Spotlight: Joe Miller and Fire Tower Engineered Timber

Fire Tower Engineered Timber Western Reading Room Ceiling
Ceiling of the Western Reading Room of the Denver Library

Fire Tower Engineered Timber is located in Providence, Rhode Island. Bringing a modern perspective to a time-honored craft, Fire Tower is an enterprising firm specializing in the engineering and design of timber structures, including light lumber, heavy and curved timber, timber frame and post & beam structures. The company was founded in 2006 by Ben Brungraber and Mack Magee.  FTET works on timber projectFire Tower Engineered Timber Treehouses of all sizes, across most of North America and beyond. There are four engineer-partners (Ben Brungraber, Ph.D., P.E, Duncan McElroy, P.E., Joe Miller, Ph.D., P.E., Dick Schmidt, Ph.D., P.E.), and co-founder Mack Magee, M.S..  Joe Miller took some time to talk to us about the company.

Fire Tower Engineered Timber's Joe Miller
Joe Miller

In Joe’s opinion, what separates their company from other timber frame organizations is that all four of the partners
have worked in and with other timber frame companies before starting with Fire Tower. They understand fabrication issues, raising concerns, tool limitations, and project schedules as well as they know engineering. Fire Tower Engineered Timber is a dedicated, enthusiastic group of engineers whose focus is timber structures, with a motto of “anything but boring.”

Fire Tower Engineered Timber treeform post
Huge treeform post in great room

There are two projects that stand out as memorable for Joe. One was a Timber Framers Guild project last year in Portland, MI. Not only did he get a chance to design and engineer the project as well as generate all of the shop drawings, but he was also able to be on site as an instructor, helping teach others how to cut and raise the frame. Likewise, he was gratified to work on a concert piano hall in Montana – he was able to do engineering/drawings, as well as be on site for the raising. As Joe says, “Being a part of the project design, as well as fabrication / erection, while working with good friends and great clients – is the reason I do what I do.”

Fire Tower Engineered Timber complex trusses



According to Joe, “The main challenge with our job is convincing timber framers that working with an engineer and having them as part of the design can result in a better project – we aren’t just for helping get a building permit.”

As Joe says, “Timber frames are expressed structures.
Any design decisions have both a structural as well as aesthetic cost. But, if you look at traditional structures, those that look and feel “right” tend to also work well structurally. While we can engineer frames of most shapes and styles, buildings that are designed from the onset as a timber structure seem to work best.“

You can find Fire Tower Engineered Timber on the internet at , or on Facebook at . Their physical address is 27 Sims Avenue, #2R, Providence, RI 02909 . Call them at 401.654.4600, or email Joe Miller at joe@ftet.comFire-Tower 2

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