Mass Timber in Structural Engineering: Seeing the Bigger Picture

In this episode, we talk to Michelle Kam-Biron, P.E., SE, F. SEAOC, SECB, mass timber specialist at Structurlam, about mass timber in structural engineering and how engineers can become more involved in the industry.

Engineering Quotes:

Mass Timber in Structural Engineering
Mass Timber in Structural Engineering

Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Michelle:

  • What does a career in mass timber entail, and what should people considering a career in mass timber know about it?
  • What would you say is the secret to being successful in the industry with the rise of mass timber?
  • How can engineers become more involved in the industry and support future engineers?
  • What are a few innovative projects that you have worked on in the past, and some of the new uses of mass timber in structural engineering?
  • What are some of the ways that engineers can gain more information on mass timber?
  • Do you have any final advice for structural engineers considering working more with mass timber?

Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Mass Timber in Structural Engineering:

  • Many universities do not offer wood design engineering courses. It could be difficult for you to learn about basic wood engineering if it is not offered at your university. A place like the American Wood Council, Woodworks, and APA do offer training, but it is targeted more for continuing education. You need the foundation in wood design to get into mass timber.
  • Practicing engineers should have a foundation in wood design but must also gather more knowledge from the American Wood Council, Woodworks, and APA. Consider getting a specialty engineer to assist the engineer on record with mass timber. It will ensure that the project is designed correctly, and the engineer on record will also learn more about mass timber design.
  • Wood construction was limited to six floors, but with the code change in 2021, wood construction can now go to 18 floors depending on occupancy protection. The three new types of heavy timber type IV-HT construction do not require any additional fire resistance.
  • The secret to being successful in the industry with the rise of mass timber is to talk to people who have experience in mass timber engineering. Get your training online but talking to and connecting with people is where you will get the secret ingredient. Joining a committee like the SEASCM where they talk about mass timber issues, will also be a great benefit to your company.
  • Mass timber designers must connect with manufacturers to ensure they optimize the wood or fiber in their projects. Bringing in the manufacturer early in the design phase will help to identify the grid and optimize the framing based on what the manufacturer can provide.
  • I am currently working on a hybrid structure that is the only mass timber project in Chinatown, Los Angeles. It is a large office building that is two floors higher than the surrounding buildings. It is a hybrid project because it has CLT panels on steel construction.
  • Engineers can gain more information on mass timber by visiting manufacturing facilities. It is a good learning experience for structural engineers to see the manufacturing process and talk to the people manufacturing the wood and creating the fabrication drawings.
  • The International Code Council (ICC) has a webinar series on mass timber specifically to the 2021 code and a publication that covers the changes that occurred in the mass timber segments of the 2021 code.
  • The Timber Strong Design-Build Competition is a great way for students to learn about wood construction. The students must design a wood structure, purchase the materials, make a team, and then build the structure. They gain experience in designing the wood structure, sourcing the materials, and then building the wood structure.
  • Engineers considering working with mass timber must have an open mind and ask all the questions. Connect with as many people as possible who know about mass timber, and be willing to share your knowledge with others. Scour the web and look at how companies have put their mass timber projects together.

More Details in This Episode…

Mass Timber in Structural EngineeringAbout the Guest: Michelle Kam-Biron, P.E., SE, F. SEAOC, SECB

Michelle Kam-Biron, P.E., SE, F. SEAOC, SECB, is a mass timber specialist, at Structurlam. With over 20 years of experience managing and designing a wide range of products, Kam-Biron is a California-licensed structural engineer and previously served as Vice President of Education for the American Wood Council. She is also a former president of the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC), and was recently inducted into the SEAOSC College of Fellows. Kam-Biron serves on multiple committees, including NCSEA Basic Education and International Code Council (ICC) Professional Development Council Education, and is a past chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Structural Engineering Institute (ASCE-SEI) Wood Education, as well as SEAOSC Foundation and Women in Structural Engineering.

About the Host: Cara Green, P.E.

Hilti North AmericanCara Green, P.E., works in Hilti’s North American headquarters as the Structural Engineering Trade Manager for the U.S. and Canada. She is currently an EIT in Texas and received her bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.


NCSCA Committees
American Wood Council
International Mass Timber Conference
International Code Council
Timber Strong Design-Build Competition
Connect with Michelle Kam-Biron, PE, SE, F. SEAOC, SECB, on LinkedIn

This Episode Is Brought to You By:


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To your success,

Cara Green, P.E.
Co-Hosts of The Structural Engineering Podcast

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