A three-story mass timber building has been designed and constructed for structural testing at College of Forestry’s A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Lab, the home of the TallWood Design Institute.

This project, funded by the USDA Agricultural Research Service and led by associate professor of wood science and engineering Arijit Sinha, is testing innovative lateral force resisting systems (LFRS) comprised of newer mass timber products and different energy dissipation mechanisms. These LFRS represent a suite of resilient design techniques that can localize damage in special hardware designed to dissipate energy during an earthquake or similar disturbance. The end product is a building that is potentially more resilient to natural disasters than conventional construction.

The mass timber building, constructed by Fortis Construction Inc. and spanning 40’-x-40′ will be tested in multiple phases, with each stage utilizing different LFRS in terms of design and materials:

  1. Phase 1: The first phase will involve testing a 30-foot post-tensioned self-centering shear wall made from a mass plywood panel (MPP) with U-shaped flexural plates (UFP) as the special energy dissipating hardware. 
  2. The project’s second phase will involve testing an MPP rocking “spine” with buckling restrained braces (BRBs) used for energy dissipation.
  3. Phase 3 will introduce a new mass timber panel product, yet to hit the market, as part of post-tensioned, self-centering shear walls with UFP.

All mass timber products used in the building are manufactured in Oregon with Oregon fiber. Beams and columns are Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) manufactured by Boise Cascade, while the floors and walls are Mass Plywood Panels (MPP) manufactured by Freres Lumber. Both these products are made with Douglas-fir. Simpson StrongTie provided a majority of the connections in the building.

This project is a collaboration between research faculty in the OSU department of wood science and engineering, OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering, and TallWood Design Institute.

For more information about this project, visit the Innovative Lateral Systems website, or contact the principal investigator Arijit Sinha at arijit.sinha@oregonstate.edu, or TDI’s outreach coordinator, Evan Schmidt, at evan.schmidt@oregonstate.edu.

On May 14, 2019, the Oregon State University College of Forestry celebrated the grand opening of the A. A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory. Sierra Pacific Industries, founded by Emmerson and his father, R. H. “Curly” Emmerson, contributed the lead gift of $6 million toward building the facility in October 2015. The new lab adds 15,000 square-feet of structural testing space to the college, which already boasts some of the best technical research facilities in the nation.

The new lab will:
•drive commercialization of advanced wood products and position the university and the entire State of Oregon as a hub for innovative and sustainable product creation and construction;
•support the growth of manufacturing capacity in timber-dependent, rural communities;
•grow opportunities for Oregon State students and industry partners in research, professional practice and collaboration;
•reinforce Oregon State’s international status as a premier forestry and forest products institution.

The facility contains:
•A 2,500 square-foot advanced wood products manufacturing area,
•A flexible demonstration classroom area for workshops and professional development,
•A 60-by-80-foot strong wall and reaction floor system will facilitate testing of up to three-story wood structures,
•The offices of the TallWood Design Institute, a unique research collaboration between the Oregon State University College of Forestry, College of Engineering, and the University of Oregon School of Design. It is the nation’s only research collaborative that focuses exclusively on the advancement of structural wood products, and serves as a national research, education, and outreach hub focusing on multi-family and non-residential wood buildings.

The lab will support research including shear wall testing, structural connections, exploring the feasibility of salvaged lumber, architectural and product design, building performance and more.

At the grand opening of the lab, Anthony S. Davis, interim dean of the College of Forestry spoke about the lab’s research impact as well as what it represents – continued excellence in the teaching, research and outreach of the college.

“As we stand here just a few miles away from some of the most productive and diverse forests in the world,” Davis said, “we are better positioned than anyone else to serve as a bridge between our natural resources and meeting the demands of urban growth and renewal, while also continuing to conserve habitat and provide recreational access.”

TallWood Design Institute reaches out

Based at the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, the TallWood Design Institute (TDI) is the nation’s leading research collaborative focused on the advancement of structural wood products and mass timber design.

The institute represents a unique interdisciplinary partnership between OSU’s Colleges of Forestry and Engineering and the University of Oregon’s College of Design. The institute is at the forefront of mass timber research and real-world relevance. Its core tenets are the importance of industry collaboration, through outreach, education and feedback from professionals.

“Our goal is to conduct meaningful research and engage with the building community to help validate and highlight how these products and building systems work,” says Outreach Coordinator Evan Schmidt.

During FY 2017 and 2018, TDI focused on outreach by developing avenues of collaboration with community partners including product development, testing with manufacturers, educational seminars for students and designers and applied research projects with engineering firms.

Connecting with industry

TDI worked with the Freres Lumber Company in Lyons to test and develop an entirely new engineered wood product, mass plywood panels (MPP), in 2017 and 2018. TDI funded the second-phase of Freres’s testing, and continuing work with Freres includes optimizing MPP’s layup through modeling, structural testing, life cycle analysis, acoustics and architectural design applications.

MPP, like CLT, can be used as a substitute for conventional building materials. Now certified by the APA for structural use, MPP was installed for the first time in the U.S. as sheathing on Oregon State’s new A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory in Corvallis.

“We are a good example of a family business working within our rural community to come up with something new and innovative,” Tyler Freres says. “It’s also been great to have the experts and the researchers at OSU and the TallWood Design Institute working with us on this project. We have a very close relationship, and appreciate all the extra hands involved in producing MPP.”

Advanced wood products for the next generation

Judith Sheine, TDI’s director of design and professor of architecture at the University of Oregon, focuses on another application for MPP. MPP-based modular construction was the focus of her most recent undergraduate architecture and engineering design studio. Focusing on mass timber applications allowed Sheine to partner with Modular Building Systems and Clackamas County to discuss a partnership project using MPP for Oregon highway rest stops.

The modular MPP project isn’t the first time Sheine’s mass timber design studio has resulted in a public-private partnership. SRG Architecture and KPFF Engineering worked intimately with TDI and the City of Springfield on a CLT parking garage after it was the focus on of Sheine’s studio classes in 2016.

Architects and engineers across the United States have expressed interest in creating similar structures. Lane County has also participated in the design studio process, and hopes to build its new court house from mass timber based on one of the award-winning designs that came out of the classroom.

Schmidt says he’s excited about continuing to engage with TDI’s industry partners.

“Research advancing mass timber is a time sensitive effort,” he says. “The private sector moves at a different pace and under different logistics than academia, so it’s essential that we continue to engage the design community. That’s what keeps us relevant, while our research is what lends credence to mass timber as a solution.”

New facilities will aid industry tests

TDI’s access to state-of-the-art testing facilities helps it accomplish its innovative research. The new A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory builds on the strengths of existing facilities. The lab is scheduled for completion in summer 2019, and will have both a three-story structural testing bay, as well as an advanced manufacturing lab. In addition to research applications, the manufacturing lab will contain a hands-on educational space for students, skilled workers and design professionals looking to learn more about mass timber applications.

Another research space in the design and development phase is a full-scale acoustic-testing facility that will be built in the Willamette Valley. The lab will be one of only a few certified acoustics testing facilities along the West Coast, and will offer TDI’s industry partners the opportunity to rapidly test and prototype mass timber assemblies based on their acoustic properties. The lack of a facility like this is often a limiting factor when it comes to utilizing mass timber, and TDI is excited to fill that gap for its industry partners.

Portland meetups a success

Part of TDI’s outreach approach includes holding educational and networking events geared toward bringing various stakeholders together to learn, collaborate and problem solve all things mass timber. To accomplish this, TDI hosts a monthly event in Portland called ‘Mass Timber Meetups.’ These are casual, network-focused events that are designed to stimulate discussion on a specific subject within the world of mass timber.

“We discuss topics like acoustics, fire, building information modeling (BIM) and more,” Schmidt says. “It’s a place where people who have worked with mass timber, or are just curious, can discuss their experience or ask questions.”

These conversations help to build a community around mass timber construction and educate construction professionals from a variety of areas. About 15-30 people from various backgrounds typically attend. These events are free and open to the public and will continue in 2019.

Construction of the A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Lab is underway on the Oregon State University campus. The new lab will add 15,000 square-feet of structural testing space to the Oregon State College of Forestry, which already boasts some of the best technical research facilities in the nation.

A new state-of-the-art space

The laboratory will also be home to a 2,500 square-foot advanced wood products manufacturing area, a flexible demonstration and classroom area and the TallWood Design Institute offices.

“There are a variety of ways research and teaching can intersect in this new space,” says Arijit Sinha, associate professor of renewable materials at Oregon State. “When we complete large-scale tests, we will need an army of undergraduate helpers. It will be a great experiential learning opportunity for students, while at the same time offering us new, world-class capabilities to test buildings at full scale.”

Juliana Ruble, former advanced wood products lab manager and project engineer for Andersen Construction, agrees.

“The new lab will provide space for architects, engineers, wood products manufacturers and researchers to come together and develop new products and new building systems designs,” she says.

A CNC panel processing center will be capable of creating large panels and straight beams as well as curved beams and other, smaller wood products. Another robotic machine will expand architectural fabrication opportunities.

A strong floor for large tests

A 60-by-80-foot strong wall and reaction floor system will facilitate testing of up to three-story wood structures.

The strong floor and accompanying reaction wall are composed of  four-foot thick concrete. Anchors are attached to the floor and wall on a four-by-four-foot grid. Each anchor has a 60-kip capacity for a total of 240 kips for each cluster of four anchor points. The reaction wall is capable of withstanding a 150-kip reaction while the floor can withstand 500-kip compression across a twelve-inch diameter area.

“Our strong floor will be one of the largest related to wood and timber research in the U.S.,” Sinha says. “We will use the floor and reaction wall to test materials and structures. The strong base of the floor mimics a rigid surface during tests.”

Oregon State and TDI researchers anticipate using the facility to conduct seismic tests, connection tests, wall connection tests, loading tests and more.

“We do these tests now on a smaller scale,” Ruble says. “This new facility will more than double our research capacity while increasing our manufacturing research capabilities and our ability to bring in industry, students and stakeholders to learn in an applied research environment.”

Making connections, continuing research

Sinha researches connections within mass-timber buildings, and will continue this work inside the new lab. His current project focuses on nondestructive evaluation of mass-timber by exposing connection materials to extremes of modular and biological exposure on two different species of CLT.

Sinha will also assess how wood buildings react to biological attack including fungi. The research project is funded by the USDA, and the team includes collaborators from Portland State University.

“The results will be incorporated into building codes,” Sinha says. “This project is important because it will tell us how things play out overtime in wood buildings with intrusion of moisture.”

Iain Macdonald has been selected as director of the TallWood Design Institute (TDI), a unique research collaboration between the Oregon State University College of Forestry, College of Engineering, and the University of Oregon School of Design. It is the nation’s only research collaborative that focuses exclusively on the advancement of structural wood products, and serves as a national research, education, and outreach hub focusing on multi-family and non-residential wood buildings.

Macdonald has served as Associate Director of TDI since November 2016. Previously, he led the Centre for Advanced Wood Products at the University of British Columbia for nine years.

Since his arrival, TDI has collaborated with a wide range of community and industry partners to help develop new and innovative products, provide testing services for manufacturers, engineers and designers, conduct educational seminars, round table events and networking meetings for industry, and carry out applied research projects. In January, TDI hosted the Oregon Mass Timber Development Summit in partnership with Business Oregon, attracting over 180 elected officials, economic development personnel, investors and industry representatives to Salem to discuss how to grow Oregon’s mass timber supply chain.

The institute’s applied research program, drawing from the deep expertise within OSU’s Wood Science and Engineering and Civil and Construction Engineering departments and University of Oregon’s Architecture department, is eliminating barriers to widespread adoption of mass timber technology. Data from product testing and development enables building code officials to evaluate and propose changes that make it easier to permit mass timber buildings in the United States. Last year, Oregon was the first state in the nation to adopt new code provisions that bring buildings up to 18 stories within code.

In May 2019, TDI will move into the Oregon State University College of Forestry’s new A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory, a state-of-the-art facility that includes sophisticated manufacturing equipment, a robotic machining cell, and one of the largest structural testing areas in the US. Simultaneously in Eugene, University of Oregon is preparing to build a Timber Acoustic Testing Facility to fill yet another major research and development need.

As director of TDI, Macdonald will lead a growing interdisciplinary team that will continue to support and grow the research and testing program, offer innovative educational programs, and work closely with industry to identify and address opportunities and barriers.

“I’m excited to lead the TallWood Design Institute and partner with two outstanding universities,” Macdonald says. “Our affiliated faculty members are conducting collaborative, world-class research that will advance new solutions for designers, manufacturers and engineers, and enable us to build taller, larger and smarter with wood.”

Students nervously pace the second-floor knuckle of Richardson Hall on a cool, spring day. Some flit to the walls to make sure their posters are perfectly secured and their models are ready to shine. Others nervously nibble on chips and watermelon.

It’s final exam time, and for students in assistant professor Mariapaola Riggio’s class, that means making a presentation in front of their classmates, other faculty members and industry professionals.

The class, Timber Tectonics in the Digital Age, examines how the design and construction of timber structural systems benefit from digital techniques. Architecture students from the University of Oregon’s School of Design are invited to enroll alongside Oregon State students studying renewable materials, wood science, civil engineering and construction engineering management.  All students work collaboratively, as part of a small team, thinking critically about how digital tools might be able to change the wood construction sector.

For their final project, the students were tasked with creating a ‘wood products pavilion’ that might represent the TallWood Design Institute at the International Mass Timber Conference in Portland in 2019. The institute is one of the nation’s top research collaboratives focusing exclusively on the advancement of advanced wood products. The students used parametric techniques to design adjustable forms, and then refined them according to structural analysis information. The final challenge has been to plan the construction process appropriate materials and detailing.

“We’ve had a great partnership,” says Nancy Yen-Wen Cheng, Architecture Department head at the University of Oregon. “And it has been a privilege to co-teach with [Riggio]. She brings knowledge of the latest advances in timber structures and has been insightful about how to employ my digital design specialization.”

Brent Stuntzner of CB Two Architects in Salem agrees. He served as one of the judges of the students’ final projects.

“I’m always really excited to go in and ask the students questions,” Stuntzner says.

Despite their nervousness, the students prevailed and presented thorough and exciting final projects.

“They are full of creative ideas,” says Stuntzner. “And after this class they are prepared to go into a variety of different environments within the construction and wood products industries.”

“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.”