SW News

Forum on Philosophy, Engineering, and Technology

Erik Nelson will lecture at the Forum on Philosophy, Engineering, and Technology (fPet) at the University of Maryland, College Park at the end of May.  Nelson will present on the complicated relationship with forests, using American history as a guide, which is fraught with success and failure, describing the significant environmental movements and forest land pioneers, alongside ethical traditions. These different ethical views led to some controversy, pitting conservationists against preservationists, and helped usher in a new ethical framework, one not simply based on human interactions. For us to thrive, animals, plants and the land must thrive, as well.

He will provide examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic can help engineers make better decisions regarding the design and use of wood as well as better evaluate the wood harvesting practices in the lumber industry.

A Selective History of the Forests and Wood Construction in the US

I will be presenting at ASCE-RI Oct 19th "A Selective History of the Forests and Wood Construction in the US”. I am far from a history buff but have been reading 4 or 5 fascinating books about the nations forests from the 1600s until now and how our relationship with the trees has changed with time. I will describe wood production practices over the last couple centuries as well as the industrialization of the wood process, why and where thing developed (why do we not use our local wood for example), hardwood vs softwood use in New England, some Innovators and innovations in design and use, etc. Also at the end we will examine what we can do to continue to protect our most vulnerable woodlands and describe various species under particular threat into this next century. I highly recommend the following books that helped me prepare this talk: "Traditional Timber Framing" by Dell Upton within "Material Culture of the Wooden Age" by Brooke Hindle (Editor) "The Hidden Life of Trees" by Peter Wohlleben "American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation" by Eric Rutkow "A Splintered History of Wood" by Spike Carlsen "The Great American Forest" by Rutherford Platt "New England Forests Through Time : Insights from the Harvard Forest Dioramas" by David R. Foster "Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England" by Tom Wessels

Some Random Current Projects

New house in CT IMG_9789

Glass rails and steel plate stair stringers (United Steel) completed...


A 5 Story House in Harlem NYC (Steel Moment Frames) CD completed (Aardvarch)...



Pics of 4 Story Hanging Wood Sculpture (Ash) at UMass Lowell we visited recently and designed last year (Perkins+Will)...imag0496

Steel reinforcing of Isle Brewers Guild in Pawtucket is complete (EWA / Turgeun)....


Walnut Hill is 99% Complete!




























We were engineer of record for this dance studio project at the Walnut Hill School (Arch: DesignLab).   The building featured two large column free spaces (one a theater, the other a dance studio) with hyperbolic paraboloid roof structures made from steel queen post trusses. Steel provide by Diamond Iron and JK Scanlon the GC.

Hitchcock Center's "Living Building"








Structures Workshop was engineer of record for the Hitchcock Center in Amherst, MA.  This project is one of a handful in the country that is designed to meet the Living Building Challenge. The project (DesignLab Architects) is aiming to be net zero energy, water independent, using all non-toxic materials  - all locally sourced wood construction - black spruce gluelam beams (NordicLam), spruce decking, local northern cedar frames, local eastern white pine, etc.  This is one of just a few LBC projects on the East Coast.

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