Making the Right Connections in the Design and Building Process


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This presentation by John Boys reviews the hazards of disconnect during the design and building process when specifically using mass timber. The presentation also reviews the various logistics to consider when building a mass timber building. Also included for reference is an overview of projects that have used mass timber, including the UBC Earth Science building.

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  • Hello, my name is John Boys, I’m delighted to be here today. I am excited about the use of Cross Laminated Timber and Massive Wood and the directions we are taking with these materials.
  • My background is in massive log and timber construction, a very hands-on occupation, with a skill set suitable to the challenges of Massive engineered wood projects. a wise American from the last century Will rogers remarked. There are three kinds of men:The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves. I’ve learned a few shocking lessons9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.CLIC
  • 4 As with CLT and Glulam – or any massive panel component, we need to pre-plan the rigging, lifting, sequencing as well as the connections suitable for the material and it’s application
  • 5 Working with the various materials and anticipating behaviour; shrinkage, settling and tying it all together. In Port Angeles we are dealing with large seismic loads which we dragged back to a steel and concrete monster fireplace
  • 6 A great project – challenging and interesting design, the highlight for us was the design build team that the owner put together. owner, engineer, designer and general contractor – developing sensible, cost effective solutions like the welded log. Incidentally, this was the last complex project we did without 3D modelling. 164 pieces of complex post and beam and each with it’s own unique shape – all prefabricated at our production facility. After this CLT and Gluelam seems easy.
  • 7 Our introduction to CLT in North America was a desperate phone call requesting we do a couple of days of onsite consulting at one of the first North American CLT commercial structures at UBC Vancouver. A serious crane accident lifting a 4000lb column had shut the site down. We came in to do some training on lifting heavy timber and never left.CLIC
  • 8 The result was a summer’s worth of work for our team of specialty timber experts and an excellent hands-on opportunity to develop solutions which we‘ve implemented in a number of other Massive wood projects.
  • 9 I’m sure that most of us here today have a strong commitment to building sustainable, durable buildings that will stand the test of time.
  • 10 To build sustainably, we have to understand our materials and how they behave. We all know that wood, and in particular Massive timber is an excellent choice in our desire to build green. But if you don’t understand and respect the nature of wood – it will give you the blues!
  • 11 The organic nature of our materials means that we have to anticipate it’s behaviour under various conditions. Wood is not static and presents a unique set of challenges.It is not always the best choice of material.
  • 12 Once we begin to use engineered wood; gluelam, parralam, CLT, we have a much more manageable material.Fewer issues of shrinking and movement and more predictable structural properties. A Key property to CLT is that it is dimensionally restrained and has diaphragm properties in both directions. It is also available in 10’x40 sheets up to 12” thick.Again it is not always the right choice of material
  • 13 As we’ve been learning, CLT’s were developed in Europe and have since been partially incorporated in Euro code, so we have a lot of case studies and examples to draw on as we explore this “new to us” material.One of the things that really excites me about CLT is the new twist and vision that we, in North America have added.
  • 14 In Europe the CLT is often replacing a mass wall or floor elements with no expectation of leaving the wood exposed.So far my experience here has been the CLT is a key visual element.This puts some additional demands on how we connect and handle CLT and gluelam.
  • 15 In preparing this presentation I’ve found myself thinking about how we build. I’ve found myself wondering about how we typically look at the structures we build. I believe many of us tend to look at various components in isolation; concrete here, framing there Gluelam beams, CLT floor panels and so on.It is at the connections between all these components that we find most of our challenges. I prefer to look at a building as a collection of connections that all need to work together in harmony. What I hope to share with you today are my experiences of what happens to your well considered designs, details and connections once they get to the job site.
  • 16 My topic is really as much about the connections or relationship of the design/build team on any project as it is about the physical connections we use when assembling massive timber and CLT. One of the problematic areas in these Massive wood projects are the tolerances specified or not specified in the plans.
  • 17 With CNC produced wood products, tolerances are a few millimeters at lengths up to 75’Metric standardCSA A23.1 Concrete tolerances explicitly allow variations of 2” at 63’ we have a major disconnectHow do we address this? Business as usual will not work here.Do not bury this on a 24x36 sheet of specifications. The trades do not read this.
  • 18 These are typical notes from our design review processFlag the problem areas- connectionsConstructability.
  • 19 It took11 weeks for our RFI to make it through the systemLots of paperwork- No communication
  • 20So where does one activity end and another begin? These photos show ESB. Each component was manufactured and supplied by two different companies. They needed to join seamlessly with a high degree of precision…. Seismic movementCLICIt’s all about the connections- Insist on a constructability meeting with your key trades- divide scope of work in a logical fashion.
  • 21 A successful and fairly complex project; big curved concrete walls to tie into. The roof of the auditorium was put out to bid after concrete was in place.When we asked for a copy of the 3D model in order to generate a timber model. We were offered a very pretty Sketch-up model.The paper plan was sufficient for bid purposes but not for fabrication. We generated our own model and headed to site to check the all -critical concrete pockets.The 80mm variation was too much to tolerate, We brought in a surveyor, generated a cloud map and tweaked the model to match. The CNC machine took care of the rest. Easy fast perfect assembly.
  • 22 Here is a project we did for The Interior Allied Tribes some years ago. Another 2D plan, this time featuring a helical climbing arbour.We priced the post and beam log work based on the drawings and because we saw a lot of expensive complexity we decided to model it in Dietrich’s 3D software before tendering our bid. In so doing we realized that all of the elements repeated themselves, and we were able to drop almost $100,000.00 out of our bid. Jens
  • In this plan the specification was for nail-in-place roof panels – we conceived an alternative and for the first time used a nail laminated pre fab panel. A nice look with superior acoustics to CLT and an interesting visual effect – but you want to get them up and on your roof in a hurry, as this type of panel will move if it gets wet CLT is a more efficient method and very stable but would have been tough to force it into the helical shape.
  • Can’t Connect. The problem: Connection detail: four bolts – cast in place in concrete plinths all at a different heights. Basically a concrete guy’s nightmare, and yours too, because it is an unachievable detail.200 unachievable details – The constructability review meeting at the architects office produced a better solution. Very forgiving weld down connection.
  • CLIC 3D modelling – it keeps every body on the same page.Helps the customer to visualizeCollision testing is invaluable.Will reveal what is hidden and what is in view…..CONTEXT
  • CLIC CLIC The By Others -Brothers….Don’t know how they keep getting specified on EVERY plan! And where are they when you need them? CLICI don’t have to tell you that this is where things can get sour in the field .If an activity, material or quality level is integral to the work – specify it and understand whose scope of work this naturally falls into.This can be a challenge on large projects.
  • Here is a good example of design/build team working together. I recently heard the following comment: It’s rare that one finds an architect with the courage to pursue a detail like this and with confidence in her engineer and his ability to help her realize it. And the ability to sell the owners on the concept.Being involved in bringing this to fruition was a high point for all of us. I have to admit, the engineering baffled me, and I was grateful to Bernhard and EQ for taking the time to explain how it was supposed to work.
  • I’m just going to flip through a few photos here that touch connections you might specify in a CLT/Gluelam structure, as well as images of connections and material handling in the field.
  • Sherpa I like them but skilled installer & QC is critical
  • TRU clever design with a high tolerance for sloppy concrete work -grouted
  • Reinforce around beam penetrations9 screws- pretty easy efficient connectionVery low cost
  • 33 I love what I can do with Structural adhesives but I don’t like working with them. Messy, expensive hard to control.
  • 34 Canadian invention very ductile Simple not pretty.
  • 35 Assembly strategy- Pre assemble in the shop, on the ground – and only as a last resort in the air
  • 36 This is my favorite steel fabricator.Full 3D modelling, CNC laser and water jet cuttingFor an extra $25 he will laser a bolt placement template complete with axis and work point.You want these guys on your team.You don’t get this sort of service with a low bid process.
  • 37 Local job we were not the low bid- came in for another rescue.
  • 38 Site conditions
  • 39 Pete open to anything.
  • 40 We have been testing finishes for 23 yearsStill searching for the magic bullet.Finish should not be an after-thought
  • 41
  • 42 This was our first commercial CLT Installation in NA Very 1st CLT panels from Structurlam
  • 43 Epoxy pin post base collides with rebar No constructability review.Timber package steel vs concrete package steelTower crane was supplied by the forming contractor190 ton AT crane for every 4 days $7000 each time.
  • 44 Crane time lapse
  • 45 my summer train wreck
  • 46
  • 47 lots of lessons learned.
  • 48 UBC has embraced Wood First
  • 49 Crane- finishing -exams
  • 50 -95 degrees in the shade No shade 12 hr shifts
  • 51 My favorite to date and the only pure CLT I’ve done. Kris Spickler Hand cut
  • 52
  • 53
  • 54 Dietrich’s Dan Depoe
  • 55 Lessons learned?Integrated design- integrated fabricationCommunicateDump the low bid.Offsite fabrication3D modelingNo need to pee on fences.
  • Thank You for your time and attention
  • Making the Right Connections in the Design and Building Process

    1. 1. In every project the challenges andopportunities are found at the connections both physical and mental The Hazards of Disconnect during the Design/Build Process
    2. 2. My name isJohn Boys
    3. 3. ..I thought Iwas going to rescue fairmaidens when I grew up
    4. 4. Panelized Procedures in Log Post & Beam Construction
    5. 5. Integration of connections between a variety of interfaces
    6. 6. Integration of connections between a variety of interfaces
    7. 7. We felt like we wereKnights on a Rescue Mission! Earth Sciences Building – University of British Columbia
    8. 8. Hopefully, thatestablished my cred…....on with theshow...this is it...
    9. 9. To build structures that stand the test oftime…
    10. 10. …We Have to Understand our Materials Life Cycles – Wood wants To recycle itself and become compost …and how it behaves
    11. 11. Organic Connections! Movement…Working close to the natural…a unique set of challenges
    12. 12. Structural Connections Wood to wood CLT joinery – engineering for loads and aesthetics
    13. 13. Handling, moving and Positioning Material Safety Damage Control Efficiency Connection! (Thank Goodness)
    14. 14. Euro CLT vs North American
    15. 15. Accuracy…and well considered solutions Connections Connections ..Makes everyone happy!
    16. 16. In other words… These “reports from the field” are about keeping your customer happy, and how to avoid change orders, cost over-runs, time over-runs reduce gaps in that result in expenses and conflict in the production stages. Job site problems areoften a manifestation of design/Build Team disconnect • Tolerances • Break in Scope of Work • Context
    17. 17. Tolerating tolerances & managing clientexpectations. With a significant part of the building prefabbed on a precision CNC machine it is critical to examine all the connections with other parts of the building- Primarily foundations and structural steel. When possible use details that tolerate intolerance! If you need to tighten tolerance it is imperative that these specifications and narrower tolerances are brought to the attention of the trades at the bidding stage. Remember this is not furniture! Copy taken from CMHC thingy
    18. 18. Tolerating tolerances & managing clientexpectations.
    19. 19. More Remediation- More DelayNo 3D modelNo control ofgridlines orbenchmarks
    20. 20. Lost Effectiveness due to Break in Scope of Work OK…maybe I can hear you thinking…”does he have any idea the complexity involved in drafting plans of this scope?”High precision connection -2 shops- Not!
    21. 21. Integration of connections between a variety ofinterfaces • Integration of connections between different interfaces • Tolerances not sufficient to accept Massive Gluelams • 3D Modelling to the rescue Gluelam – Structurelam David Nairne & Associated – Architect Vanbots (Contractor)
    22. 22. 3D Modelling – the Solution to Connection Conundrums Patrick R. Stewart Architect (Linda Ursaki)
    23. 23. 3D Modelling!!!Further Evolution of panelsEasy for us as we had control of productionSequence Planning
    24. 24. Can’t Connect
    25. 25. …going to harp on 3D just a little bit more… Context.Context ArchiCad
    26. 26. Tolerances/3D modelling/Context/Connections/Break in Scope …and my personal favourite… “By Others”
    27. 27. “ The Stairs” ESB –UBC. A study of great connections Architect: Jana Foit Engineer: Equilibrium – Eric Karsh, Bernhard Gafner Timber fabrication- Structurlam Timber Specialists: John Boys & Company
    28. 28. Sites From the Site ConnectionsHandling and Storage of Materials Site Conditions
    29. 29. SHERPA Connections–clean, elegant, hidden, engineered capacities No tolerance for sloppy manufacturing
    30. 30. Custom Connectors - 40 mm intolerance tolerance Fast and Epp
    31. 31. Fully Threaded Screws- amazing capacities, but only if installed in tension
    32. 32. Structural adhesives-Epoxy & PUR- proven track record since 1936
    33. 33. Connections - Timberrivets
    34. 34. Rigging Pre-assemble 7 point pick!
    35. 35. Bolt placement template withreference axis-Laser cut - ADAM integrated Beautiful!
    36. 36. Cutting off knife plates Out of level Out of Position Out of Pocket
    37. 37. MaterialHandling
    38. 38. Pick your Peoplecarefully A “can-do” attitude goes a long way…
    39. 39. Wood Finishes A clear well defined finish specification is critical Do not apply your final finish in the shop and expect it to be in the same shape after assembly
    40. 40. Tales From the Field FOUR CASE STUDIESESB – Earth Sciences Building: University of British Columbia Fort McMurray Airport Project: Fort McMurray Alberta UBC-O - Kelowna: Fitness Centre Jesse Garlick Retreat: White Rock Washington The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
    41. 41. Earth Sciences Building: University of British Columbia The Good Creative, well considered design. Very creative engineering with simple clean connections. (With a few exceptions) Once we got on the job site, we found the engineer and architect easy to work with and open to ideas. Contractor and Owner really focused on doing a quality job. Busby Perkins and Will Architects: (Jana Voit) Equilibrium Consulting Inc. Bernhard Gafner, Eric Karsh Bird Construction Structurlam
    42. 42. Earth Sciences Building: University of British Columbia The Not so Good Some connection details not fully examined for constructability Breaks in scope of work Poor Pre-planning for erection of CLT and heavy timbers; poor integration with other activities No crane planning
    43. 43. Earth Sciences Building: University of British Columbia The Not so Good Site storage of Materials and Weather Exposure (Payment schedule to suppliers tied to delivery; so sequencing compromised. Affect site movement, and degrade quality. Low bid gets the job! Little incentive for prior communications Implies little knowledge of materials, unique challenges associated with massive timber etc… Crane and crane allocation. Poor planning or lack of understanding for loads and positioning for reach. Shared with other trades meant it slowed us down. (A lot!) …Wait for it…
    44. 44. Fort McMurry Airport Project - Alberta The Good It was late summer...and mosquito season was finished We had a fabulous crew of heavy timber guys Very simple repetitive details. Used lots of CLTs (85,000sq feet) We got a comprehensive crash course in worst case scenarios, and live to tell "tales from the Field" Once all the problems were solved, we were able to install 1-2 truckloads a day. Fire up the Barbeque!
    45. 45. Fort McMurry Airport Project - Alberta The Bad The Project was not initially designed for CLT. CLT decided on at advanced planning stage; not all processes and details well considered Location: Short building season. Hard to get and retain top notch help ? (competing with tar sands) Working at the airport What Connections
    46. 46. Fort McMurry Airport Project - Alberta The Ugly Low bid rules Bureaucratic company culture. No clear process of communication or procedures to resolve site challenges or conflicts. No control of site datum points or grid lines. Contractor not ready for us but asked us to mobilize in the faint hope we would get the project back on schedule. Had to throw out our carefully detailed sequence planning. site conditions, crane access, material sequencing not what we had agreed upon. Turnover of site manager and project supervisor. Six months later roof still not on. By Others Brothers- very busy!
    47. 47. UBC-O: The Fitness CentreThe Good Innovative use of CLT as structural box beams. Wonderful design Not a low-bid-gets-it project; allowing for creativity and effective trouble shooting Pleasant, professional dealings with architects, engineers and general contractor Good crew - both timber guys and contractors people. Architects: Craig Duffield McFARLAND MARCEAU Equilibrium Consulting Inc: Engineer Structurlam Kindred Construction
    48. 48. UBC-O: The Fitness CentreThe UnfortunateTwo key elements were notwell considered:Crane strategyWood finishing (stain)
    49. 49. UBC-O: The Fitness Centre
    50. 50. Jesse Garlick Retreat – Washington StateAll Good! Jesse Garlick Says…why clt?I used CLT on this project for several reasons:1. CLT allowed for a precise, crafted building to be shipped to a remote location.2. fast erection time: Structure in 2.5 days. Total construction time from foundation to occupancy: May-October (6 months). 4 person crew for erection, 2 person crew for construction + Mech and Elec subs.3. solid wood has thermal mass to keep the building cool during the hot summers.4. “plastic free” building envelope. By simply taping the joints, CLT creates an air-tight building envelopeappropriate for passive-house/super-efficient home design.5. architectural opportunities:solid wood interior with “trimless” detailingfolded plate roof structure to create 25 foot spans with 4” thick wood and no beams.cantilever ability by using walls as beamsfloor to ceiling windows: headers are not needed above windowsdurable interior finish (even the upstairs floor) will last forever, while allowing anything to be fastened to thewalls. (drywall free design)1. Local material using pine-beetle killed wood from the region.2. Wood is a renewable material that actually sequesters carbon instead of producing more C02. Designed by Jesse Garlick -McFarland Marceau Architects
    51. 51. Jesse Garlick Residence – Washington State More Good! Bernhard Gafner ExplainsStructural design criteria to accommodate architecture &constructability (remote site):· Clean and simple box type structure with folded roof· Exposed structure· Keep cost low· Easy and quick installation – owner wants to build as much aspossible himself, so the building needs to get weather tight prettyquick with a minimum crew.· Minimum amount of different materials/fasteners (It’s sometimes a challenge to keep the numbers ofdifferent screw types to a minimum…)Why CLT?· Folded plate roof – CLT doesn’t require additional support beams due to 2-way action (besides the steelplate down the valley…)· Cantilevered walls - no need for additional supports due to 2-way action (beam and wall action –although we needed to rely on the strapping to bail me out…)· Transfers – same as above· Prefabrication to speed up installation – but crane is required to handle panels· Clear layering of assemblies in regards to the envelop, avoiding heat bridges.· CLT provides continuous backing for envelope system – no need trying to hit a stud· Cost - a cabin can be built much cheaper, but you won’t get the same architectural result. CLT isprobably the best bang for your buck for such projects. An Equilibrium Consulting inc . Project
    52. 52. Jesse Garlick Retreat – Washington StateThe Best! Boys just Wanna Fun!My summer Holiday (or vacation to you Americans)all two days of it! Great working withBernhard, Jesse and their wives on the reset.Exploring new and creative use of CLT.Working with a design/build team that shared a common goal and took the time tounderstand the unique issues of working with CLT John Boys & Company – Heavy Timber Specialists
    53. 53. More Garlick
    54. 54. An integrated Design/Build Team that Communicates Material, Handling and Storage Lift Systems Sequence Joinery ModelYour Heavy Timber Specialist can help trouble shootconnection issues, develop sequence plans, coordinate andspecify rigging solutions, and help define the narrowertolerances required in heavy wood structures.Get him involved early in the process. Connections
    55. 55. The End