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What Is Engineered Wood?

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What Is Engineered Wood?

Engineered wood is a buzzword among green builders and conservationists, but a mystery to many homeowners. What is engineered wood, how do you apply it properly in construction, and what makes it a renewable building material? I consulted with some experts in the field of engineered wood composites and asked them about everything from new developments in technology to classic problems with application. What follows is a pretty thorough overview, which I suggest you read if you are considering building with wood products.

What are engineered wood composites?

There are two primary types of engineered wood composites commonly used in residential construction: oriented strand board and laminated strand lumber, known as OSB and LSL, respectively. Oriented strand board is a panel; laminated strand lumber is a structural lumber substitute. Both of these products are made of particles of wood that are bound together with an adhesive.

Performance Comparison

How do engineered wood composite beams with fiber reinforcement compare to milled lumber? According to Professor Douglas Gardner of the Wood Science and Technology School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine, engineered wood has a higher load-bearing capacity. Gardner said, “If you test it to failure, typically [milled] wood will break in the tension zone and propagate. Usually what happens in the tension zone with reinforced wood is the failure tends to become more of a shear failure, and the beam actually becomes more ductile because the fiber reinforced plate creates a much stronger composite.

“Thus, the failure mechanisms for these beams are different. And that could be a good thing, because that basically means that the failure might not be as catastrophic if you test to failure: The beam doesn’t fly apart. It basically crushes and it holds together because of the fiber reinforced plate on the bottom.”

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60 comments

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11:26AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

A company local to me, Structurlam Products is on the 'cutting edge' of engineered wood technology. With cross laminated timber they're creating environmentally friendly, STRONG (withstanding earthquakes better than concrete), multistory, beautiful buildings like the Elkford Community Centre and the UBC Earth Sciences Building and Daycare.

5:31PM PST on Dec 12, 2010

Thank you for the info on this!

4:43AM PST on Nov 27, 2010

Sounds good!
Thanks :)

11:51PM PST on Nov 21, 2010

Interesting post. thanx

1:25PM PST on Nov 21, 2010

I swear - we "engineer" everything. But, I'm glad to know it requires less timber. What will be the cost to the planet for the use of the chemicals? When will the lawsuits start where people are claiming or are truly injured in some way from the useof the chemicals?

3:48AM PST on Nov 21, 2010

Thanks for reading this article from my site, Networx.com.

I agree that engineered wood is a trade-off. While it is very durable and reduces the amount of trees used for lumber, the adhesives used in the process can be dangerous for some people to inhale.

Please bear in mind that I interviewed wood science professors for this article, who look at the product from a different perspective than many of you do. Your points about toxicity are valid. The main idea is that engineered wood is a way to reduce the amount of lumber used in building structures, and can provide longer-lasting structural materials.

If anyone can provide accurate details on exactly how much OSB and LSL off gas, that would be great. They may not in fact off-gas as much as you think they do. The fact that they contain formaldehyde does not necessarily mean that they off gas an amount of it that is harmful. We need to check into this.

4:38PM PST on Nov 19, 2010

Noted with thanks!

6:58PM PST on Nov 18, 2010

interesting...thanks...it's nice to know that the construction industry is also going green in a big way...

11:32AM PST on Nov 18, 2010

Sounds all fine and dandy, but Hemp Fiber Cement constructed either as bricks or into panels (boards) is massively strong, but French government officials have banned it's use because it's massively CHEAPER and STRONGER than wood by far and the Forest/Wood Growing/Processing and Manufacturing Industries (in France...as well as in Canada and the United States) have very powerful political lobbies that keep these sane, forest saving products off the market and they use propaganda such as "It's marijuana!" which HEMP is NOT! You cannot get "high" off of Industrial Hemp. Industrial Hemp could save entire economies in nations all over the world, but "the Powers That Be" would thwart that idea otherwise. There IS evil in the world, and it's called Right-Wing Corporate Capitalism. Use the taxpayers money to bail out the Banksters, so they in turn can pat themselves on the back while taking massive bonuses...THAT WE PAID FOR!!!!! When will the taxpaying patriots of this country wake up to what's going on in this country and make the Banksters and these super wealthy families who profit on their "manufactured" War Mongering and War Profiteering Economy actually PAY their fair share in taxes? What is it going to take for everyone to wake the Hell up?! Well? Answer me that?

11:35PM PST on Nov 17, 2010

Thank you for posting.

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