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Glulam: Visible Beauty, Hidden Strength

LeMay Car Museum constructionGlued laminated timber, or glulam, is a highly innovative and versatile construction material engineered for a host of residential and commercial construction applications. Increased design values and improved product performance make this cost competitive material the natural choice for every project from simple beams and headers in residential construction to soaring glulam arches for domed stadium roofs spanning more than 500 feet.

What Is Glulam?

Glulam is composed of individual wood laminations, or “lams”, specifically selected and positioned in the timber, based on their performance characteristics, and bonded together with durable, moisture-resistant adhesives. Glulam is available in depths from 6 to 72 inches or greater and in lengths up to 100 feet and longer.

Unlimited Design Flexibility

LeMay Car Museum constructionGlulam has greater strength and stiffness than comparable dimensional lumber and, pound for pound, is stronger than steel. Common uses include purlins, ridge beams, floor beams, headers, complex arches, commercial roof systems, bridges and utility poles. Glulam is available in a range of appearance characteristics to meet end-use requirements. 

The strength and durability of glulam beams make them an ideal choice for large, open designs where long spans are required. Glulam beams can also be manufactured in virtually any size or shape. In fact, Glulam is the only engineered wood product that can be produced in curved shapes. The arched curve profile of the roof of the LeMay Car Museum (pictured) is one example of the virtually unlimited design flexibility offered by glulam. (Read more in the APA Case Study: LeMay -- America's Car Museum, Form N115.)

Featured Project: Glulam Timber Truss Bridge Spans Remote River

The Placer River Pedestrian Bridge, completed in July 2013, is the longest clear-span glulam timber truss bridge in North America. The 280-foot long camelback bridge is located in Chugach National Forest in Alaska at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, one of five stops planned along a new railway in Alaska’s National Forests and Parks. Designed by Western Wood Structures, the bridge was constructed with preservative-treated Douglas fir glulam trusses, Alaskan Yellow Cedar decking, and steel connectors. Image courtesy of Neil Hunt, Patrick Engineering.

Placer River Pedestrian BridgeThe Placer River Pedestrian Bridge faced unique design challenges. Aesthetically, the US Forest Service wanted the bridge to evoke a look and feel reminiscent of an early 20th century railroad camp. At the same time, the backcountry bridge’s design had to not only withstand extreme weather, but also be placed high enough to avoid collisions with icebergs and ice floes from nearby Spencer Glacier. Sitting 25 feet above the waters of the Placer River, the bridge design meets every requirement for appearance, durability, and strength—and was achieved with cost-effective materials. “People are pleased with the bridge—with the way it looks and with the way it fits in with the setting,” says Rod Dell’Andrea, a structural engineer for the USFS. “It’s truly a context-sensitive design and installation.”

Read more in the APA Case Study: Placer River Trail Bridge, Form Q110

Featured Project: Glulam Meets Sustainable Building Goals in Bullitt Center

Bullitt center in Seattle, WashingtonDescribed as the greenest commercial building in the world, the Bullitt center in Seattle, Washington pushes the envelope in urban sustainability. The six-story, 52,000-square-foot structure is designed to meet the stringent requirements of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), a performance-based certification program. “We wanted a sustainable building that would last 250 years,” said Brian Court, project architect with The Miller Hull Partnership. “That’s just one of the reasons we chose wood.” John Stamets Photo

Because wood is a sustainable, renewable resource, and because glulam makes efficient use of the materials by bonding smaller pieces of dimension lumber together to form larger beams and columns, glulam was a logical choice over concrete for the Bullitt Center. The podium structure is built with a Type IV heavy timber frame that consists of Douglas-fir glulam beams and columns finished to an industrial appearance grade. According to Brian Oberg of APA-member Calvert Company in Vancouver, Washington, the project required approximately 119,000 board feet of glulam.

Read more in the WoodWorks Bullitt Center Case Study.

CAD Information

For glulam details in a CAD format, go to the Glulam Beams section at www.apacad.org. Details for glulam floor beams, garage door headers and roof beams are available in four different formats – .DWG, .DWF, .DXF and .PDF, and can be quickly downloaded and inserted into your building plans. 

Use Glulam With Narrow Wall Bracing

An integral part of APA’s Narrow Wall Bracing Method is extending headers to the corner framing. When glulam is used, the extended headers provide a good nailing surface for the sheathing and enhance the lateral strength of the wall. Glulam beams work well in tandem with the APA Narrow Wall Bracing Method to offer a strong, stable, and easy to construct solution for narrow wall segments. Learn more about glulam’s role in narrow wall bracing by visiting the Glulam Headers section.

The APA-EWS Mark of Quality

How To Read The APA EWS Trademark

APA EWS trademarks appear only on products manufactured by APA EWS member mills. The mark signifies that panel quality is subject to verification through APA EWS audit– a procedure designed to assure manufacture in conformance with APA performance standards or the standard shown in the mark. Learn more about APA EWS.

Related Publications

Glulam Floor Beams
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