Construction (and operation of buildings) has a dirty secret: together they account for nearly half of the U.S. fossil fuel emissions. The good news is that there is a vast amount of room for improvement, and building with mass timber can be part of the solution.
Maybe the world of cheap and abundant energy is gradually coming to an end. Maybe it isn’t. But every extra kilowatt-hour from the sun fed into the grid is one fewer created by burning coal or natural gas.
At Carolina Timberworks, we’re passionate about the idea that changes in how we build can be a major part of the solution to climate change, including our commitment to re-using salvaged timber in our timber frame structures. And one of our customers recently commented: “So, now you’re building a product from a renewable resource, with renewable energy. Well done.”
Where Google Fiber chose to put their Charlotte office was a surprise: they re-imagined the typical high-tech office space by repurposing a more than 100-year-old historic post and beam building in an incredible adaptive reuse project. Carolina Timberworks was proud to partner with Google to restore the historic reclaimed beams.
What is Adaptive Reuse?
Adaptive reuse is the process of repurposing an existing building for new functions while maintaining the historical significance of the building. For example, converting an old printing facility into a community center or transforming an old roller rink into a theater.
Or in this case, turning the Philip Carey Building into Charlotte’s Google Fiber office.
Adopting an adaptive reuse model can preserve and rejuvenate historic buildings. This approach can also promote sustainability, slow urban sprawl, and encourage cultural development in urban areas.
Why Sustainability Matters
After demolishing an existing building, new construction requires a hefty amount of highly embodied resources (such as steel and aluminum) as well as new materials that produce large amounts of carbon emissions.
Adaptive reuse is different. It recycles highly embodied resources and prolongs the building’s life. When a building lives longer, it protects from the high carbon footprint of demolition waste—not to mention construction waste.
How Reuse Honors a Building’s Heritage
The benefits of adaptive reuse go beyond sustainability alone. This method also honors a building’s heritage by conserving and maintaining the architecture and history. For example, an old bank turned into an office center may maintain its original vaults.
Conservation through adaptive reuse can save many historic buildings from extensive modifications or even demolition. At the same time, this approach may also encourage related cultural development—which is something we can all enjoy.
Key Challenges of Adaptive Reuse
Of course, adaptive reuse isn’t without challenges. Lead paint, mold, and asbestos often surface in older buildings. Structural deterioration can also pose a safety concern. In many instances, building codes and regulations can be challenging to meet due to outdated and incompatible materials.
Despite these barriers, the benefits of adaptive reuse outweigh the possible drawbacks. We find that it’s important to focus on the benefits rather than the challenges in order to improve sustainability and preserve the historical significance of these buildings.
How Does Carolina Timberworks Support Sustainability?
Wood is one of the very few renewable sources on earth. It’s also biodegradable and recyclable and it’s a carbon sink—meaning it stores more carbon than it releases. But that doesn’t mean we support the practice of chopping down fast-growing trees and turning them into inexpensive 2x4s.
Instead, we believe that a functional and delightful timber frame is best realized with magnificent, mature trees. We honor trees that have produced oxygen and stored carbon for decades by turning them into structures that can endure for a century or more.
We’re no strangers to reclaimed wood either. Did you know that some post and beam homes using recycled wood can be constructed without cutting down a single tree? Dedicated to sustainability, Carolina Timberworks strives to construct homes that will last for generations. After all, we find that buildings that are well-loved are also well-maintained.
Charlotte’s Google Fiber Building Project
Google understands its footprint on the environment, an issue that’s always on our minds here at Carolina Timberworks. Did you know that renovating an old building like this releases 50 to 75 percent less carbon than building a new one from the ground up? We’re all for sustainable timber framing!
Above all, Google wanted our team to develop an office space worthy of Google Fiber’s mission to deliver high-speed internet to Charlotte and beyond. Google prioritizes speed and ambition – and they expected the same from our team. Critical deadlines? Not a problem: we do what we say we’re going to do when we say we’re going to do it.
Of course, our reliability wasn’t the only reason Google contracted Carolina Timberworks for the Fiber project. Our experience using reclaimed wood for structural timber framing sealed the deal.
After all, the average timber frame company doesn’t work with reclaimed wood at all. Those that do usually focus on decorative timber framing due to the challenges of structural timber framing with reclaimed wood.
One wrong move can waste a lot of materials and labor, setting back a project significantly. Our team’s skill, experience, and background in structural timber framing ensured that we could deliver this project on time for Google.
After meeting with the general contractor (Pepper Construction Company) and the owner’s rep, they looked at each other and said, “I think we’ve found our timber frame company.” We couldn’t agree more, and we were happy to partner with Lineberry Architectural Group, which produced the drawings.
Carolina Timberworks is proud to add the Google Fiber Charlotte building to our growing portfolio of once-in-a-lifetime projects we’ve worked on across the United States. Our team’s strong background in structural timber framing leads to incredible adaptive reuse projects, as proven by being chosen by Google to lead the Fiber project.
We rise to the task when other timber framing companies skimp on using reclaimed wood. And we strive to promote sustainability in timber framing — despite the many challenges.
Read More: Is Timber Framing Sustainable?
When we built a new shop, we set out to up our game. And then we said to ourselves, let’s not just up our game, let’s go for best in class.
Answering the question everybody is afraid to ask: “What the hell is a timber frame, anyway?”
No, they won’t let you live there.
This video generated lots of interest and questions in online discussions. Kaitlin Mitton did a great job answering the most-asked questions on Horse Collaborative (now Horse Network):
- This is in Wellington, Florida.
- It is the home barn of a professional polo team.
- Yes there is a state-of-the-art sprinkler system and fire extinguishers.
- Polo players don’t need arenas to ride in.
- These horses are happy, healthy, and very well loved.
- They also host tournaments and polo matches as well as entertain at this facility.
- This facility is owned by a very well respected and charitable equestrian family in the polo and hunter jumper world.
Barn Specifications for the Largest Horse Barn in the US:
- Total square footage under the roof of the entire building: 78,000 sqft
- Total square footage of horse barn area: 62,267 sqft
- 130 stalls
- 10 tack rooms
- Custom Aquatrainer Equestrian aquatic rehab treadmill and cold soak therapy area
- Equine Veterinarian Area
- Two commercial-grade laundry rooms
- Two Feed Storage Rooms
- Four Interior Wash/Tack Stalls
- Eight exterior wash stalls (6 to 8 horse capacity in each)
- 4,800 sqft Central Courtyard with Banyan trees
- Eastern White Pine Timber Frame Trusses, Hand-Hewn by Adze
Private Owner’s Suite
Guest and entertaining Areas
Argentine Asado Grilling Area
Three Sided Fireplace
Three bedroom “Pro’s” Living Quarters
1,300 sqft gym with physical therapy room
Use: Equestrian center for a professional polo team
Location: Wellington, Florida
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