Engineering, Knowledge & Building Relationships


Engineering, Knowledge & Building Relationships

Testing can lead to better engineering,
which will lead to more efficient framing.

Full-scale assembly set-up tested at SBCRI.Engineering and testing can improve labor efficiencies in the framing industry, as well as greatly impact the business of building wood structures. In today’s optimized world, we need to manage projects efficiently in order to make a profit. Labor is often the largest cost on a project. By approaching engineering and testing through the eyes of framers, NFC can make the framing process more reliable and cost effective. We can work with engineers to develop framer-friendly industry details, critique and question industry performance standards, and continually test the raw material and conventional systems with which we work. As NFC develops good relationships with engineers, framers can get more input in the building process from the beginning and share our expertise to improve framing reliability, accuracy, efficiency and safety.

In the design of wood structures, engineering is of the utmost importance. Determining proper loading and load paths is critical for the structure to resist loads as intended. Engineers attempt to maximize the efficiency of wood structures through optimizing the design of components, and getting input from component manufacturers and framers is essential in this process. By developing industry standard details and standardized approaches to assembling the various parts and pieces that go into a building, framing consistency will increase framers’ speed and reliability. Working directly with framers to develop these standardized approaches, engineers will get direct input from the field and be better able to optimize the connections and associated assembly details. NFC will help framers accomplish this by working directly with the engineers on staff at the Structural Building Components Association (SBCA) who are committed to creating draft details that will form the basis of our work on standardized approaches to assemblies.

Testing through the SBC Research Institute (SBCRI) will be critical in this process. I’ve had the pleasure of touring this impressive testing facility in Madison, WI. SBCRI is capable of testing any type of full-scale assembly, which can provide framing contractors great insight into the performance of the products they use on a daily basis. This has great potential benefits to our NFC work, given that sound knowledge will lead to great training and the optimal industry best practices.

Framers also need to work closely with the engineering community to question standards and any implementation feasibility and downside risks they may pose. For example, OSHA standard 1926.502 (d)(15) states:

Anchorages used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment shall be independent of any anchorage being used to support or suspend platforms and capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN) per employee attached or shall be designed, installed, and used as follows:
• as part of a complete personal fall arrest system which maintains a safety factor of at least two; and
• under the supervision of a qualified person.

In my experience, finding an anchorage point that can sustain 5,000 pounds can be a big challenge, especially in the beginning of a project when the first joists and/or trusses are being installed. Fall protection is critical for framer safety, and there needs to be an easier way to achieve a suitable anchorage point. SBCRI can provide testing for NFC to determine if the 5,000-pound federal requirement is truly feasible and/or required to adequately arrest a falling individual. Based on preliminary testing that SBCRI has undertaken with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there is a great opportunity to provide far better knowledge in this area of the OSHA standard. This can lead to development of a wide variety of anchorage devices and systems that can be a part of a complete personal fall arrest system that has a true safety factor of two and also can be easily used by framers.

Working closely with SBCRI, NFC will ensure that our needs are directly communicated to engineers, and we can work together to achieve a simple, concise and realistic solution. With efficient anchorage points and time-and-motion studies, framers will reduce labor costs associated with implementing some of the more convoluted fall protection systems today, while increasing framer safety on the jobsite, reducing the chance of an injury, and promoting a healthy workforce.

Lastly, working with engineers to test structural systems and raw materials ensures that framers get maximum value from raw materials. Assemblies of components act much differently than individual components. Other than some of the work SBCRI has performed, limited testing has been done to identify the benefits of components acting as a system, and little of this testing that we are aware of has had direct involvement by the framing community. We know that we need to test to ensure that we fully understand the available strength of all the raw materials that we use. It is essential to our best practices to know if lumber grades are accurate and consistent, for instance. The downgrade of Southern Pine was a shock to the industry, not only because the design properties were downgraded, but because of the extent to which they were downgraded. Likewise, it was a shock that an industry as large as the lumber industry would not automatically provide consistently great material to assure framing reliability. When changes in lumber properties do occur, depending on the extent, the building owner may determine the need to reinforce or replace certain parts of the structure. This increases labor costs associated with the project. Consistent testing by each lumber manufacturer to verify stated properties ensures that, when downgrades do occur, they are less severe. Testing is critical to ensure that good value and material usage is maximized. Consistent lumber grades and strength values provide consistent performance and confidence.

Framers stand to benefit from building good relationships with engineers. Reducing labor costs by even a small amount on every project can add up. As a professional framer and member of NFC, I am encouraged by the potential for more communication between engineers and framers and how that can improve the entire industry. By working with engineers and providing input starting with the design phase, we can reduce labor costs associated with the design, detailing and framing process, thereby increasing framing reliability, speed and accuracy for all. 

George Hull is President of Hull Associates, LLC in Arlington, TX. He brings more than 35 years of framing experience as the first Chairman of the National Framers Council. For more information about NFC, visit