Designing timber structures: an introduction

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  • A comprehensive introduction to designing and engineering with timber
  • Progressive structure builds up knowledge and understanding
  • End-of-chapter worked examples consolidate learning and demonstrate engineering principles
  • Highly illustrated with over 250 drawings and photographs


This book is aimed at engineering students who are designing for the first time, or for those who have begun their journey into design and now want to learn more about designing specifically with timber. It starts by introducing timber as a sustainable material; a key consideration in our current climate emergency. Students then move through timber design basics such as deflection, strength and buckling to enable the design of a timber floor and stud wall. Two chapters focus on core engineered timber products: glued laminated and cross-laminated timber. Finally, fire, acoustics, detailing and additional considerations around the use of existing timber buildings are introduced.


Designing timber structures: an introduction aims to provide students with a solid understanding of the key basic principles of designing with wood. Regular further reading references and links to online material and sources provide students with the opportunity to access the broad and complex spectrum of materials available for practising engineers.


Dr James Norman and Dr Andrew Thomson are passionate advocates of timber in engineering design. James is Associate Professor in Sustainable Design at the University of Bristol while Andrew has been a Teaching Fellow at the University of Bath. Both worked extensively in private practice before moving into teaching and drew on that wealth of sustainable design experience to bring Designing timber structures: an introduction to life.




Chapter 1 Introduction to timber


1.1 Timber and the tree

1.2 Timber as a building material

1.3 Sawn timber production process

1.4 Sustainability

1.4.1 Why should we build with timber?

1.4.2 Forest stewardship

1.4.3 Timber certification

1.4.4 Carbon sequestration

1.5 Strength

1.5.1 Timber species

1.5.2 Timber grain

1.5.3 Shrinkage and movement due to moisture

1.5.4 Strength‑reducing characteristics

1.6 Grading

1.6.1 Visual strength grading

1.6.2 Mechanical strength grading

1.6.3 Timber engineering material properties

1.7 Load duration

1.7.1 Moisture content

1.8 Engineered timber products

1.9 Durability

1.9.1 Prevention

1.9.2 Species selection

1.9.3 Protection

1.9.4 Corrosion

1.10 Building codes

1.11 Summary

1.12 Six common tree species in the UK and their structural uses

Chapter 2 Simple timber construction


2.1 Timber joists and how they are used

2.2 Case study: Feilden Fowles Studio

2.3 Safety factors and limit state design

2.4 Calculating the load acting on the joist

2.4.1 Permanent action

2.4.2 Variable action

2.5 Joist analysis

2.5.1 Calculating bending moments and shear forces

2.5.2 Calculating deflection

2.6 Load duration and moisture content

2.6.1 Load duration

2.6.2 Moisture content

2.7 Design

2.7.1 Calculating design strength

2.7.2 Bending

2.7.3 Shear

2.7.4 Bearing

2.7.5 Deflection

2.8 Summary

2.9 Worked example: Timber joist floor for a house

Chapter 3 Timber stud walls


3.1 What are timber stud walls and how are they used?

3.2 Case study: Staunton-on-Wye Endowed Primary School

3.3 Calculating vertical loads on a wall

3.3.1 Loads from floors

3.3.2 Loads from walls

3.3.3 Loads from ceilings

3.3.4 Loads from roofs

3.3.5 Permanent load

3.3.6 Variable load

3.3.7 Combining permanent and variable loads

3.4 Calculating horizontal wall loads

3.4.1 Understanding the timber frame stability system

3.4.2 Designing the timber frame stability system

3.5 Combining horizontal and vertical loads

3.6 Design of stud walls

3.6.1 Initial stud design considerations

3.6.2 Designing timber studs for axial load

3.6.3 Designing timber studs for combined axial and bending loads

3.6.4 Designing stud walls for in-plane lateral load

3.7 Summary

3.8 Worked example: Timber stud wall for a house

Chapter 4 Glued laminated frames


4.1 What is glulam and how is it made?

4.1.1 Typical glulam sizes

4.1.2 Glulam properties

4.1.3 Hardwood glulam

4.2 Case study: Hereford College of Arts

4.3 Glulam frame analysis

4.3.1 Calculating column loads (load trace)

4.3.2 Stability bracing

4.4 Glulam design

4.4.1 Designing flexural members

4.4.2 Designing columns

4.4.3 Designing glulam frame connections

4.5 Summary

4.6 Worked example: Glulam frame elements for an office building

Chapter 5 Cross-laminated timber


5.1 Introduction to cross-laminated timber

5.1.1 A note on drawing CLT

5.2 Case study: Springfield Community Campus

5.3 What is a CLT building made from?

5.3.1 Material properties of CLT

5.3.2 Typical panel thicknesses

5.4 Design for out-of-plane bending

5.4.1 Analysis of one-way spanning slabs

5.4.2 Analysis of two-way spanning slabs

5.4.3 Designing CLT in bending

5.4.4 Designing CLT in shear

5.4.5 Designing CLT in deflection

5.4.6 Designing CLT in vibration

5.5 Design for axial load

5.5.1 Axial load on walls

5.5.2 Axial capacity of walls

5.5.3 Combined bending and axial

5.5.4 Designing CLT in bearing

5.6 Other considerations

5.6.1 Stability

5.6.2 Connection details

5.7 Summary

5.8 Worked example: CLT frame for a school building

Chapter 6 Additional timber design considerations


6.1 Fire

6.2 Acoustics

6.3 Good detailing

6.3.1 Construction

6.3.2 Robustness

6.3.3 Durability

6.3.4 Aesthetics

6.3.5 Fire design details

6.4 Looking after timber: best practice for site

6.5 Existing buildings

6.5.1 Capacity of existing timbers

6.5.2 Degradation of timbers

6.5.3 Investigation of existing buildings

6.5.4 Simple strategies for strengthening

6.6 Summary

Chapter 7 Further information