This was a difficult choice for me, since my father was a wood worker and I grew up learning many of these skills; I love working with wood and I worked for years as a carpenter. It is certainly one of the most versatile of all building materials, and is a renewable resource, when harvested sensibly.
I have finally come to realize that building with wood (at least partially) can still be a sound ecological choice, which is particularly true in regions where forests have regenerated to the point that they can be harvested sustainably. This means that the trees are carefully monitored to make sure that the health and character of the forest is maintained; only certain trees are culled periodically, leaving the remaining trees to grow and contribute to a healthy ecosystem. It is possible to buy wood that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), but if this means that you are buying wood shipped great distances, then this becomes a less ecological choice; use local materials!
Furthermore, with timber framing it is possible to use large wooden posts and beams in such a way as to create strong and versatile load-bearing structures, which can then be completed by either in-filling between the wooden structural members, or completely wrapping the timber frame structure with a variety of other materials (as is recommended in colder climates). Since this method of building has been recognized and approved by most code authorities, it is a way of approaching a natural building project that would otherwise be difficult for the authorities to sanction.
So I have now created a page about Timber Framing, greenhomebuilding.com/timber, with lots of media resources and informative links listed. I have also enlisted the gracious assistance of a preeminent timber framing specialist to answer questions from the public about this ancient art.
Will Beemer is a charter member and co-Executive Director of the Timber Framers Guild, and is owner of the Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts in Washington, MA. For over 30 years, this school has been offering students a chance to improve their woodworking and timber framing skills. Will helps teach many courses at Heartwood and has been designing and building houses for over 35 years. He was a construction foreman at the Arcosanti project in Arizona, and design instructor at Cornell University. He has organized and taught building workshops around the world, including timber framing courses through the Guild and at Palomar College in San Diego, the North House Folk School and at the Colorado State University Mountain Campus. He has written for Fine Homebuilding, Joiner's Quarterly, and Timber Framing magazines.
You are invited to visit the new page about Timber Framing and to seek guidance about this art from Will Beemer.