Cat Byrne, Head of Biotechnology, and Michael Byrne, who has a background in computer programming and startups, consider themselves tech-savvy.

So when the couple decided to build a new home in Bend, Oregon, they decided to use a construction method that is almost unheard of in American single-family home construction: prefabricated, solid wood panels called cross-laminated wood panels (CLT). ). They thought using CLT would speed up the construction process.

The advantages of using CLT panels, common in Europe, are excellent acoustic, fire, seismic and thermal performance. Disadvantage: It is difficult to find local contractors who know how to assemble them.

As a result, the Bend house took twice as long as expected (three years instead of one and a half years) and cost twice as much as planned ($2 million instead of $1 million). But the couple, both 46, who finally moved in last year, say they’re still glad they decided to take the unusual approach.

“We took a huge risk. But the other side of the risk is the reward. It’s so beautifully designed and so aesthetically pleasing. We never imagined that we would live in such a house,” says Ms Byrne.

Burns bought the nearly 1-acre site in Bend in 2016 for $435,000. The couple, who have an 8-year-old son, have decided they want to leave San Francisco, where they say their Potrero Hill home was robbed twice, their cars broken into six times, and gunshots became louder. frequent.

They created a spreadsheet with the criteria they were looking for in places like good schools, near an airport, not in the suburbs of a big city and next to the mountains. Bend was at the top of their list, which also included Park City, Utah, Durango, Colorado, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. When they visited Bend, they threw away the list. “It’s like looking for car keys,” says Mr. Byrne. “Once you’ve found them, you don’t keep looking.”

The next step was to find suitable real estate. For this, another table was used, this time with criteria that included the view, the availability of shops, a good school, and not a golf course. On her way home from work, Ms. Burne found what she was looking for: a lot overlooking Bachelor Mountain, Sisters, and Broken Top, with no power lines. Despite being in a development called Tetherow, the couple felt they could orient the house in a way that would protect their privacy.

By the end of 2017, they began designing the Bend house, choosing Mork-Ulnes Architects because they liked the firm’s Scandinavian aesthetic and the $420,000 renovation that was done on their San Francisco home, which Mr. Byrne bought for $690,000. in 2009. In January 2018, they sold their San Francisco home in seven days for $2.72 million in cash.

The home is designed to provide light, views and open spaces protected from the strong winds of Bend, which is located in Central Oregon on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range, part of the state’s high desert region. VIDEO: Juan Benavidez


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It was Mr. Bern’s idea to use CLT, he said, but it helped that Mork-Ulnes had offices in both San Francisco and Oslo, Norway, where CLT is widespread. The material determined the design of the house, says Kasper Mork-Ulnes, the firm’s founder. “We made everything relatively simple. I’ve seen situations with CLT where people were trying to make geometry that was too complex.”

The house was designed not with corridors, but instead with fingers branching off from the main courtyard (master bedroom, garage, play area, hallway, guest area). Each finger can be closed to create a private space. There are eight yards in total, each with its own patio or terrace, creating areas of refuge from the strong winds of Bend, located in Central Oregon on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range, part of the state’s high desert region.

Fortunately, Ms. Byrne’s parents decided to buy a country house in Bend when they learned that their daughter was moving there. According to the couple, the couple lived in her parents’ home for three years while their building project suffered a series of disasters.

The couple say the first contractor they hired got tangled up with the fund. There was also confusion about the frame. Made from glulam panels reminiscent of chopping blocks, the CLT’s construction is similar to an IKEA cabinet assembly, although much more complex. This required a lot of space as it had to be laid out on the ground before being assembled with a crane. Unlike traditional architecture, the wiring and plumbing had to run outside the walls and then be covered by another layer of panels.

The second contractor did better, says Mr. Bern, but still ran into unexpected twists: Strong winds in Bend made it difficult to effectively spray the insulation between the layers, requiring the use of a giant plastic tent. Once the walls were ready, they needed to be covered with a waterproof barrier. Then they attached the outer wooden sheathing of the house.

“Every move was not the status quo. Every step was a challenge,” says Ms Byrne. Mr Byrne says the couple felt helpless with their ever-increasing budget. “People didn’t know the process well enough to understand what they were quoting,” he says.

Ms. Burne, who grew up in Texas, and Mr. Burne, from Newcastle, England, first met when Ms. Burne was studying abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland during her freshman year of college. By a stroke of luck, they met again in San Antonio in 2006, got married in 2011, and moved into a 1920s house Mork-Ulnes renovated in Potrero Hill.

Kat Burn and Michael Burn built this Bend, Oregon home from prefabricated, solid wood panels called cross-laminated timber (CLT). This technology is almost never used in the US VIDEO: Juan Benavidez

Despite the agonizing construction process, Ms Byrne says it was worth the pain to get what they call their fantasy home. “It’s out of time. It’s nice to be in this house,” says Ms Byrne. “This is not a flip. This is our house. That’s exactly what we want.”

Although they admit they took great risks with such an untested construction method, they both say they would do it again and again. That’s what they do, they say: they make important decisions quickly. They didn’t hesitate to pick Bend, though they haven’t yet considered other options on their list. They bought the land a few hours after they saw it. And they were willing to try CLT, despite its newness in the United States.

“We call ourselves obsessive decision makers. We rarely regret it,” says Ms Bern.

Write Nancy Keates at [email protected]

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