In this episode, we talk to Eli Gould, U.S. Representative at Wood Construction Group, about timber structural systems in modern digital workflows. He talks about some of the challenges in modern timber systems and discusses some of the emerging standards used for data and descriptions in timber structural systems.

Engineering Quotes:

Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Eli Gould:

What are some of the challenges in modeling and describing modern timber systems with existing software?

What are some of the Nonprofit and Open BIM efforts to streamline and standardize workflows and avoid them from becoming obsolete?

How can organizations bring more wood structure options into their design and project delivery?

What are some of the emerging standards used for data and descriptions in timber structural systems?

What about supply chain variations? Talk to us more about that.

For engineers considering a career like yours, what advice would you give them?

Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Timber Structural Systems (in Modern Digital Workflows):

The timber structural system community is very varied. A plugin was developed so that modern software could be used to make the timber structural system designs. There are four main delivery methods for timber structures that roughly correspond with how digital tools see them. They are loadable components, mass timber slabs, custom wood enclosures, and the upcoming modular or volume-metric delivery. These delivery systems are constantly updated on the plugin, which is freely available to use. Without the plugin, modern software does not have enough data fields to describe the weak axis strength factor.

Timber structural systems are still young and are playing catch-up with traditional delivery methods. The work needs to be done to get data, standards, and descriptions of the field so that engineers can do their work. There are some rapidly changing fields now that the timber structural systems field needs to follow and listen to in order to speed up the catching-up process.

It is so alluring to jump in and do the showcase projects, but it is holding us back as an industry. It is the everyday work that is impactful and not the showcases or jewel boxes. At one time, timber structures had to prove themselves as an equal structural system, which led to the rolling out of the tall wood code adoption. It caused a lot of negative propaganda and confusion. The challenge now is to see if we can develop smart optimum hybrids, especially with the current cost of materials.

The standards for timber structural systems are still emerging. The best work on emerging data standards is done by an industry or community devoted to transparency. Building sustainability data has increasingly become standardized, shared, open, and free. Building Transparency's database, EC3, has become a leading zone for transparency data. The emerging standard, SE2050, came from engineering firms that want to handle standard data across different materials, in the interest of calculating embodied carbon. Transparency data is driven on EPDs, which are the Environmental Product Declarations of the individual products. There is an emerging standard for this called openEPD.

Timber is a living material. The same species differ in many ways depending on the region that it is grown in. There are many different products grown all over the world and in vastly different environments. As a structural engineer, you need to know how different the materials can be before you allow your architect to use certain products. The main problem is the vast fiber differences in the supply chain variations. We have three main wood baskets in the U.S., which are yellow pine, Douglas fir wood, and spruce. We now also have the European wood basket.

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