A Growing Trend

For many decades, the Downtown Farmers Market in Eau Claire, Wis., was held in a parking lot. The city fathers then decided to build an elegant “home” for the market that would shelter the vendor displays and create an aesthetic landmark of exposed timber for a community gathering place.

Phil Johnson, Superintendent of Eau Claire Parks, says the use of glued laminated timber was a key factor in solving a problem that afflicts many farmers market pavilions--bird roosting. The unique connections and strength of the laminated timber components made it possible to design bracing and purlins that would eliminate bird nesting or roosting.

"We couldn't have accomplished this with a steel structure," he says.

Johnson says the new building has become so popular that “there has been nothing but favorable comments from the whole community.” Funding for the $650,000 project came from eight different sources, including state and local grants, plus a federal $250,000 grant arranged by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Herb Kohl.

Other contributors included city council, the Department of Parks and Recreation, Downtown Farmers Market Association, philanthropic groups, local businesses and individuals.

A Market Is Born

Johnson says the driving force behind the success of the pavilion was a retired University of Wisconsin professor and berry grower named Phil Chute. This community leader participated on the stakeholders planning committee for a new city park in 1999. He waged a campaign to make the Farmers Market and an elegant clock tower the major landmarks in the park. Chute and his wife Judith visited over 30 permanent markets across the United States and came back with over 300 photos and suggestions for the design that would best fit Eau Claire.

“This research was really helpful for the architects, who had never designed a farmers market,” Chute says.

The pavilion houses up to 60 vendors, and it also seats 500 for weddings, receptions, reunions, trade shows and special events.

The project--the Farmers Market and Clock Tower in Phoenix Park--also helps lengthen the outdoor market season.

Graceful and Rustic

“The city wanted a shelter that was graceful as well as rustic and functional,” says Tom Twohig, project architect of SDS Architects Inc. in Eau Claire. “We specified the glued laminated timber because it offered a good combination of aesthetic warmth and strength at a competitive cost.”

The structure also symbolizes Wisconsin's forest heritage, which has produced billions of board feet of lumber over the past century.

Sentinel Structures of Peshtigo, Wis., worked closely with the architects and owners to design and produce the laminated-timber framing system. Sentinel Structures is one of the pioneer laminating firms in the nation.

Local officials note that attendance and praise for the market have exceeded their expectations. It has become a place for social interaction to meet friends as well as a source of vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy. On an average weekend, the building attracts about 5,000 shoppers and visitors.

The 12,000-square-foot pavilion is a showcase of structural timber. The 24 spans of three-hinged arches, purlins, fascia beams, curved brackets, knees, columns and roof decking are all built of structural Southern Pine glued laminated timber. The U-shaped building is 220 x 150 feet.

The laminated timber arches are 24 feet on center. They span 25 feet and reach a height of 19 feet. A standing seam metal roof covers the 2 x 6 laminated roof decking.

Engineered Wood

Designers note that the furring, sheathing and finishing often required with steel framing can be eliminated with laminated timber construction. This means faster construction with wood at competitive costs. And unlike steel, concrete or other materials that deplete natural resources, wood is a renewable resource with 6 million trees planted each day in the United States.

Engineered wood structures are also gaining in popularity because laminated timber materials arrive at the job site prefinished, so the delivered product is the finished product. Other types of framing members arrive on-site in raw form, and require additional cladding to create the final product.

The laminated timber arches in the pavillion were pressure-treated with a Chromated Copper Arsenate preservative prior to gluing which will help during the winter months when the legs will are fully exposed to about three feet of snow.