The trusses and wall panels you make, buy, sell, and perhaps install today likely will not be the same in a few years–not because of anticipated changes in residential design, but rather thanks to a higher level of systems testing for wood-framed buildings that is evolving quickly across the continent.

HEAVY LOAD: Sophisti-cated hydraulics enable researchers at the Structural Building Components Research Institute in Madison, Wis., (top and bottom right) and at the APA-Engineered Wood Association's facility in Tacoma, Wash., (bottom left) to apply a variety of common–and some uncommon–loads to structural systems at multiple and specific points to replicate more accurately conditions on the jobsite and in a finished home. Photos Top and Bottom Right: Courtesy WTCA/The Structural Building Components Research Institute; Photo Bottom Left: Courtesy APA-The Engineered Wood Association Pressed by the widening range of structural materials and components, more stringent building codes, issues of worker safety and liability, and green building mania, a trio of facilities in the United States and one coming on line in Vancouver, British Columbia, are putting wood-based structural systems to the test to find out how framing members fare in more realistic scenarios.

"The industry has done a lot of testing of individual elements, but we don't necessarily understand the performance of those elements when they are integrated in a building," says Kirk Grundahl, executive director of the Wood Truss Council of America (WTCA) in Madison, Wis., a structural building components industry trade group that opened a full-scale testing facility last summer. "We need to look at things from the building's point of view."

The results of that testing will confirm, debunk, or refine past assumptions, such as the value of fully sheathed exterior walls and temporary truss bracing, and how loads or applied forces travel through a structure. "The question is as much whether a certain system is stronger than another as it is how much stronger," says Borjen Yeh, director of the technical services division at APA-The Engineered Wood Association in Tacoma, Wash., which also houses a full-scale research facility.

As those and other questions are posed and answered, the current and future wood-framed structural systems research–the bulk of which to date is contract work on proprietary systems to verify performance–will impact truss and other component design, building practices, and codes toward developing truly better-built and more resource-efficient homes and light commercial buildings.

"What we're doing now tells us things that we can apply to the industry testing we will conduct later," says Grundahl, which will logically lead to changes to more than just one company's products.

For dealers, regardless of where they are in the structural systems supply chain, those changes will ripple into their in-house manufacturing facilities, wood and connector purchasing choices, engineering services, or installed sales tactics and liabilities.