By Fern Gavelek

Timber homes with an island touch

LOOKING TO BUILD YOUR HOME SWEET HOME IN HAWAI’I? Look first to British Columbia, where the ethical harvest and regeneration of forest produces prime timber that wears well in the tropics.

The Canadian province is thick with large trees like Western Red Cedar and Douglas fir. Cedar, which is favored for its insect repellent qualities by the Hawai’i construction trade, also is prized for its warm tones, resistance to decay and pleasing fragrance.

Then look deeper into the heart of B.C.’s vast forests to Hamill Creek Timber Homes, a global provider of timber frame millwork and consulting. Since 1999, the award-winning firm has been providing building materials to more than a dozen architects and contractors in the Islands.

For prospective Hawai’i homebuilders who are conscious of carbon footprints and eco-friendly living, Hamill Creek offers not only beauty and function, but also a green building choice.

“We’re striving to support sustainable homes that are environmentally friendly,” says Dwight Smith, founder of Hamill Creek. “We’re FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, which ensures we can monitor and track our timber.” Smith says Hamill knows exactly where its wood comes from and can ensure it’s replaced with new plantings.

“Even though B.C. is one of the world’s largest suppliers of architectural-grade lumber, there is a very small volume to the allowable annual cut,” adds Smith. “It’s all calculated so the forests are sustainable for eternity.”

Timber frame home construction relies on a centuries-old craft that creates post-and-beam structures joined together using traditional wood joinery and pegs. The result is a beautifully crafted, fully visible, self-supporting framework. While timber framing lends itself to a light-filled, open and airy feel, it also can be customized to create a cozier atmosphere.

Hawai’i Island architect Mark de Reus has sourced Hamill Creek timbers for his designs of private residences and luxury clubhouses, including the Ka’upulehu Beach Club at Kuki’o, a private residential community in Kona. He describes the exposed timber structures of the project as “rejoinders to ancient Polynesian buildings and open-air sacred sites.”

“Timber frame structures exude an honest power and expression,” notes de Reus, whose work has been featured in Architectural Digest and on HGTV. He says the project’s open web wood trusses, cedar shingles and timber framing “not only evince a high level of craftsmanship, but also encapsulate the rugged charm of the surrounding environment.”

De Reus claims the benefits of working with Hamill are many. “Fundamentally, they are attentive to design and appreciate it, as they are designers and fabricators,” he explains. “We develop a design and Hamill works with the concept, and offers a productive and worthwhile review on how to best execute it.” He adds Hamill’s “deep and vast knowledge” of wood choices for design, value and long-term solutions for use in Hawai’i is invaluable. He also appreciates how the company custom fabricates products in its state-of-the-art facility.

Big Island residents Symon and Lisa Fern Metson traveled to the B.C. factory to visit Hamill Creek after submitting rough plans for their “dream home.” After seeing the operation and visiting with Smith, the couple had their plans adjusted to accommodate Hamill’s timber frame elements. Lisa couldn’t be happier with the results.

“I love the scent of the cedar and the fact that our house has an expansive and inviting feel,” shares Lisa. “It’s very different than other homes here and I like that.” She adds that the house is “so well-built and sound” that she often doesn’t notice if it’s windy or rainy outside.

Metson says it was an added plus that Hamill sent a supervisor to work with their builder for “the raising of the house.” She points out that the company offers a schedule of upcoming house raisings on its website, www.hamillcreek.com. “They will let you go watch one,” she adds. There are also photos of past projects showing the time-honored process that is reminiscent of colonial America when villagers would join forces to erect buildings.

The primary components Hamill Creek delivers to clients are the timber frame structure and wall and roof panels. It also offers flooring, staircases and other construction elements like specialty veneers, plus a variety of house plans.

Its sustainably sourced timber complements the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) goals of the U.S. Green Building Council, and the company is involved with the first LEED-certified subdivision in B.C. “We are planning and building everything in an environmentally sensitive way, and that lends itself to highly sustainable building practices,” details Smith.

The company advocates for LEED certification in all its projects; the process critiques everything from sourcing of materials to waste management. de Reus has found teaming up with Hamill in Hawai’i easily lends to a best practices approach for sustainability.