March 24, 2024

Contractor training helps overcome barriers to mass timber adoption | SLB March 2024 Newsletter


Program Updates

High-Strength Wood-Frame Shear Wall Testing Could Open Opportunities for Incremental Wood Use

The American Wood Council has been exploring a new high-capacity wood structural panel (WSP) wood-frame shear wall design. The new design solution is sheathed on one side and would be a preferred option for building designers, especially those looking to meet ever-increasing seismic loading requirements for multistory projects. Meeting these requirements with wood-frame construction expands opportunities for wood in seismic regions and in building types with more glass on the exterior.

Shear walls are used as the primary lateral bracing system in most wood-frame structures. After a first round of tests in 2022 achieved a 30% increase over the maximum shear capacity for a WSP shear wall sheathed on one side, a second phase of testing has yielded even more impressive results. A new design configuration achieved a nearly 70% increase over the maximum previous standard capacity using similar special detailing to that used in Phase I, but without the addition of steel hardware.

The results will be presented to AWC’s Wood Design Standards Committee for possible inclusion in the 2027 Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (SDPWS). If accepted, the changes will automatically be reflected in the 2027 national model building codes through their reference to AWC’s SPDWS standard, ultimately allowing these new high-strength WSP shear walls in multistory construction.


New LookBook Will Attract Big-Firm Architects

Think Wood and WoodWorks have partnered to launch the co-branded Mass Timber LookBook, an in-depth guide for architects, engineers, and developers to see the breadth of projects that can be designed with mass timber. This resource showcases buildings featured on Think Wood’s website or that have won WoodWorks’ Wood in Architecture Awards to provide compelling case studies as design and construction professionals typically look for proven examples before trying out innovative materials like mass timber. Recent SLB research indicates that project teams that interact with both Think Wood and WoodWorks have a higher resulting wood use, especially in mass timber projects.

The Mass Timber LookBook will be used as part of a new social media campaign targeting professionals at the 26 largest AEC firms in the country. Collectively representing about $8.7 billion in revenue, according to Architectural Record’s top firms list, these firms have the greatest influence on material choice in the largest number of projects in the country. The campaign will use the lookbook to collect information from design professionals at these firms so they become Think Wood contacts—new audience members for the program’s content and newsletters that help them understand the benefits of light-frame and mass timber construction over concrete and steel and, ultimately, specify wood construction systems in more buildings.

The goal of the campaign is to spur consideration of mass timber by large, often slower to change, and more risk-averse firms that may have been on the fence about trying a new structural system. This marketing effort simultaneously targets multiple individuals within a firm, anticipating it will prompt internal exploration of mass timber by reaching more people who can influence the decision to specify mass timber.


WoodWorks’ Mass Timber Installer Training Program Helps Overcome Barriers to Adoption

WoodWorks plays the triple role of inspiring building designers to pursue wood projects that are outside their typical experience, providing education and resources that give them the knowledge to do so, and training construction professionals so designs don’t revert to concrete or steel because that’s what the contractor only knows. This issue with general contractors was identified several years ago in WoodWorks’ study, “Obstacles Preventing the Increased Adoption of Mass Timber,” and reinforced when SLB updated the report last year. Installer training is an especially important element, and WoodWorks continues to steadily address the limited number of installers across the United States. 

This training goes beyond organizations with wood construction experience. Most recently, the Southwestern United Ironworkers invested $145,000 for seven half-size mass timber mock-ups to begin WoodWorks-developed training at seven locations in California, Arizona, and Nevada. A steel framing company also reached out, and WoodWorks is helping it determine how best to become proficient with mass timber installation. Since being released in January 2023, the modules in WoodWorks’ Mass Timber Installer Training Curriculum have been downloaded more than 6,500 times.

Last year, WoodWorks reported a 55% increase in the number of installers trained—with 636 tradespeople completing 9,931 hours of installer training. To make training accessible to facilities with space or equipment constraints, WoodWorks also designed a second, smaller version of its mass timber mock-up. While training centers are now responsible for procuring their own mock-ups, WoodWorks is helping to facilitate the process.

At the International Mass Timber Conference this week, WoodWorks is building and disassembling one of its full-size mock-ups on both days in the exhibit hall, but its presence will be felt throughout the show. As conference co-producer, WoodWorks leads the education programming, and WoodWorks staff members are presenting several sessions that directly address challenges experienced across the hundreds of projects that WoodWorks supports annually.


SLB Education Announces New Engineering Scholarship

In a significant stride toward fostering a passion for wood construction among engineering students, the newly established Wood Solutions Scholarship, sponsored by Think Wood, was launched on January 17 with an open call for applications. The scholarship will provide $5,000 each to four graduates from accredited engineering schools who are either currently employed or seeking employment as structural engineers in the United States. Candidates will be evaluated based on their commitment to deepening their understanding of sustainably sourced U.S. wood products and their intention to apply this knowledge to create more affordable, and resilient, lower-carbon structures.

This scholarship is a strategic component of the NCSEA’s Diversity in Structural Engineering program, which supports students from historically underrepresented groups in structural engineering. The winners will be announced at the association’s Structural Engineering Summit in November 2024. This scholarship will incentivize and shape the next generation of engineers, building their enthusiasm for wood solutions. 



Softwood Lumber Industry Supports Children’s Literature Exhibit Featuring Mass Timber

When Daniel Meyers designed the entrance to Building Stories, an exhibit at Washington, D.C.’s National Building Museum about children’s storybooks and the built environment, he wanted to evoke The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis’s children’s series that features an entrance through a closet into a thickly wooded forest. As a wood product with its own story to tell, CLT seemed like a perfect fit.

Meyers, an exhibit designer and architect with Portland, Oregon-based studio + & > (Plus and Greater Than), designed a series of 11-foot-tall, 16-foot-wide CLT panels sculpturally cut into a series of arches, creating a glowing space with a whispered audio track framing the first book-related installation.

“Yes, it’s absolutely an exhibition for kids, but it’s also for a niche audience: construction professionals, architects, and engineers, who are one of the important audiences at the National Building Museum,” Meyers told the SLB. “So we want to be able to tell stories that are relevant to those folks, too. The inclusion of a really sculptural, immersive installation right at the entry that’s using mass timber seemed like a great opportunity to tell a story about the sort of potential of that material.”

Industry support helped make the exhibit a reality, with the SLB’s past Board Chair Caroline Dauzat arranging for Rex Lumber to donate the material, SmartLam completing the unconventional fabrication, OTB Designworks contributing to the final design, and Davis Construction and the National Building Museum’s Master Carpenter Chris Maclay erecting the structure.

The exhibit also features a model of MALL designer Jennifer Bonner’s CLT-built Haus Gables and a number of mass timber publications. “We’re seeing that theme of mass timber broadly as a technology and as a material with real expressive artistic quality showing up time and time again,” Meyers says. “The point being that we can walk out of the gallery thinking about the way that mass timber products generally help point the way towards a better way of addressing our built environment challenges in the future.”


Industry Resources

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