Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In other news...

The monthly review of magazines at the local bookstore yeilded a few good articles. First off were a few about Roald Gunderson, who builds houses using trees in their natural state. They are not cut into dimensional lumber. The results are unorthodox to say the least, and once you are past the shock it is really very charming. But what impressed me the most were the structural advantages of this approach, as well as the low cost and sustainability of this construction method.

But if you ask enough people, you will soon discover that very few things are genuinely new. Roald Gundersen's approach, while already tried by a few creative hippies, was presaged hundreds of years ago in the form of Japanese Minka houses, which utilize long unmilled tree trunks as structural beams and rafters. The "taiko beam" is especially graceful. They are truly beautiful buildings.

Also not new is Robert Lanza's idea of scientific biocentrism. This idea already existed within Chinese philosophy hundreds of years ago. One well known example is Wang Yang-Ming. Lanza does reinterpret this idea for a new generation and places it within the context of modern science, giving it new life. So I am glad for that.

I also came across an article in Natural History Magazine about the role of alloparenting in human evolution.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Trestle-frame buildings

In 1998 The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (Norsk institutt for kulturminneforskning) published the proceedings of a seminar, subsequently titled "Grindbygde hus i Vest-Norge" which translates as "Trestle-frame buildings in Western Norway". When I saw this document a few days ago I became very excited, it was the largest body of information I've found yet about this form of construction that I learned about a year ago and maintained an interest in since. Finally I have an accurate English translation for grindbygg, which means "trestle-frame building". You might be familiar with trestle bridges that use a number of slightly splayed vertical braced frames to support a bridge. Indeed, this closely resembles the basic framework of a grindbygg. Much of the document is in Norwegian, but summaries are provided in English as well as several English articles. The real pleasure are the many illustrations. One summary provides the best written description of trestle framed buildings, which I will paraphrase here:

In traditional trestle-framed buildings two posts and a transverse beam are put together to form a transverse trestle, with longitudinal beams connecting each trestle to its immediate neighbors. The transverse beam is placed directly on top of the post, resting in a notch cut in the post’s crown. The longitudinal beams, which carry the rafters, are placed just inside the tops of the posts. The trestle frame is stabilized by means of diagonal wooden braces between the posts and the beams.

Pure poetry! But if that wasn't clear see one of the pictures accompanying previous entries on this subject.