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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Be Good to Your Christmas Tree And it will be good to you ...


Each year over 30 million Christmas trees will be sold in the U.S. Mother Nature’s kind. The real, beautiful, ever-green, ever-aromatic centerpiece of our holiday season. They will dress up our houses and maybe most important, will be the landing point for all manner of goodies when Santa pays his annual visit — assuming, of course, we were good this year.

Which is why it is vitally important to take good care of your tree, because a tree that goes unloved and uncared for can be deadly. We don’t want to throw water on the celebration, but facts are facts. Actually, maybe we do want to throw water on the celebration, or at least at the tree.

Simply keeping your tree properly watered significantly decreases the chances of a catastrophic fire in your home. Not convinced? Take a few seconds to watch this eye-opening video courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association. Wow.

While you’re at it, try to spend a few more minutes looking through these excellent basic tips for proper tree care brought to you by Purdue University.

If you don’t have a few minutes the easy-to-follow instructions below could mean the difference between a joyous holiday season and a really, really bad one.

  • Find a tree with pliable needles that stay on the branches.
  • Cut 1/2 inch from the end of the trunk, and use a tree stand that can hold plenty of cool water.
  • Water often. Be sure to keep the water level above the tree base, otherwise the end of the tree will seal, preventing additional water from entering the tree.
  • Keep the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source and don’t let it block any exits.
  • And it goes without saying that candles should never be used on or near the tree.

And stop by our website for more information about past and present fire safety research at FPL.

Be safe and enjoy your tree!

FPL’s Fire Safety Team Recognized: FPL's Length of Service Ceremony Remembers this Special Recognition

Following up on yesterday’s post about fire safety, Lab Notes is pleased to announce a special recognition award mentioned at FPL’s length of service award ceremony today.

FPL’s Fire Safety team in FPL’s Durability and Wood Protection Research unit was recognized by the Greater Madison Federal Agency Association (GMFAA) for building effective relationships in and out of the Forest Service. Team members include Robert White (deceased), Mark Dietenberger, Laura Hasburgh, Keith Bourne, and Charles Boardman. The team endured losses over the past few years: reductions in staff and research funding, disruption to research from decommissioned facilities, and most importantly, the recent, sudden loss of their group’s leader, Robert White.


Dr. Robert White died peacefully on March 19, 2014, while at work.

Through all this adversity, the team has been productive, including contributing to codes and standards and software programs that predict residential fire damage. Many thanks to this team of researchers who work hard to keep the public safer.

Fire Safety for New Wood Products FPL's History in Fire Research

A compelling issue at FPL is how we ensure that traditional and new innovative wood products do not adversely contribute to loss of life and property in fires.The Durability and Wood Protection Research at FPL is prepared to answer these questions. A part of the group’s mission is improving durability and wood protection through improved building design, advances in low-toxicity wood preservatives, and improvements in fire safety.

With unique fire research facilities, fire safety research at FPL addresses the potential contribution of wood products to the growth of a fire, the ability of structural wood elements to withstand a fire, and the chemical treatment of wood products to reduce their flammability. Fire safety is a major component of existing building codes and will be continue to be so in future developments of editions of the building codes and other regulatory documents.


This burning test structure from 1975 is at the point of flashover—the sudden spread of flames over an area when it becomes heated to the flashpoint. Results of these tests indicated that sandwich panels provided structural integrity for various lengths of time depending on the facing material used for the panels.

FPL has worked on fire safety for decades and has helped quantify the fire performance of wood products. This research has contributed to the development of treatments of wood that reduced their flammability. Research helped define the fundamentals of fire behavior and efforts to develop methodologies for fire testing of wood and composite materials to ensure proper measurements of relevant performance characteristics. More recently, contributions have been toward data and models required for fire safety engineering of forest products in a performance-based building code environment.