Our nation’s bridges have been under an every-two-year mandated inspection for nearly 50 years. The current method of inspecting bridges is accomplished largely by visual assessment often using costly snooper trucks. Wacker describes this approach as “a passive approach that has provided subjective and unreliable data.”
Imagine being able to look straight into a wood beam and know its structural integrity.
It’s almost like a super power, except its really just amazing science—science that Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers are practicing in order to be at the forefront of investigative timber safety and restoration.
The scene is iconic, Juliet on her balcony calling out into the night, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”, and Romeo calling up from the garden below to his star-crossed love, desperation in his heart. It is a scene that is known nearly all around the world. To many, it is what gives balconies their romantic appeal.
What a different scene it would have been if Shakespeare was not only a writer but an engineer who understood the difficulties of balcony architecture and construction. Balconies would be viewed with less rosy lenses if Shakespeare, instead of giving Romeo “love’s light wings,” gave him a balcony with moisture-driven rot and the moment he began to climb towards Juliet, the structure unmoored and flattened him under piles of destabilized building materials.
Although it may be lighthearted to imagine Romeo in a different balcony scenario, between 2001 and 2016 there have been approximately 239 balcony and deck collapses in the United States alone. In just two high-profile balcony collapses in Berkeley, CA and Chicago, IL, a total of nineteen fatalities resulted. As buildings age, construction defects become fatal defects.
“Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe,” stated astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei.
And just like everything in nature and the cosmos, trees have a mathematical language too.
A scientist at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) and his colleagues are tapping into the language of trees to produce more reliably classed wood products—from evaluating and grading structural timber to wood-based composite materials (veneer, laminated veneer lumber, and glued laminated timber).