Research in Progress – Building Safer Balconies

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.

Construction in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo credit: Home Innovation Research Labs)

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.

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Talking to Trees for Better Lumber

“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).

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Wood Tornado Shelter Provides Safe, Affordable Storm Protection

USDA Forest Service researchers have developed a tornado shelter made of wood that provides powerful protection at an affordable cost.

With safety and security in mind, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) engineers designed the residential tornado shelter to resist the high wind pressure and debris impacts generated by high-wind events.

Most importantly, the wood shelters can be built into an existing home using readily available materials and tools.

A F3 tornado sets down in a field. Image credit: Clint Spencer via iStock
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Mass Timber University Grant Program Initiated by U.S. Endowment and USDA Forest Service

The following is a press release from the U.S Endowment for Forestry and Communities.

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment), in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (USFS), today announced the initiation of the Mass Timber University Grant Program (Grant Program) and related Request for Proposals (RFP) to promote the construction of mass timber buildings on institutions of higher learning campuses across the U.S. The intent of the Grant Program is to inspire interest in and support for mass timber products among the architectural, developer and building communities as well as the public, by showcasing them in highly-visible projects on university campuses.  

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Hot New Video! Full-Scale CLT Fire Testing Yields Impressive Results

Trust us, you’re going to want to see this.

Forest Products Laboratory researchers conducted fire testing on a two-story cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure. Watch the short video below to see these one-bedroom apartments go up in flames, and to find out how CLT performed in the heat of the moment.

You can read more specifics about the tests in this previous LabNotes blog post, or if you’re really into the details and data, check out the full FPL general technical report.