Thursday, June 2, 2011

Forgoing the Timber Frame

Thank you to all who attended our church-wide meeting on May 1st. The Building Committee is grateful to have had continuous input from the congregation throughout the process of designing the new building, and it was especially heartwarming to have the unanimous support of the congregation for the continuation of the building process.

At the May 1st meeting, the congregation approved the design of the new church, as well as a budget of $800, 000. Doug McNally’s presentation touched on the fact that although Bruce Wood’s original plans called for a timber frame, the Building Committee could not guarantee that a timber frame would indeed be affordable within that budget. He also indicated that cost reduction efforts would continue, and that the ultimate framing decision would rest with the Building Committee.

After careful consideration, the Building Committee has come to the conclusion that the cost of a timber frame cannot be accommodated within the approved budget of $800,000.

Timber frame background

An early decision of the committee was to replicate the exterior appearance of the historic building. Although the project cannot be considered a “restoration,” the Building Committee unanimously agreed to pursue the timber frame option because we felt it would be appropriate to the style of the building.

We also understood and valued the intangible benefits of congregation and community involvement in the process of raising a timber frame. In addition, the results of the survey conducted by the Design Committee indicated that the congregation expressed a preference for timber frame construction.

We realized early in the process that the timber frame option would be more expensive, but expected the savings from donated timber and volunteer labor to substantially offset the cost. At that time, we were working with a $75,000 estimate for a complete timber frame, including all materials and labor.

We selected Kent Hicks to serve as a construction manager, in part because he was willing to work with a timber frame. Bruce Wood endorsed the timber frame concept and made drawings to coordinate the timber frame with other construction details. Subsequently, Jack Sobon was hired to design the frame.

Budget process

During the budget process we were challenged by the Finance Committee to build for $750,000, and furthermore, identify options that could bring the total down to $650,000. Our best attempt resulted in a plan that would cost $800,000, using the less-expensive estimate we’d received for a conventional frame rather than a timber frame. Based upon the completed timber frame design, proposals from two local timber framers ranged from $105,000 to 175,000. Using the lower figure, and assuming that all the timber would be donated still resulted in a $50,000 premium for the timber frame compared with conventional framing.

Subsequent decision

At our May 11 meeting, the committee unanimously concluded that, given the budget constraints (including a relatively small contingency of 4%), the $50,000 premium for the timber frame could not be justified. The committee feels that potential reductions in other budget items, through refined quotes, or in-kind donations should be used to lower the overall project cost or to install a higher-quality roof, rather than to subsidize a timber frame that will not be visible when the construction is complete.

An additional concern of the committee was that the schedule for the construction of the new church could be seriously compromised by uncertainty in the time needed for logging, transporting, and sawing donated timbers.


Every member of the Building Committee was personally in favor of the timber frame option from the beginning of the process. It’s difficult for us to accept that we won’t have the community-building experience of raising the frame together. But because of the cost premium, we felt that it was our fiscal responsibility to eliminate the timber frame option.

Opportunities to participate

The Committee would like to remind the congregation that there will be many other opportunities for people to participate in the building of our new church. There will be site clearing to be done, flooring and wainscoting to install, and clapboards to paint, just to name a few.

If you’re interested in donating your time to the project, please call or email Carleen Madigan: or 634-5588.

If you’re interested in serving on the fundraising committee, please contact Wil Hastings: or 584-4957.

Thank you for your continued forbearance as we enter this next phase of the construction process!

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