Log & Timber Frame Briefs July/August 2003

Upgrade Your Design Departments, Survey Says
Log and timber frame producers need to invest more money in software upgrades and training for their designers and system technicians to speed up the design process, if they are to capture more of the custom home building market nationwide.

That’s the conclusion of the Log and Timber Frame Industry Design Study and Software Survey, co-produced by J. Rouleau & Associates and Rob Pickett & Associates.

A full 90% of owner-built homes are custom designed to some extent, the report notes. Most companies take 12 weeks or more to compete the design phase (starting at contract acceptance, ending when production plans go to manufacturing). Most producers still use two-dimensional technology and most are struggling to maintain a design and engineering staff.

“The technology available today can produce a 3D model of a building that can be tied to databases of materials to rapidly produce accurate plans and material lists,â€? says Rob Pickett, co-author of the study. “The software for this effort, the training for technicians who can operate the systems and the availability of trained professionals are still evolving.â€?

Turning to outside designers during peak periods isn’t an option for many producers. “Outsourcing design work is difficult for systems-built housing producers because of the proprietary nature of the specifications and methods,â€? says Rouleau. However, it might be a solution to explore for some companies as they attempt to handle the design load during the height of the buying season. “The market is showing very little patience as the latest technology creates an environment that expects instant results. Customers who do not have the tolerance to wait for plans will go elsewhere to satisfy their goals.â€?

The industry turnaround on a project phase is about three weeks or 15 business days. Larger producers developing their design services respond in five days. “The lack of talented local labor is driving many companies to look for other options. Due to specialized software, proprietary methods and complicated products, the training curve for a new designer is quite long,â€? Pickett says. “Production CAD operators and most architects are frustrated with the inability to be creative and the need for speed. Although technical schools are producing new talent yearly, many building system manufacturers have difficulty maintaining a competent design staff. Some employees will move from one company to another in the industry, but due to geographic proximity, this is a limited issue.â€?

The full 61-page survey is available for $595. Details 603-643-5033 or email jerry.f.rouleau@valley.net.

Record Sales For Riverbend
Riverbend Timber Framing (Blissfield, MI) one of the nation’s leading timber frame manufacturers, recently announced its highest first quarter sales in the company’s 24-year history.

“Sales are nearly double what they were last year at this time,â€? reports Frank Baker, chief executive officer. “Our sales forecasts project very strong second and third quarters as well.â€?

While the economic downturn has impacted many industries adversely, new home sales remain strong being positively affected by the continued record low interest rates and investors desire to move their money from the stock market into something more substantial ­ including a timber frame home.

Riverbend has responded by increasing its sales force, production capacity and marketing. Baker notes that one of the ways Riverbend has expanded its reach into the housing market is by increased focus on direct sales. In the past six months, new to the Riverbend team are Regional Sales Manager Jack McClennen and Sales Representatives Jeff Baker, Rochester, NY, Gary Hayward, Washington Grove, MD, and Rick Rosenbloom, Atlanta, GA. Model homes can also have a significant impact on sales. Most of the 15 Riverbend representatives are currently working out of a model or in the process of designing and building one.

Riverbend is also expanding design capacity and capabilities with additional designers, upgrades and advanced training in CAD/CAM design software as well as advanced software programs to integrate with the automated production equipment. Details visit riverbendtf.com.

Lindal Adds Log, Launches Target/Graves Line
Lindal Cedar Homes (Seattle, WA) has added logs to its extensive line of conventionally framed, post and beam and solid cedar homes and sunrooms. The new log line consists of kiln dried western red cedar in a 10� Swedish cope in an 8� D shape log configuration. The company also offers matching log siding, solid cedar windows and cedar clad vinyl windows to complete the look and simplify construction.

The new log packages are a valuable addition to Lindal product line for those 200 builder/dealers who sell and build these homes worldwide, says Jeff Caden, vice president of marketing.

“This is a dramatically different log profile that will allow our independent dealers to compete in the mainstay of the log home industry,â€? Caden says.

Ken Whipple of Manitiou Custom Homes (Kalamazoo, MI) has already made an auspicious start with this product line, selling a client a 16,800 sq.ft. 10â€? Swedish cope log home package that is currently under construction in northern Indiana. “Having the new log profile made all the difference,â€? Whipple says.

Lindal has also entered a new marketing arena by partnering with retailing giant Target and renowned architect Michael Graves.

“Visitors to Target.com will see something new alongside the vacuum cleaners, bedding and strollers: kits that can be turned into studios, porches and even gazebos based on designs by architects from Mr. Graves’ studio,â€? reports the Wall Street Journal. “The kits will be marketed under the name Pavilions.â€?

The Pavilions can be built as freestanding structures or as additions to homes. Lindal will handle the sales and construction of the structures, which were designed by Graves. Details visit Lindal.com or Target.com

Sauter Timber Taps Watson
Sauter Timber (Rockwood, TN) recently appointed industry veteran Mitch Watson as their sales manager.

“Mitch’s experience in the wood industry is yet another addition to our team as we continue to grow and strive to meet our business goals. He is a valuable part of this team,â€? says Reinhard Sauter, president of Sauter Timber.

Prior to joining Sauter Timber, Watson owned his own company United Wood Building Specialists, and traveled the entire east coast restoring and maintaining wood structures. Watson’s more than 30 years experience in the wood building industry includes serving as corporate engineer of New England Log Homes, Inc. (Hamden, CT.) for 12 years, design director of Hearthstone Builders, Inc. (Dandridge, TN), product manager of The Original Lincoln Logs Ltd. (Chestertown, NY), executive director of The Log Home Guide Information Center (Cosby, TN), and assistant editor of Log Home Guide for Builders and Buyers (Cosby, TN). At New England Log Homes Inc. he was the company representative to the National Association of Home Manufacturers (NAHM) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and served for many years on the association’s technical committee.

Sauter Timber is a specialty company specializing in the custom precut
ting of logs and timbers used by the wood building industry. Precutting of heavy timber roof and floor systems as well as precut timber stair packages are just some of their services. Details visit
www.Sauter-Timber.com or call 877-800-7663.

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