LookoutTowers.Org is an Oregon-based nonprofit educational corporation that helps people to build lookout towers by creating and collecting open source designs for timber-framed towers. LookoutTowers.org was created in January 2020, so the organization is in its infancy, but just like a human baby, it is growing and evolving rapidly. Projects we have worked on so far include:
Sandbox Towers: A conceptual framework for a class of buildings called Sandbox Towers. A Sandbox Tower is a building that uses wood columns to support a rectangular structure with balloon framing. Like shipping containers, Sandbox Towers don’t care what is put in them, so they can be Apartment Towers, Office Towers, Shopping Towers or multistory homes.
Lookout Towers are specific instances of Sandbox Towers in the shape of classic forest service fire lookout tower. The Lookout Towers range in size: the smallest is a 22-foot-tall tower with a 12-by-12-foot base called a Junior Tower. Detailed design specifications for a Junior Tower have been completed. Medium size towers have a 16-by-16-foot base or a 20-by-20-foot base, while the largest might be 30-by-30.
Lookout Homes are an instance of Sandbox Tower that have an entire residential home on two or more livable floors. Site prep and detailed structural designs have begun for a 1,700 square foot home on Lincoln Beach in Oregon..
Tiller Lookout: An open source design created by Rogers Engineering for a lookout tower built outside Tiller, Oregon. This site contains a full set of plans for how the Tiller Lookout was built.
Cougar Pass Lookout: A proposal to create a Cougar Pass Lookout Education Center by tearing down the dilapidated existing fire lookout tower, carefully saving the existing cabin, building a new larger lookout tower, and placing the restored historic cabin on one of the levels in the larger tower.
Each of these projects is described on its own page within this website.
All successful open source projects depend on people volunteering time and talent, but LookoutTowers.org also has funds available to pay structural engineers and architects to complete specific projects. Some open source projects, such as Wikipedia and the Linux and Android operating systems have been remarkably successful. But so far, no architectural open source project has had a similar impact on society. Architectural projects aren't as scalable as software projects, so we are understandably cautious about how much any open source architectural project will change the world. Still, we remain optimistic the magic of open source development will let us substantially improve how timber-framed towers are built. At a minimum, we hope to rekindle America's interest in building lookout towers: they are iconic structures worth learning how to build better.
Please consider lending your skill to help us design and build better towers ... come and play with us.
Image credit: The photo of king post trusses at the top of this page comes from Dave and Barb Sullivan's timberland home. The trusses were designed and built by Lon Tyler, a master timber framer in Sweet Home, Oregon.