Trusses with a Twist


Trusses with a Twist

“We do a lot of crazy designs, but we try
to take a systematic approach by looking
at what [the customer is] trying to accomplish.”
—Keith Myers, Truss & Panel General Manager,
Woodhaven Lumber

Over the years, Woodhaven Lumber has built a reputation as a truss manufacturer that can accomplish unusual designs that work in the real world for customers and installers. “We do a lot of crazy designs, but we try to take a systematic approach by looking at what they’re trying to accomplish,” said Keith Myers, Truss and Panel General Manager at Woodhaven Lumber. “We work with the architect and engineer and try to make it a simpler install for the builder.”

Naturally, the more complicated and intricate a design, the more time required, but Woodhaven has found that investing the time upfront can lead to better projects
and happy customers. “We cater to the smaller guys that require additional attention,” said Myers.

By taking the time and giving customers that extra attention, Woodhaven can offer something different than simple truss design. Jesus Betanzos, Truss Designer at Woodhaven, said he likes to tell customers, “You’d be surprised what we can do with wood.” Of course, customers can turn the tables and offer some surprises of their own, or as Betanzos puts it, “They always add a twist.”

“I Bet You Can’t Do This”

If not a twist, customers certainly have looked to Woodhaven to add some curves to their buildings. Such was the case with a builder, Regency Development, planning to construct a shul, or synagogue, in Lakewood, NJ, called the Spruce Street Shul. Per Jewish religious customs, electricity, and therefore speaker systems, cannot be used at given times, so the building needed to have especially good acoustics. Initial plans for the 4,680 sq. ft. shul included a 49 ft. x 48 ft. main hall with no intermediate supports. The design incorporated a curved ceiling, to help sound travel, but the roof above had to support large mechanical units. In addition, the customer wanted the building to have added curb appeal, so the front of the Spruce Street Shul called for a detailed parapet.

The customer approached Woodhaven Lumber with the project and a bit of a challenge. “With a straight face, the customer said, ‘Put a truss there [in the main hall]. I bet you can’t do this,’” said Betanzos.

That challenge got the ball rolling. The team at Woodhaven knew that designing the building with wood trusses presented a more affordable option compared to constructing the building with steel. First, Betanzos tackled the design. Fortunately, Woodhaven Lumber already had a good relationship with the architect, who supplied CAD files of the design. Betanzos took the CAD files and transposed them into the truss design software. He designed the curved ceiling of the main hall so it could withstand the additional load from mechanical units overhead, and included the parapet in the truss design using three arches and two radiuses (see Figure 1). While he could achieve the desired look in the design software, Betanzos admits he had some doubts. “It looked great in 3D, but I wasn’t sure how it would look in real life,” he said. He ran his truss designs by the builder and the architect.

From 3D Design to the Jobsite

“Jesus takes the time to go over every detail of the project to see where the trusses he designs can facilitate the overall project,” said Yossi Wagner, Project Manager with Regency Development (see Figure 2). “Each and every detail is reviewed with us in 3D to make sure that we utilize the trusses to the fullest extent of their capabilities as well as know what to expect when it comes to the installation.”

After talking through the design and installation issues, Regency Development and the architect agreed that the truss designs would work and gave the green light for Woodhaven to proceed.

Next, the truss plant had to make those truss designs a reality. “Everyone in the shop was mad at me that week,” joked Betanzos. At the time, Woodhaven didn’t have automated tables, which made the job especially challenging, but the staff in the truss plant were up to the demanding set-ups for the roof and floor trusses for the project, which included 51 ft. span curved trusses for the main hall. “I couldn’t have done it with without the guys in the shop. They really came through,” said Betanzos. The curved peak of the building was manufactured in two segments that were piggybacked at the jobsite (see Figures 2 and 3 and photo below).

To help ensure that the trusses were installed correctly and safely, Woodhaven provided a SBCA/TPI Jobsite Package for the project, as it does with every truss delivery. Woodhaven documents that customers received this best practice installation and bracing information by requiring customers to sign both a delivery ticket and a print out from the plate supplier that lists the Jobsite Package has been included with the components.

Woodhaven’s reputation for going the extra mile is well deserved, but Betanzos also credits the builder, who Woodhaven has worked with on other jobs, for letting him try something different for the Spruce Street Shul. “He let me be creative. They’re always looking for outside-the-box ideas and ways to achieve cost savings,” he said. “Hopefully, this project is one of many more to come.” 

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Plugged in & Connected

In addition to catering to the smaller guys on unusual projects, Woodhaven also makes a point to reach out to the community of building professionals who are likely to come into contact with its products. Woodhaven is a member of the Mid Atlantic Structural Building Components Association (MASBCA) and takes part with the chapter in an annual education presentation for Pennboc, the NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and Rutgers University Center for Government Services. The chapter’s three-hour continuing education course is followed by a tour of Woodhaven’s plant.

Myers believes good dialogue develops during these courses, and the community outreach definitely pays off, even if it occasionally results in extra work for Woodhaven. “An inspector will call me up and say, ‘Yup, I saw your presentation, and now I know I need a repair detail,’” he said, noting it just goes to show the inspector got something useful out of the course.