FPL Researcher Featured in Engineering News-Record

A rendering of the 25-story Ascent building currently under construction in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo credit: Korb + Associates
Laura Hasburgh
Building and Fire Sciences
Materials Research Engineer

Engineering News-Record recently featured Forest Products Laboratory’s (FPL) materials research engineer, Laura Hasburgh and her expert consultation on the Ascent construction project in Milwaukee. At 25 stories, the Ascent building is making history as the soon-to-be tallest timber building in the world. And because of its unprecedented height and exposed mass timber interior, Hasburgh was contacted to lend her fire testing expertise.

The top eighteen floors of the Ascent will be framed in mass timber and the interior architectural design features exposed glued-laminated timber (glulam) framing and cross-laminated timber (CLT) slabs to showcase the natural beauty of the wood. But with these design and material choices, the Ascent’s fire safety planning needed to be carefully considered.

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FPL Researcher Featured on National Public Radio

Brian Brashaw
Forest Products Marketing Unit
Program Manager

Forest Products Laboratory’s (FPL) Brian Brashaw was featured in an National Public Radio (NPR) segment about the soon-to-be world’s tallest timber building currently under construction in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Ascent building will boast 25 stories, 18 of which will be framed in mass timber. The upscale apartment complex is slated for completion in 2022. Right now, the cement foundation is being laid. Brashaw anticipates the Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) “to start flying,” or rather, construction crane hoisted pre-fabricated mass timber sections to begin installation in early summer 2021.  

FPL is excited about its participation in helping the Ascent rise among the tallest modern wood structures in the world.

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Throwback Thursday: The FPL Rotting Pit

Thanks to Grant Kirker for writing this fascinating look back into Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) history and science. Kirker is a Research Forest Products Technologist at FPL in the Durability and Wood Protection Research unit.

Throughout its 110-year history, FPL has participated in groundbreaking wood research both nationally and internationally. The FPL research libraries contain a virtual treasure trove of information pertaining to the wise use of wood and wood-based materials. Historical overviews like this would not be possible without them.

One of the earliest endeavors at the newly established Forest Products Laboratory, then located at 1509 University Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin, was the testing of preservative treated wood for the expanding railroad sector in the US. The swift growth of railways across the country had created a huge demand for suitable hardwoods. But high decline rates due to wood rot fungi was a constant concern leading to an unreasonable amount of wood being used to replace rapidly rotting railroad ties. The dawn of wood preservation research at FPL was aimed at increasing the service life of rail ties to reduce the demand on America’s forests.  

Original Forest Products Laboratory Building at 1509 University Avenue
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A Salty Tale of Wood Damage Research and Discovery

A tenacious fungus, a conspiracy theory, a historic ship, a unique gift from Princeton University, and two Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researchers, Grant Kirker and Samuel Zelinka, collaborating with researchers from Germany and Canada all converged in the right order of events to produce some of the most significant advances in wood salt damage understanding in over twenty years.

Samuel Zelinka – Supervisory Materials Research Engineer
Grant Kirker – Research Forest Products Technologist

A recent publication, “Salt Damage in Wood: Controlled Laboratory Exposures and Mechanical Property Measurements,” is the result of all of these circumstances and characters clashing and aligning.

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Searching for Natural Resistance through Infrared Spectroscopy

Closeup view of Western Junipier – By Syntheticmessiah – stock.adobe.com

Durability is one of the most important building qualities needed for timber products. It is measured by how well wood species can resist fungal decay or insect damage.

Some trees are just naturally better at resisting rot.

And as market and public demand increases for more naturally resistant wood that hasn’t been treated with potentially harmful preservatives, researchers are looking to the trees for answers.

That’s what PhD student Shahlinney Lipeh from Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) in collaboration with Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) researcher Mark Mankowski and a group of international researchers are looking for through infrared spectroscopy.   

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