Summer 2019

APA Designers Circle News

Highlights from this Month's e-Newsletter


Beauty and the Budget

Engineered Wood’s Appeal Is More Than Skin Deep

The interior of the Flex Building, designed by LEVER ArchitectureIt’s strong. Environmentally responsible. Cost-efficient. It’s also known for its natural warmth and aesthetic appeal. LEVER Architecture, based in Portland, Oregon, has developed a reputation for designing buildings that use wood’s qualities in new and evocative ways.

LEVER’s work with wood and mass timber comes from a respect for the product. “Our approach is equally invested in the meaning behind the material and its sourcing,” according to Thomas Robinson, founder and principal at LEVER. The firm’s Flex building, a 19,000-square-foot commercial structure in Portland (pictured above), uses engineered wood in structural and aesthetic capacities, like the glulam beams that serve as a focal point.

The glulam was manufactured by Rosboro, based in Springfield, Oregon. “To start, we think a lot about the materials,” said George Michael Rusch, project manager for LEVER, “and then we look for an opportunity to use those materials in a unique way.”

Once the team thought about the beams, they chose to make the stairs wood as well, and to leave the plywood shear walls, supplied by Hardel Mutual in Chehalis, Washington, exposed. “We like to use the materials to tie the building together in a cohesive way,” said Rusch. “It’s a real, honest structure.”

Those design choices were also strong budget choices. The 2 feet on center support spacing allowed them to eliminate the blocking on the roof. The prefabrication ability of engineered wood allowed for lower labor costs and increased speed of construction. The construction time on the Flex building was just seven months, and the glulam elements of the building took less than 30 days.

Exterior of the Flex BuildingLEVER architecture is finding that the local aspect of the product is popular with their clients as well. “Wood products are beautiful and as an industry, they are an economic catalyst for rural communities in the Northwest and beyond,” Robinson said. “Sustainability is a critical element as well, since wood sequesters carbon.”

The Flex building (exterior view on right) won multiple awards in 2018, including Architect’s Newspaper, Best of Design in Commercial + Retail, AIA Citation and Merit awards and an Editor’s Choice award from Gray Magazine, signs that mass timber products like glulam and CLT are gaining a wider acceptance. “We’re able to design with wood in ways that elevate everyday building types,” Robinson said. “Flex’s soaring wood interior is a completely unexpected experience for a simple, economical building. Innovative use of wood allows us to create powerful architecture, even for projects with limited budgets.” Rusch agreed, “When you can use mass timber for its inherent structural properties, you can make buildings that speak volumes. It’s about the morality of the material.”

To read more about LEVER's work with mass timber on this and other projects, download Case Study: Beauty and the Budget GET >

Getting Technical

Renovated APA Laboratory Expands Testing Capabilities

Exterior of the newly expanded APA Research CenterAPA – The Engineered Wood Association recently expanded the research capabilities at its laboratory in Tacoma, Washington. The significant upgrades to APA’s research and testing facilities will support innovative design and construction of timber structures using wood structural panels, engineered wood products and mass timber assemblies. Built in 1969, the 42,000-square-foot lab has long been recognized as one of the leading wood research facilities in North America. While the lab had been well maintained and updated over the years, the $4.5 million expansion raised a portion of the roof to 40 feet high and added a 4-foot-thick reinforced strong floor, 10 strong wall blocks with anchors, twin 5-ton cranes and new equipment to accommodate full-scale structural assembly testing.

The building itself is a demonstration of wood’s strength, built with laminated veneer lumber studs and purlins and glulam columns supporting a roof structure framed with curved glulam beams. Wood structural panel sheathing was used on the walls and roof. OSB lap siding was used as the exterior cladding.

APA laboratory and equipment upgrades
Physical and Equipment Limits Previous Facilities New Facilities
Ceiling Height (ft.) 24 40
Maximum Test Assembly Height (ft.) 10 30
Strong Floor Area (sq. ft.) 0 70 X 75 = 5,250
Load Actuator (lbf) 55,000 220,000
Hydraulic Stroke (in.) ±10 ±15
Pump Capacity (gal./min.) 55 150
Overhead Crane(s) (tons) 2 2 X 5 = 10

New Testing Capabilities Open New Opportunities

H blocks for strong wall testingThe following research initiatives are likely to be among the first undertaken with the new testing capabilities:

  • Larger dimension structural member testing within innovative floor and roof assemblies. This could include balloon frame construction or the development of high-strength shear wall assemblies. The first tests will also include full-scale floor diaphragms with wood I-joist framing sheathed with wood structural panel sheathing.
  • Testing that accounts for the benefit of wood structural panels and engineered wood products in multi-story buildings, such as the use of tall wall sheathing and engineered wood framing.
  • Interior shear wall testing to accommodate cantilevered diaphragms in multi-story buildings.
  • For cross-laminated timber (CLT), evaluation of shear wall capacities for fundamental design tables applicable to both shear walls and diaphragms. Tests would evaluate product thickness and varying aspect ratios.
  • Evaluation of hybrid construction of portal frames with engineered wood and other structural materials for multi-story non-residential buildings.

How much steel and concrete does it take to break engineered wood?

Strong Floor: 28 tons of steel rebar, 830 tons of concrete, 868 anchors (100,000 lbf capacity for each anchor)
Strong Wall: 20 feet high, made up of 10 blocks, each block weighing more than 19,000 pounds

Inside the Circle

Ed EliasEdward G. Elias

After graduating from the Colorado State University in 1977, Ed Elias joined APA (formerly known as American Plywood Association) as an Associate Scientist in Technical Services Division at their headquarters in Tacoma, Washington. While at APA, he has held a number of positions that have included Director of International Marketing Division, Director of Finance and Administrative Services Division and Corporate Secretary. He was appointed president January 1, 2014.

"The vision and foresight of APA member companies and our Board of Trustees made this project possible," Elias said of the recent lab expansion. "This will strengthen and expand our technical research capabilities, allowing this industry to aggressively expand market opportunities for wood structural assemblies over the next decade."

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