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2019 Timber-Strong Design Build Competition

Six student teams competed at the National Council of Structural Engineers Association (NCSEA) Summit to design and build the most efficient and creative wood structure. 

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October 26, 2020 |
APA – The Engineered Wood Association

APA – The Engineered Wood Association, the American Wood Council (AWC) and Simpson Strong-Tie partnered with the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) to sponsor the Timber-Strong Design Build (TSDB) Competition at the 2019 NCSEA Summit. Competing teams built a two-story wood structure and were required to submit a report consisting of a preliminary structural engineering design, material cost estimate, structural calculations and estimated carbon footprint in addition to a presentation. The TSDB competition gives students an opportunity to experience the full spectrum of designing and building a real-world project in a team environment. Additionally, the students were encouraged to prefabricate the walls, floors and roofs into building components to save time during the competition and mimic the technique of off-site panelization happening in the wood industry.


Let the Building Begin


The on-site building portion of the competition took place Nov. 12 at the Disneyland® Hotel in Anaheim, California. Six teams built two-story wood structures within a 90-minute time period. The addition of a second story to the competition created an added challenge for students to build, requiring understanding of a continuous load path.

Participant teams came from California State University, Sacramento; University of California, Los Angeles; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; University of Kentucky; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and University of South Florida.

Structural engineer judges observed and scored aspects of the build while volunteers monitored student safety as well as the use of tools and equipment. Judging was based on the creativity and efficiency of the design, speed and accuracy of construction, as well as a complete load path. A load test of the structure’s cantilever beam was performed to compare the measured deflection to the student team’s predicted design deflection. Lastly, the ability to communicate their project to the judges was scored, as each team gave a live presentation of their completed designs.


Teams were encouraged to use prefabricated walls, floors and roofs to mimic current panelization practices in the construction industry.


We Have a Winner


A couple of teams had little experience building with wood prior to the competition. The University of South Florida team actually set out on its own to learn about wood design. The University of Kentucky team, which earned third place, had a structural engineer on-site that spoke highly of the team’s learning leading up to the event and remained on-site with the academic adviser to support the students during the competition. And Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo’s ARCE team, disappointed with its performance at the 2019 Pacific Southwest Conference’s competition, took it to heart to dominate this event; these efforts were rewarded with the first-place prize.

After the competition, teams were invited to donate their structures to the Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern California (CCFSC). Three teams donated, and as a special highlight of the day, a young CCFSC patient chose which playhouse would be reassembled in her backyard, courtesy of Simpson Strong-Tie employees.

The Spring 2020 Timber-Strong Design Build Competition, scheduled for April 4 at California State University, Fullerton as part of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Pacific Southwest Conference, did not occur as planned due to COVID-19. While the in-person builds and presentations were canceled, 14 of the 18 registered teams still submitted their project reports for evaluation. When judging of the reports was complete, the top three teams were California State University, Fullerton, with first place; University of California, Los Angeles, at second place; and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with third place.

Read the full feature at www.apawood.org/summer-2020-designers-circle.

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APA – The Engineered Wood Association

For over 85 years, APA – The Engineered Wood Association has focused on helping the industry create structural wood products of exceptional strength, versatility and reliability. Combining the research efforts of scientists at APA’s 42,000 square-foot research with the knowledge gained from decades of field work and cooperation with our member manufacturers, APA promotes new solutions and improved processes.

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