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Green Oak Frames

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Maintenance free, Green Oak structures, age with grace; rich ochres turn to honey coloured tones and warm silvery hues

Green Oak Frames and trusses are a development in construction that originated in the medieval period and was used extensively in the building of the great cathedrals. York minster and St. George’s chapel in Windsor are fine examples of the use of green oak. Those same techniques employed by Early English and Tudor builders are used today to create a unique fusion of ancient and modern styles.

Such a fusion of styles is evident in the examples below. The first steps, however, are taken not on site but in the workshop. Just like our forebears in the sixteenth century the frames are constructed in our  workshop, dissembled, transported to the site where they are re-constructed and erected into place.

A typical King truss prior to final fitting

A typical King truss prior to final fitting

 

Below is the upper section to a ‘garden room’ being assembled in our Lutterworth workshop.

 

The frames are assembled in our Lutterworth workshop

The frames are assembled in our Lutterworth workshop

 

 

Once on site progress is very rapid indeed.

 

The erected frame awaiting its roof and glazing

The erected frame awaiting its roof and glazing

 

The construction is now nearing completion and the true versatility of this traditional form of building becomes apparent. 

It is, perhaps, the coming together of tradition and modernity which is most stark. Great sheets of glass replace wattle-and-daub or even brick as an infill between the timbers allowing light to flood into the space. It is this more than anything else which makes these constructions so appealing; the ability of the timbers to span and create great spaces and the addition of natural light which conveys a sense of weightless delicacy to those same timbers. 

 

The garden room is nearing completion

The garden room is nearing completion

 

 

The roof is on, glazing installed, a few finishing touches and all that's left to do is to clear the site.

The roof is on, glazing installed, a few finishing touches and all that’s left to do is to clear the site.

 

 

 

Additions to a typical red brick and slate roofed cottage. 

Below is an example of a simple design achieving a robust, functional, yet beautifully stylish, canopy to what might otherwise be an uninspiring brick extension.

The interior of the storm canopy

The interior of the storm canopy

 

 

Simplicity is key to green oak structures

Simplicity is key to green oak structures

 

Just above the storm porch a trapezoidal skylight adds another, pleasing, dimension to what would ordinarily have been a pretty dull room.

 

Constructed into a common flat roof this sky light lends a sense of light to the room below.

Constructed into a common flat roof this sky light lends a sense of light to the room below.

 

Here is the view of the skylight from the interior. Not many years ago such large glass sections would have been very inefficient as far as energy retention was concerned. Now large expanses of glass can be used without the loss of heat often associated with it in the past.

The skylight from below.

The skylight from below.

 

 

Another example of oak's functionality in our modern age

Another example of oak’s functionality in our modern age

This newly completed single story extension cannot be said to be quaint or even ‘Olde Worlde’ simple because the king truss and purlin is exposed.

Instead,we see a perfectly acceptable fusion of styles. The purlin and trusses add great strength to the room’s design and compliment the brickwork and the lime mortar used in pointing it.

 

 

 

The symmetry of these Queen trusses produces incredible strength

The symmetry of these Queen trusses produces incredible strength

The Queen trusses above were recently installed, not in a barn but in a milking parlour conversion. We were all very proud of these. Handmade by Jack and Daz, they are so pleasing to look at.

See our blog ‘Snark Bottom Farm.’

Wall posts being dismantled for transportation to the site

Wall posts being dismantled in our Lutterworth workshop ready for transportation

 

 

The timber’s fragrance permeates a building for years to come and as oak ages its colour subtly changes from a warm buff to a deep honey coloured ochre.

 

 

 

 

We have seen how the versatility of  green oak transcends a significant period in both time and the development of the construction industry; its fusion with modern industrial materials is an exciting combination for our age and the future will no doubt present many more unusual associations.

Such developments, pleasing as they are, are always grounded in functionality. Tradition is often calling for the ancient skills relating to the working of wood and knowledge of its attributes as a material, so that old buildings may be renovated and rejuvenated for future generations.

Sullivan Building and Restoration’s latest project is the renovation of an old barn. Our aim is give the building a new lease of life and to convert it from little more than a shed used only for storage.

The building was poorly and  unsympathetically maintained during the 1960’s with one aspect being rebuilt in ordinary ‘common’ brick and the addition of several buttresses, both to the exterior and interior of the building. It’s likely that only one aspect and the roof are original to the structure. Many of the interior structures were also mackled together in what appeared to be makeshift fashion which was very unsatisfactory for the long term integrity of the building as a structure.

Our first concern was to ensure that the building had structural integrity and that meant transmitting the weight of the roof downwards in a way that prevented the walls from spreading outwards. Not surprisingly we turned to green oak to provide the solution.

The design for the trusses was taken from an old chapel in Suffolk and there was a sense that it was, perhaps, a little grandiose for the impoverished barn. However, once the trusses began to be installed all agreed that rather than being decadent they had a strong beauty about them and the barn was suddenly elevated to a status beyond store shed.

 

The boys constructing the first of the queen trusses in the afternoon sunshine

The boys constructing the first of the queen trusses in the afternoon sunshine

   

The first Truss is made and awaiting installation.

 

The sweeping curves of the truss adds a very lyrical sense to what is in effect a functional support

The sweeping curves of the truss adds a very lyrical sense to what is in effect a functional support

 

Below is a view of the barn interior showing several of the newly installed trusses.

The beauty of the curves is now evident.

The beauty of the curves is now evident in the visual progression of the trusses down through the length of the building.

 

The project still has a long way to go until it is complete. Nonetheless, the installation of the trusses was a major obstacle overcome. Everything else will be a breeze to install from now on.

Modern machinery greatly reduces the costs involved in the production of items of joinery such as the oak trusses and frames featured here. The skills and knowledge, however, are similar to those of the joiner of five hundred years ago. All our team are familiar with working timber, such as oak, by hand, with a mallet and chisel. Their understanding of the nature of the materials with which they work is derived from those sixteenth-century craftsmen knew the methods and skills required to build for the future and their influence and knowledge is evident in their legacy. 

Knowledge and skill is passed down from one generation to the other. It might not, therefore, be a surprise to know that age is a significant element to our team. Daz is the old boy, then comes Jack and his brother Kit; Harry, Tyler and Joe are the eager new talents. Their skills and talents can be seen in the structures they make and none is possible without team work.

 

From left to right: Joe, Daz, Kit, Tyler, Harry and behind the camera, Jack.

From left to right: Joe, Daz, Kit, Tyler, Harry and behind the camera, Jack.

 

Requiring little or no maintenance the resulting constructions are spacial delights and a compliment to an age concerned with environmental issues.

If you have an oak structure in mind Sullivan Building and Restoration would love to hear from you.