New Energy Works, Pioneer Millworks Responds to Green Building Demand

Shawn Wyjad has spent 25 years in the restaurant business. Then he traded his chef’s knife for a chisel. Today he is part of a team of skilled carpenters and carpenters at the national headquarters of sister companies New Energy Works and Pioneer Millworks in Farmington.

While many of the roughly 100 workers at the Ontario County site are veterans of the craft, some, like Wyjad, are newer in the skilled trades and green tech buzzing on a 13-acre campus tucked away behind the Comfort Inn and Suites on Route. 96.

In three decades, Pioneer Millworks has recovered and reused more than 31 million board feet of wood from decay and landfills. At the mill, wood from old factories, barns and countless other sources takes on new life in the form of flooring, siding, paneling, cabinetry and more.

New Energy Works – focused on high quality wood framing – designs, manufactures and builds custom homes, buildings and fences across North America. The manual labor seen in homes and commercial buildings across the country is evident near its headquarters and around the Finger Lakes.

Examples include the Farmington branch of Banque Nationale de Lyon, which pays homage to the adjacent 228-year-old Hathaway House, and the nautical-themed wood-frame sand bar and barn at The Lake House in Canandaigua .

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Megan Larmouth Avila, communications director for New Energy Works and Pioneer Millworks, said companies are constantly recruiting new employees to meet demand. Those with longevity on campus include Calvin Stiner, of Palmyra, 27; Jake Webster, of Gorham, nearly 20; and Andrew Tack of Marion, 15.

The global reclaimed wood market in 2020 was valued at nearly $ 50 billion and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.6% from 2021 to 2028, according to Grand View Research.

The market research and consultancy firm cited “environmental awareness, the growing trend towards recycling and the intensification of arrangements to deal with waste management issues” as determining factors.

Avila said reusing reclaimed wood is much more complex than some realize. A painstaking process begins with each wood checked by hand to remove nails and other metal. The wood is also kiln-dried, pulled straight and crushed.

Teams qualified to classify and separate each plank into the appropriate product line should know the difference between a Settlers Plank, American Gothic Plank, and Scrap.

Shawn Wyjad is seen at work at New Energy Works in Farmington.

The woods can then be customized with additional textures such as wire brush circular saw marks and Shou Sugi Ban engraving (a Japanese method of preserving antique wood) or smooth planing.

In the growing dynamic of green buildings, the Grand View Research report noted the emerging trend of sustainable construction using cross-laminated timber. CLT is a state-of-the-art hybrid construction by gluing together several layers of wood.

The result is a solid sheet of wood, an economical and environmentally friendly alternative to steel and concrete construction.

It’s quite their back alley at New Energy Works, which in 2017 became New York State’s first full CLT building. The eye-catching timber-framed CLT megastructure houses New Energy Works’ fine carpentry division, NEWwoodworks.

The structure includes wood reclaimed by Pioneer Millworks at its Portland, Oregon site, the Centennial Mills campus. After CLT opened in fall 2017, architect Ty Allen described how the structure was constructed from 38-foot panels from an Austrian company. New Energy Works overtook several other producers in the United States and Canada because the carbon footprint was smaller for transportation by water than by land.

Framing work is underway inside New Energy Works in Farmington.

Examples of planet-friendly operations at Pioneer Millworks and New Energy Works include the use of solar power and a high-efficiency boiler fueled by waste wood. A sawdust collection system, which was reused by a business that closed in the Midwest, collects sawdust which is then shipped to a wood pellet manufacturer.

Solar awnings, one of New Energy’s eco-friendly products, are designed to cover parking spaces so that a vehicle can charge all day. Awnings come in different sizes, to cover one or more vehicles, and can be set to the correct orientation and angle to maximize solar gain.

Alan Lamparella, director of operations for Pioneer Millworks, said when the pandemic struck in early 2020, operations were closed for a brief period due to security restrictions related to COVID. Building materials in all areas have become more difficult to find and prices have increased, which presents challenges.

Staffing is one of those challenges highlighted by Lamparella and Avila, adding that companies offer incentives that include a solid benefit package among other perks. Running on a single day shift, the schedules are attractive for balancing work and life outside of work, Avila said.

Benefits include 70% company paid medical coverage, paid time off, paid time off, and a corresponding 401 (k) plan. Pioneer Millworks and New Energy Works are 30% employee-owned, with the goal of becoming fully employee-owned by 2022 through an employee share ownership plan (ESOP).

Lamparella, whose background includes running a paper mill and a luxury furniture company, said he finds what companies offer to customers and employees rewarding.

“You can learn and grow here,” he said.

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