the most important thing to remember is orienting your building to collect sunlight when needed at specific times of the year and then reflecting the sun during the other seasons.


Window openings:

When thinking about daylighting, this is probably the first thing that comes to your mind. Windows have two essential functions in a building: daylight admittance and view allowance to its occupants. The size and location of windows are key to both of these functions.  As a general rule, the higher the window head height, the deeper into the space the daylight can travel.  However, the window still needs to be low enough for its occupants to see out.  Another thing to consider is that too much sunlight can make the interior space uncomfortable, so there’s definitely a balance here and it depends on orientation, climate, window size and location.



Skylights can be incorporated into a home to admit daylight in from above. Skylights can be either passive or active. Most skylights are passive which allows sunlight to penetrate a diffusing material through an opening in the roof.  By contrast, an active system utilizes mirrors to capture the sun and channels the sunlight down into the skylight well to increase the performance of the skylight.


Tubular daylight devices:

This is another type of toplighting device. They use a highly reflective film on an interior surface of a tube to channel light from a lens on the roof to a lens at the ceiling plane.

These tubes tend to be much smaller than skylights, but still deliver sufficient daylighting benefits.


Daylight redirection devices:

These devices take incoming direct sunlight and redirect it, usually into the ceiling of a space. They serve two functions, glare control and daylight penetration further into the space.  They usually take on one of two forms: a large horizontal element (a light shelf) or a louvered system.  


Building Design Techniques:

By designing a building in specific ways, you are able to direct sunlight.  For example, sloping an interior ceiling brings more light into a space.  Also, designing a relatively narrow home allows more sunlight to enter the space.  There are many other techniques, but these are just a few to consider.


So, when you are working on the design of your new home, be sure to consider its daylighting needs from the very beginning. The sooner you identify and incorporate what specific orientations and techniques you desire, the better home you will have in the end.

Designing your Home for the Climate you are Building in

Designing for Specific Climates



Did you know that each specific climate warrants different design details than others?  A home located in the Arizona desert calls for contrasting design characteristics from one located in the Rocky Mountains or one that is sited on the ocean’s coast.  Below is a short list of distinctive design characteristics for each broad climate type that we typically find in North America.


Hot arid climates:


In hot arid zones, the main objective is to reduce uncomfortable conditions created by the extremes of heat and dryness. Usually in this climate there are great variations between day and night conditions. It is important to provide maximum shading of direct solar radiation during the day.  Usually these conditions can be controlled easier with compact designs that incorporate shade and controllable ventilation.


Warm humid zones:


This climate is characterized by high rainfall and high humidity.  The temperature differences are minimal and winds are typically light.  The most important design considerations involve providing maximum ventilation by designing large openings. Also, providing maximum shading of direct solar radiation is important. Generous shading devices can assist with this.  Vegetation can also be used to provide shade.


Temperate conditions:


A temperate climate typically includes a hot and dry season followed by a wet and warm season and then winter conditions.  This makes it a challenging climate to design in.  The goal is to keep a balance between conflicting requirements.  In the winter, you need to seek solar radiation gain and then provide shading in the summer.  Also, you need to provide wind protection in the winter and proper ventilation in the summer.  Some of these requirements can be satisfied by providing semi-compact forms and an orientation to benefit from the winter sun.


Alpine zones:


The alpine climate is characterized by low humidity and high temperature ranges.  There typically are cold winters, warm summers and highly variable spring and autumn conditions.  Good access to sunlight is important, therefore maximizing southern exposure is key. Stretching a building out in the east/west direction helps with both sun exposure and essential ventilation which is imperative in the summer months.


This is just a preview of a few of the design challenges that you may encounter with these specific climate types.  For my next few blogs, I will focus on each climate separately and discuss specifically what we can do to design buildings smarter and more environmentally friendly for the setting we each live in.  Stay tuned….

Roof Types and the importance within Design

Architectural Roof Types


We all know that roofs are an integral part of a house and probably one of the most important elements.  Roofs keep us dry from the rain and snow, shade us from the sweltering sun and block us from the unyielding wind.  Usually roof forms are dictated by technical, economic and aesthetic considerations. Did you know that there are more than a dozen basic roof types and even more combinations of those?  I’m just going to touch on a few of the more popular basic forms for homes:


Flat:  Flat roofs are just that, flat.  They are typically used where the climate is arid and drainage is of secondary importance. They are a very popular roof type for warehouses, commercial spaces, office buildings and often residential structures.


Shed:  This is the first category of many sloped roof types that I will be discussing. The shed, sometimes referred to as “lean to” or “mono-pitched” contains only one pitch.  You can think of it as a flat roof that has been tilted slightly.  It is often used on just a portion of a home.  The shed roof is usually used in combination with other roof forms to create a home with interesting rooflines.



Gable:  A roof with two slopes that form an “A” or triangle is called a gable roof. This type of roof is very common on North American homes.  The gable roof can contain roof pitches that are very shallow to ones that are extremely steep.  Also, numerous gable roofs can be placed together at perpendicular angles to cover a home with many wings.



Clerestory:  A clerestory roof is one that combines both a gable and shed roof.  A clerestory usually contains a higher gable roof that sits atop a short wall with a shed roof below.  This allows for windows to be placed within the short wall for light within the interior of a large space.


Hip:  A roof that starts with a gable shape but has a sloped end instead of a vertical wall is called a hipped roof.  The hipped roof slopes upward from all four sides of a structure, having no vertical ends. This type of roof is very common in residential designs.


Gambrel:  A gambrel roof is a type of gable roof with two slopes on each side, the upper being less steep than the lower. This roof form is very common in barn designs.


Mansard: This type of roof is a hipped gambrel roof, thus having two slopes on every side. It can provide extra attic space or other rooms without having to build an entire additional floor.


Pyramid: As the name suggests, this type of roof is shaped like a pyramid.  This kind of roof is usually on a small portion of a house or on small structures such as a garage or pool house.



So there you have it, the basic roof types of residential construction.  To design a visually stimulating house, a few different roof types may be used together or several of the same forms may be utilized in different ways.  This creates a home that uniquely responds to both its interior function and its exterior individuality.



Introducing our new Architectural Blog


We are very excited to introduce to you a new blog for Canadian Timberframes “It’s in the Detail”. Alison Noble of Blue Sky Architecutre will blog for us, about hot topics or common architectural questions that are of interest to clients.


So, if you have any ideas or suggestions, email us at sales@canadiantimberframes.com with the subject line being: Architectural Blog ideas.


We wanted to give everyone a little background on Allison before her blogs start, so we thought an interview was the best way to introduce you to her.


Interview with Alison Noble - March 9, 2015

By Jeff Bowes, President & Partner, Canadian Timberframes

CTF: Alison, tell me about how you got interested in architecture?

AN: In high school, I really became interested in architecture after taking a road trip through the Colorado mountains and looking at all of the beautiful rustic mountain homes.  So, I decided to take a drafting class at my high school to see if this was something I wanted to pursue in college.  The class really piqued my interest in drawing and design, so I decided that enrolling in an architectural program at college was the way to go.

CTF: Tell our readers about your education.

AN: I attended Kansas State University's 5 year Bachelor of Architecture program.  While at Kansas State, I studied in Tuscany, Italy for a semester.  I had an amazing time learning about Roman architecture and getting to experience it first hand!

CTF: How did you get started in the Biz?

AN: My first architecture job out of college was for a firm that designed schools in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  After a year of monotonous institutional work, I moved to the mountains of Colorado to work at a firm in Breckenridge that designed custom homes and small commercial projects.  During my 4 years in Breckenridge, I decided that designing custom homes was really my passion.  As a result, I decided to begin my own architectural firm designing what I really loved.  I have had my own business now for almost 10 years.

CTF: What drives you in life? What are your passions?

AN: I really enjoy designing custom homes because houses are something people come back to everyday.  It is their comfort and their security.  I enjoy helping clients design a place that is part of their everyday life and design it to be efficient for them yet beautiful at the same time.

CTF: Every architect has a style, what is yours?

AN: Living in the Colorado mountains has really influenced my style.  Having the beautiful mountains surrounding me as well as historic cabins and mines has shaped my designs.  I love creating rustic homes that blend seamlessly into their surroundings.  However, I have designed homes in many locations across both the United States and Canada and each site is unique.  I enjoy taking each individual setting (whether it be a lake view or a prairie) and generating something amazing that complements the surroundings as well as the client's wishes.

CTF: Tell us about some of the past projects you have been involved in.

AN: One of my favorite projects that I have designed has to be a large home in Collingwood, Ontario.  I worked with CTF on this home to create an amazing hill top retreat for the client.  The entire home is constructed of a gorgeous timber frame structure that encompasses several bedrooms, a large recreation room and an indoor pool structure.  The timbers were upsized to match the scale of the house and were given a rustic look to complement the feel of the home.

Another project I really enjoyed creating is located in Nuttal Ridge, BC on the Pacific coast.  This is a perfect example of fitting a home into its native landscape while taking advantage of the numerous surrounding views.  Along with CTF, we designed a home for the client that complements their relaxed cottage lifestyle.

CTF: Alison, what do you love most about your job? 

AN:  I enjoy both the creative and technical aspects of my profession.  However, I really enjoy the creative side.  I love inventing spaces that inspire the way people live using both design and light.  I also really like the problem solving and creating a layout that works best for a particular lifestyle.  Finally, I love seeing the way people react when they see the spaces for the very first time that I designed for them.  It's very rewarding! 

In Closing:

Alison, we at Canadian Timberframes, wanted to thank-you upfront for your time & expertise that you are lending to us and our readers. We are very excited to offer this ongoing blog. Over time, we would like to be able to add in to our website a comments function so this can become a more interactive experience for all.


We look forward to your first blog next week: Why Use an Architect? And What is the Value in It?


With sincerest thanks,

Jeff Bowes

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