About

For more than 30 years, Tedd Benson has been building the finest homes in the united states. He spearheaded the timber frame revival of the 80s and 90s, publishing three books on the process of timber framing, as well as teaching dozens of classes on timber frame construction.

After the turn of the century, Tedd turned his attention to making more energy-efficient homes. With his typical attention to detail, he (and his associates at Bensonwood Homes) designed new roof, wall, and floor systems that make homes easier to construct, maintain, and update over time.

This blog is where Tedd will share his insights into the craft and business of home building.

21 thoughts on “About

  1. Tedd,
    Where did your posts from last year go? I regularly check in on your blog and would be bummed if they were lost. There are good words of wisdom to reflect back on! Glad you’re up and running again!

    1. We’re working on getting everything back. After getting hacked (!), we’ve moved to a new, more secure platform. If you watch over the next day or two, you’ll see everything back in place.

  2. Tedd, how’s it going? Haven’t seen you in a while. We went to Lincoln Elementary, and North Junior High together, then to Colo State. I’ve been in Castle Rock, CO for 34 years. Might retire in 10 or 20 years…Take care.

  3. Hi Ted……I want you to build me a lakehouse and give me a job. Sounds crazy, but I have spent the last 3 hours reading all about your company and watching your videos. You have ignighted a passion I didn’t even know I had. I stumbled across you because I was researching lake property and housing. All my life I have just wanted a trailer on a lake. Not fancy, just a trailer where I can lay my head at night and take my 4 children to teach all about care free lake living. I don’t want a trailer anymore…I want one of your homes! As I watched one of your videos I began crying because you remind me so much of my father who just passed away in March of this year. You don’t resemble him in looks but in character. He started his own mechanical engineering company and incorporated the same values and passion that emitted from you in just about every video I saw or blog I read. I want to know more about your industry, learn more and even help in some way to promote your vision because I believe you. I love the concept of seperating the components of a home from long term to short term or “dumb” as you say. I can’t tell you how I have stuggled as a home owner with nagging electrical or cable issues due to dry wall, etc. My upstairs shower began leaking into my kitchen pantry two months ago, but I haven’t called a plumber yet because I know it will be expensive and we have two other bathrooms. Isn’t that sad! I noticed you have several women working in the field. WOW! What an inspiration to me. I think, if you don’t already have women, moms on board to help market your vision of home building for the future, you need to get us onboard! I want to sign up! Please contact me if I haven’t scared you off! I would love to talk with you.

  4. Hi Tedd,

    I’m working with a young farmer to develop a sustainable agriculture operation on our 5th generation hard scrabble farm in northern PA. If you check out the website you will see what we’re up to. We need to build another barn to go with the old post and beam on that is nearly 200 years old. We are looking for existing drawings and specs for a P&B barn about 48x36x30 high or there abouts that we can use to get quotes on from several Amish builders who are the only type of builders that we can afford. The only ones I know of from ag extension offices are either way out of date or not of P&B design. We just need a simple economical P&B barn design for a working farm.
    Any possible sources that you can suggest would be greatly appreciated.

    John McClelland

  5. Tedd,
    I am just re-aquainting myself with the MIT House_n project and your own proprietary efforts. I like the modularity of designs and although I am generally a big SIP fan am also really getting your wall panel systems. They seem like a much more earth and labor friendly product while maintaining the modularity of SIP’s. I’ll continue to follow with interest.
    Are any elements of these projects truly Open Source? By this I mean are any of the ideas freely transferable? Conversely, are there any avenues whereby I can contribute?
    I am working on a modular lightweight concrete building system in answer to needs we have as a Design/Build contractor in Philadelphia, PA. It will use a lot of DOW products (Thermomass and EPS) and be heavily influenced by BIM technology and House_n like principles. Is there anybody working on these lines? Our goal is to have a wall/roof panel that is truly modular (ie, finished inside and out, lightweight, modular MEP, integrated insulation.) and of a price point that the average buyer can afford. Any interest?

    Your reply is appreciated,

    JOSH

  6. I’m a real estate broker and have a property listed with a large barn. The owners would like to dismantle and sell the large barn beams – would you be interested in buying large beams? I actually sold one of your earlier post and beam homes in Waterville Valley. The new owners are still enjoying it.
    Regards,
    Terry

  7. ■”We can build homes that are durable and flexible enough to pass from generation to generation for centuries, sometimes many centuries”

    I am especialy interested in this particular value of yours, focused on residential construction. However, I can find little or nothing written on the subject. There is of course, “How Bulidings Learn” by Stewart Brand, and I found an essay by Charles Thomsen.

    Are you aware of anyone writing and/or working on this specific concept? I have a lot of ideas that I would like to be able to discuss with others. Your new concepts are heading in the right direction since both the structure and the interstitial spaces allow for maximum adaptability. What about the longevity of exterior finishes, protection from the elements, and other considerations? Your assisyance would be appreciated.
    Mike

    1. Well, you’re absolutely right that there’s been very little written about strategies to ensure building durability. Stewart Brand’s book made the best case for an understanding that we need to be more deliberate and rational in building design and engineering if buildings are truly going to live in time well. But Brand’s study came after John Habraken’s many writings about Open Building and I would urge you to look back at those, particularly his provocative little book written in the ’60’s called “Supports.” I recently did an interview about Open Building, which you can find here.. In addition, you will find this white paper on Open Building from our website. It’s a pretty good summary of the concept and some of the principles we can (and have) put into practice. In the bibliography in that paper, you will see references to most of Habraken’s writing. Also, note the writing of Dr. Stephen Kendall, who has been working on these ideas for many years.

  8. Just wanted to wish you all the best in your 40 year celebration. I treasure the opportunity Dennis gave me almost 20 years ago to work in the old shop on the hill. Your ethics, integrity and desire for something better have truly made a lasting impression. Thanks for the inspiration and the education.

  9. This is just what I am looking for. Please contact me regarding a ‘new’ type mid-sized building and I am also interested in a home. You will be interested in what is going on in the area I will be developing from previously un-used land. Thank you and continued blessings from that ‘other’ carpenter :).

  10. I have been following with interest the developments you’ve been making in your “hybrid” ‘off-site’ built homes. I find the modular home building community doesn’t really want to upgrade their homes to include more energy efficient processes.

    SIP homes seem to require an internal structure of the post and beam, but have the advantages of large spans and greater thicknesses with higher R-values.

    I like your grid method for the height (7.5in is a riser height), but how well it works on a length or width basis would depend on the plan involved. Your hybrid homes have higher than code R values but don’t require the bays and bents of timberframe.

    I’m not currently sold on the dense-pack cellulose for insulation, because if you have the slightest moisture migration, you have a soggy mess. I prefer the polyurethane foam that acts as an air & moisture barrier and provides an R-40 value in about 6-1/2in or that of a typical stud wall, which is a significant improvement over ‘code’.

    After going through your 3 books mostly on post and beam homes, I think you should prepare a new “Modern Homes Construction Manual” based on your investigations and findings from the European and other Foreign construction markets. This could then be a builders manual for the future new home market for Affordable Energy Efficient home building. (something to consider – is Taunton interested)

    Most people don’t need large home, and the small home market doesn’t seem interested in combining energy efficiency and affordability. It’s hard for the average single income family to afford a good home, and if it’s not well built and efficient, they’re put in the poor house trying to heat it.

    I loved the UTube clip showing the house you built for artist N. Brown
    approx 1000 sq ft, Ready to go, water, heating system etc $150K on her land and integrated to her gallery building. I thought this would have been a great start towards my plan (just over 1000 sq ft).

    I had developed a plan that could be stick built, or 2 piece module or could be done via your method of the offsite built panels. I like that your roof panels are the insulated surface therefore allowing the attic to be heated storage or enclosed mechanical spaces (which is good on smaller homes – storage). Centralized plumbing to work with your plumbing module, open concept living area with a common dividing bulkhead or bent. One level with pony wall basement. Imagine my surprise (and consternation) when the “ballpark” price for my ready for construction plans was twice that of the Brown home. appx. $255/sq ft for 1176 sq ft ??!!

    Does it come down to “affordability” over “efficiency” or can a small affordable home be energy efficient as well. It doesn’t have to be Net Zero or to PassivHaus Institute standards, but well built, well insulated and unlike today’s cars; last until they’re paid for!!

    Hope to see new books imparting new technologies and old wisdoms in the not too distant future. (Cheers from the home or Arkandoor)

    1. To Doug Fleet:

      Thanks for your interest and feedback. I’ll make a few comments in response in bullet form:

      –There’s no doubt the modular industry could be doing better. I think many modular companies now “get it” and are trying to improve their structural and thermal standards.

      –Our Open-Built grid (OBGrid) is coarse and simple for the building shell, where a 2 ft x 2ft module is the standard. The infill systems are finer grained and more complicated to deal with a wider variety of infill systems, including stairs, cabinets, partition placement, bathrooms, etc.

      –Dense pack cellulose has a tremendous capacity to absorb and diffuse moisture in the same way that solid wood absorbs and releases. The system relies on air barriers, but still allows the ambient relative humidity to impact the moisture content of dense cellulose. We’ve been studying the moisture impact closely, and remain impressed by how well it manages moisture.

      –Every system has an Achille’s Heel that should be considered. In the case of SIP’s, it’s the fact that it’s perm rate is high and the same on both sides, setting the bar pretty high. Any moisture migration at seams or penetrations can therefore cause big problems. With DP cellulose, we control the perm rates and diffusion better, and therefore allow some latitude if there is some moisture migration into the system.

      –My wife tells me that a good title for my next book would be “Living Alone in your Energy Efficient House.” Taunton Press might be interested, but I need to manage one less company to make it possible.

      –If people are willing to live in smaller houses, I do believe we can get to an incredible build quality at a reasonable price with smaller homes. Obviously, it’s hard to build a much better home, with much better energy and structural performance, while trying to compete with the lower quality competitor in a large footprint house.

      –About house cost, remember that the S.F. calculation is completely misleading and really not a good indicator. Think of all the other factors: 1. volume: least cost is lower, flat ceilings; much higher cost for open, high ceilings, and cathedral type appearance. 2. Complexity: least cost is simple, single rectilinear form; much higher cost for complex shapes, lots of jogs and corners and complex roof lines. 3. Specifications: this one is simple..least cost for less costly materials, equipment, fixtures and finishes; higher cost (no ceiling here) for more expensive specifications. If you aren’t keenly aware of these three cost factors, you can’t intelligently talk about square footage costs.

      –Small, durable, energy efficient and beautiful is the way go!

  11. -To clarify
    (and apologize, as this is probably not the place for all these questions)

    Yes I agree that the S. F. is completely misleading and not a good indicator. I obtained from your YouTube video that the Brown house was a turnkey home with everything included; “foundation, Exterior completed, interior completed, running water, heating system in, and lights on. it includes everything”. The house was approx. 1000 s.f. and cost 150K. (also heard the house was closer to 800 s.f. rather than 1000, minor detail.)

    During my recent visit, the “ballpark price” I got for “my contract ready floor plan” (28′ x 42′) was 300K. But I believe that was based more on the Unity Homes specification, is there that drastic difference between the specs of the Brown Home and the smaller Unity home??

    My point was that a similarly sized “budget” home was now quoted as a “ballpark” price of 300K or double what the Brown home was. Are we comparing apples to apples? Or by trying to compare the Brown home to the spec of a Unity type home, are we comparing apples to oranges?? What I’m trying to determine is the “base level offering” (what is included in) for the 150K home compared to the 300k home.

    As a “possible” home buyer, I am just trying to find out whether it is even feasible with my “limited” budget of 200-250k to have a small bungalow built by Bensonwood with this attention to detail, and ship it to Canada.

    As I said earlier, I like the direction you are going, I like that “your mandate is to bring very high quality to an affordable level” and to bring “the learning that you’ve been able to do at high end homes to more average typical homes” and with today’s economy everyone will be seeing these kinds of smaller homes and reduced building budgets more often.

    Small, durable, energy efficient and beautiful is the way go – I concur!

    Hopefully I will be able to get some additional info, and that we may do a project together in the not too distant future.

    Cheers

    (- Sounds like you might be too much of a “hand’s on” person with your companies, and the Mrs is offering up hints to slow down and enjoy life more !? We only have so much time on earth with which to enjoy it.
    – New Book, with your findings and research on other building and construction methods and Taunton’s attention to detail, an all encompassing “Energy Efficient Builders Bible” might be required. Fine Home building have the Energy Smart Homes annual, but, no one place for all the tips and details for the builder or designer. Just a thought !)

    Safe Travels
    Cheers

  12. It would be really nice if we could sign up somewhere on this page to be notified by email when you make a new post to this blog. WordPress provides that ability. Would you please add that?

  13. I just read an article that says you recommend removable wainscoting panels. Can you tell me a brand name or the specs that make it removable?

    1. This was a custom product that we made. In the future we may commercialize the idea, but currently its more in the experimental, prototyping stage.

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