Tedd Benson’s focus on quality in home building is as sharp and enduring as the timberframe joinery his company, Bensonwood Homes of Walpole, N.H., is famous for. And aside from helping resurrect and elevate the craft of timberframing over the past 36 years, his passion to tackle challenging innovations, and to challenge the industry itself, has fueled his focus on sustainable design and construction. Benson’s home designs and construction techniques have evolved without pause, incorporating ever-new high-performance features that reflect his core philosophy about buildings as systems, and his mission to redefine the concepts of enduring homes and shelter.
In the late 1980s, after searching for a systems approach to design, Benson applied to his projects an approach he labeled “Open-Built,” an integrated design/build process that responds to a home’s “life span and anticipated need for future alteration.” Based on the original concepts of Open Building developed by Dutch architect John Habraken, structure, systems, and components are disentangled: framing is separated from sheathing and roofing; wiring, piping, and ducts run through chases; and assembly is organized so that all the subsystems can be built off site in a controlled environment.
Bensonwood formed a collaboration with the Open Source Building Alliance at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture in 2002. Together they established the OPEN Prototype Initiative (OPI) to develop and share innovations in Open Building and “create standardization and manufacturing efficiencies that could lead to more affordable, adaptable, and environmentally sound homes.” In 2008 the OPI designed and built Unity House, a LEED-Platinum zero-energy demonstration home at Unity College in Maine that incorporates Open Building design, planning, fabrication, and assembly concepts.