Book Review: Heavy Timber Structure`

Heavy Timber Structures:  Creating Comfort In Public Spaces, by Anthony F. Zaya and Timothy Diener

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Edelweiss/Schiller Publishing.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

In reading this book, it is important to know exactly what you are getting.  The authors approach timber construction from a complex point of view that emphasizes many elements and the more of these elements are appreciated the easier it is to enjoy this book as I did.  For one, at least one of the authors is a partner in a firm that is involved in the design and construction of heavy timber roof elements, Lancaster County Timber Frames Inc., and this business interest makes a great deal of importance in determining the form and contents of the book.  If you have an interest in timber construction and design [1] and enjoy the psychology of construction as well as the way that business works as a contractor and subcontractor, you will likely find much to enjoy in this book.  Those without an interest either in the history and psychology of timber design or in the business practices of those who construct timber buildings or building components will likely not find as much of interest here, though.

In terms of its contents, this book is a bit more than 200 pages in the version I read, and is organized around the projects with heavy timber construction that the authors have been personally involved in, which are all on the East Coast and centered around Pennsylvania and nearby states.  After a lengthy discussion about the psychology of building construction and how timber is a material that is not only easy to use and structurally sound but is something that is imitated and is worthwhile for not only structural but also deeply personal reasons, the rest of the book focuses on projects that show the worth of wood.  The authors divide these projects by the type of structures they are:  religious buildings, restaurants/bars, health care buildings, government buildings, clubhouses, historic reconstruction, and retail.  Each of the cases included gives a discussion of the project, some of the design drawings or computer-generated models as well as photos of the construction as well as after it is done that demonstrate the way that the project worked.  The projects themselves are a diverse range that include entrances to churches and box stores, welcome centers for I-70 in South Mountain in Maryland and at Gettysburg, and a covered bridge that had been damaged in a tropical storm.

In reading this book, it is important to remember that the authors are trying to sell the reader something.  In fact, they are trying to sell several things.  The discussion of the desirable qualities of wood is trying to sell heavy timber construction as a construction method for buildings for those who have projects similar to those written about in the book.  The book is also trying to sell the specific expertise of the companies involved in timber construction and design themselves, including matters like efficiency of timber use, willingness to correct mistakes, high standards of achievement in LEED medals, and attention to historical details even outside of the contract.  As far as I’m concerned, this book does a good enough job at presenting worthwhile information as well as beautiful photos and drawings that I am not offended at its being an extended sales pitch.  Not everyone may be so understanding, though, and so it is worth noting that this book has the fingerprints of salesmanship all over it.  As long as you are aware of that and appreciative of that going in, there is a lot to enjoy here.

[1] See for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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