Cody Knight: serving others through working with renewable materials

Cody Knight and crew

Renewable materials student Cody Knight is a recipient of three scholarships: the Lois & Dick Kearns Scholarship, John R. Snellstrom Scholarship and the Friends of Renewable Materials–Roseburg Forest Products Wood Science and Engineering Scholarship. Before coming to Oregon State, Knight served in the military.

The financial support he receives and his experience in the military inspired him to serve others through his work in the renewable materials program.

“My military experience left me asking a lot of questions about humanity, sustainability the western world and material possessions,” Knight says. “I want to create products from renewable materials that aid in sustainability.”

Knight, who grew up in northern Idaho, remembers spending summers at the lake, sleeping in log cabins.

“There, it was easy to appreciate the beauty of nature,” he says. “I want to preserve that beauty and those kinds of experiences for future generations.”

He’s working to reach his goals through hands-on learning activities outside the classroom. Knight has participated in undergraduate research with Arijit Sinha, associate professor of renewable materials at Oregon State. Knight is helping conduct testing on Freres Lumber’s new mass plywood panel product.

“I was also selected for the Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates (REEU) program,” Knight says. “This is a three-month long mentored research program with students at Oregon State and from colleges across the United States.”

Knight says his research will evaluate the shear strength of plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) after it has experienced varying degrees of temperatures and cooling times to get a clear picture of the mechanical strength of both products in the event of fire and seismic activity.

“The importance of this is plywood and OSB are typically used in residential housing for the exterior sheathing, which provides lateral support and stability for the structure,” Knight says. “Little research has been done to test their behaviors under these conditions, and I’m excited to find some answers.”

Mass timber buildings come to life

OFSC construction

The new George W. Peavy Forest Science Center will be unique, not just because of the atmosphere, but because the building will also be a living laboratory.

This living laboratory is one aspect of the SMART-CLT project, led by Mariapaola Riggio, assistant professor of wood design and architecture at Oregon State. The goal of the SMART-CLT project, which stands for “Structural Health Monitoring and Post-Occupancy Performance of Mass Timber Buildings,” is to analyze critical factors impacting the performance of cross-laminated timber during its service life, and develop protocols to monitor these factors in buildings. The SMARTCLT project will study cross-laminated timber on a small and large scale, and will be applied inside the Peavy Forest Science Center, soon to be the new home of the College of Forestry.

“Our project is looking at what is sometimes deemed as ‘serviceability of a structure,’ which includes everything from how the material vibrates, which can be a limiting factor in terms of design for long spans; deflections of the material and acoustics. We’re looking at a variety of factors,” says Evan Schmidt, outreach coordinator at the TallWood Design Institute (TDI).

Riggio says the study is multidisciplinary. The research team involves architects, engineers and industry professionals who will analyze the project from a variety of perspectives. The project is funded by TDI, a collaboration between Oregon State and the University of Oregon and the nation’s leading research collaborative focused on advancing structural wood products.

“It’s not just how the system and the building performs in terms of standard and code requirements, it’s also how it is accepted or how it contributes to the well-being and the comfort of the occupants. That’s why it’s important the project involve a number of partners,” Riggio says.

The living laboratory will provide information for many generations to come.

“Usually research is just a limited amount of time, but this project will last as long as the life of the building,” says Riggio.

The sensors used to monitor the building are a unique aspect of the project, an original idea which will help researchers see what is happening inside the materials of the building.

“We want to understand which approach can be the most effective when analyzing the overall performance while delivering meaningful and valuable information,” says Riggio.

Schmidt says the sensors outfitting the building will monitor the indoor environment, temperature of the mass timber elements, moisture content inside of the wood at various depths and locations, vibration, post-tension loss in the wall systems and more. There will be about 176 different sensor locations.

“We’re measuring a bunch of performance parameters relative to the environment,” Schmidt says. “It’s important to capture because wood is not an inert material. The way it interacts with the environment will impact the way it performs, long-term and short-term.”

While the project will last the life of the building, researchers will also monitor short-term insights during construction to understand the immediate effects.

Researchers believe this project will provide a better understanding of how best to promote the use of mass timber in construction in the U.S.

“We need flagship structures,” Schmidt says. “We need to conduct research during and after construction. The combination of the two will make the public aware and excited about the benefits of mass timber buildings.”

FY 2018 research awards

The College of Forestry’s world-class students and faculty conduct ground-breaking research within the subjects of forestry, natural resources, tourism and wood science and engineering. Our research happens in labs and outdoors– on public and private lands across the state and in the College’s own 15,000 acres of College Research Forests as well as around the nation and the world.

Contributing to Oregon State University’s second-best year ever in competitive grants and contracts for research, the College of Forestry received $11.04 million in new grants and awards. As Oregon’s largest comprehensive public research university, OSU earned a total of $382 million in the fiscal year ending June 30.

Industry and agency partnerships thrived via the college’s 10 research cooperatives, with more than 100 private industry and government agency members providing an additional $2.18 million to support collaborative research.

Here are some examples of newly funded research out of a portfolio of 40 new projects.

The Role of Managed Forests in Promoting Pollinator Biodiversity, Health, and Pollination Services to Wild Plants and Agricultural Crops

Jim Rivers
Awarded by: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Amount: $1,000,000

This project will provide new information on how managed forests support healthy pollinators including bees, flies, butterflies, beetles and hummingbirds. Other objectives of the project include determining how pollinator health is influenced by forest management intensity, evaluating whether management changes to pollinator communities alters pollination of wild plants and testing whether forests serve as source habitats for pollinator populations within agricultural landscapes.

CRISPR/Cas9 Mutagenesis for Genetic Containment of Forest Trees

Steve Strauss
Awarded by: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Amount: $500,000

The goal of this project is to develop and test systems to edit floral genes of poplar and eucalyptus trees.  The edited, non-functional genes should prevent the release of pollen or seeds of these species because their genetically engineered forms are considered undesirable. These trees are often propagated from cuttings, making fertile flowers unnecessary for commercial use. These tools are expected to simplify regulatory decisions, promote public acceptance, and avoid unintended effects from exotic or genetically engineered trees in wild or feral environments.

Automated Landslide “Hot Spot” Identification Tool for Optimized Climate Change and Seismic Resiliency

Ben Leshchinsky
Awarded by: Oregon Dept of Transportation
Amount: $425,090

Landslides are increasingly frequent hazards that affect the operation, maintenance, and construction of Oregon highways, resulting in negative economic, environmental and social impacts for Oregon communities. This project will develop approaches towards creating enhanced means of assessing landslide risk considering topography, rainfall, and seismicity, primarily through the creation of mapping tools. Through these endeavors, planners will be able to maintain the safest and most efficient transportation system possible.

Inventoried landslides used for future projections of landslide hazard.

Monitoring Recreation Use in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Troy Hall
Awarded by: USDI National Park Service
Amount: $344,078

This project is developing protocols to monitor recreation use across 21 units of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the most heavily used National Park in the US.

Multiscale Investigation of Perennial Flow and Thermal Influence of Headwater Streams into Fish Bearing Systems

Catalina Segura
Awarded by: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Amount: $221,271

The impacts of timber harvesting and other land uses on water quality have been an environmental concern for many years. This project will assess the effectiveness of the rules currently applied in California. These rules are aimed at identifying headwater streams that require special protection given their likelihood to influence stream temperature in downstream watercourses.  This project will assess the vulnerability to temperature increases after timber harvesting of fish-bearing streams draining different geologic units.

SusChEM: Naturally Produced Fungal Compounds for Sustainable (Opto)Electronics

Seri Robinson – Co-Principal Investigator
Awarded by: National Science Foundation
Amount: $190,580

The project will explore fungi-derived pigments as a sustainable optoelectronic material for organic photovoltaics.  Wood stained fungi native to the Pacific Northwest will be explored for potential incorporation into solar cells.  Fungi-derived pigments are abundant and represent a largely unexplored resource for organic electronics and renewable electricity generation.  The project is in conjunction with principal investigator Oksana Ostroverkhova in the College of Science.

Lidar- and Phodar- based modeling of stand structure attributes, biomass, and fuels

Temesgen Hailemariam
Awarded by: USDA Forest Service
Amount: $ 164,000

This project will support the growing need for land managers to fully utilize Lidar products to obtain timely and accurate information. The project integrates traditional measures of fuels with remotely-sensed point cloud data to provide estimates of pre- and post-fire fuel mass, volume, or density in physical measurement units and in 3D within the same domain as physics-based fire models, and to scale up observations from fine-scale inputs to physics-based models to coarse scale fuels characterization required by smoke models. Hierarchical sampling across a range of spatial scales will also provide an important sensitivity analysis at varying scales.

Multi-scale analysis and planning to support Forest Service fire management policy

Meg Krawchuk
Awarded by: USDA Forest Service
Amount: $146,511

The purpose of this research is to investigate management policies to address wildfire impacts to human and ecological values. Current suppression policies are not financially sustainable and not desirable from an ecological standpoint.

Towards Resilient Mass Timber Systems: Understanding Durability of Cross-Laminated Timber Connections

Arijit Sinha
Awarded by: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Amount: $489,793.00

This project will test moisture intrusion and biological decay in cross-laminated timber connection systems to help architects, contractors and product supplies understand how connections in wood buildings will fair over time.

Putting CLT through the fire

“There’s a dirty little secret about wood,” says TallWood Design Institute researcher Lech Muszynski. “It burns.”

Muszynski studies the fire resistance of cross-laminated timber. When discussing this topic, he often refers to a photo from the great San Francisco fire in 1906. In the photo, two melted steel beams lay across a wooden beam.

The beam burned, while the steel softened. But Muszynski says the old photo proves the difference between flammability and fire safety.

“Materials that do not burn may be less fire safe than wood that does burn, but keeps its load bearing capacity much better,” he says. “In this case, the steel lost its load bearing capacity, while the wood, which didn’t burn completely, retains its ability to bear a load and saves the space below from being crushed.”

Despite this evidence from the early 1900s and recent research conducted in Europe, the American public is still concerned about fire when it comes to wooden buildings, and American construction companies don’t have enough data to ensure tall wooden buildings are up to code. Muszynski hopes to provide this data and put minds at ease with his latest research project, which tests the fire resistance of cross-laminated timber floors and walls.

“The point of my project is not to generate new science, but to provide a large-scale demonstration of how cross-laminated timber panels react to fire,” Muszynski says.

When Muszynski says “large scale,” he means it. Many of the panels he tested in a large furnace at the Western Fire Center in Kelso, Washington were too large to be transported in one piece, and had to be assembled on site.

The samples went into the furnace completely unprotected with any kind of fire-proofing materials typically used in wooden construction. Thermocouples, which measure temperature, were attached to the panels to collect data while the panels were exposed to fire.

Muszynski said that each panel experienced similar, gradual and predictable charring rates: the surface of the panels darkened within two minutes, caught fire and eventually a layer of char formed on the surface of the wood.

“Every floor panel we tested survived two hours of fire exposure,” Muszynski says. “After two hours we cut it off and inspected the sample. Only one wall sample failed after 90 minutes, and that’s still pretty good.”

The next step of the project is evaluating the charred samples. For this, Muszynski employed two Oregon State undergraduates.

“At first he tried to talk me out of the job,” says senior forestry student Cassie Holloway. “We were starting in the middle of summer, and doing this kind of heavy manual labor in the heat is pretty difficult.”

But Holloway and her partner prevailed. They cut each sample into one-foot by one-foot samples and evaluated the char depth to ensure consistency with data from the thermocouples.

Holloway first heard about CLT in her junior seminar class and was immediately intrigued.

“Growing up, I was very interested in conservation and sustainability,” Hollway says. “I think it’s awesome that people are using renewable materials to build up instead of out. I was really excited to be able to work on this project.”

Once sampling is completed, Muszynski says he will work to create a map of the char depth of each sample. Next, he hopes to test the fire resistance of connections used in CLT construction.

“Our ultimate goal is to make the TallWood Design Institute the one-stop place for testing anything mass-timber including CLT and glulam and whatever comes next,” Muszynski says. “This must include fire testing.”

Savannah Stanton

Savannah Stanton is just a junior, but she already has plans to graduate from Oregon State debt free and work to change the world.

“I’ve always wanted to do something for my community and for the world,” she says. “Through renewable materials, I have the opportunity to do that.”

The Newburg High School valedictorian chose to attend Oregon State after she was awarded an academic achievement scholarship, but she still attended classes simultaneously at Portland Community College to get her baccalaureate core classes out of the way and discover her passion. She found it in a class taught by Seri Robinson called “Are You Wearing Mold?”

“The class drew me into the world of renewable materials,” Stanton says. “In the class, we dove into the world of fungi and what could be done with it. It was fun to do a hands-on class like that. It really appealed to me.”

Stanton believes an interdisciplinary course of study will be the key to her future success. He focus within renewable materials is science and engineering. She’s taken business classes, math classes and she will also earn a minor in Spanish.

“Every time a new term starts, I get new ideas,” she says. “My business classes inspired me to think about owning my own business someday instead of working for someone else.”

But Stanton isn’t exactly sure what she wants to do yet. Instead, she’s excited about a world of possibilities at home in Oregon and around the world.

During the summer of 2016, Stanton interned at a wood mill in Chile.

“That was my first time working in a mill setting,” she says. “It helped me understand the traditional part of our industry as well as an idea of the current needs are and expanded who I know within the small world of renewable materials.”

Stanton says her entire experience in Chile was funded through scholarships from the College of Forestry.

Back at home, Stanton is also involved in the student chapter of the Society of American Foresters at Oregon State. SAF is a professional organization dedicated to education and scientific pursuit in the field of natural resources.

“I got involved in SAF because I think it’s important to know what other parts of the industry are up to and what their concern are for the future,” Stanton says. “If you’re able to understand what other components need to make the whole machine work, you won’t get bogged down as much.”

She says that as a new professional, she expects to depend on the timber industry for the renewable materials needed to produce wood products.

“Renewable materials has a lot to do with timber production at some point,” she says. “Right now renewable materials only make up about five percent of the market, but I think it’s important to keep that in mind as I work toward establishing my career.”