2023 Conference Session: The Forces at Work in a Truss

The Forces at Work in a Truss
Roundtable Discussion

Join us for a panel discussion and Q&A centered on a working understanding of trusses, why it is important for a timber framer to have that understanding, and how these lessons can be applied to understanding other structural components. The panel will be made up of working timber framers and timber frame engineers.

About the Speakers
Ben Brungraber:
Ben Brungraber, Ph.D., P.E., holds a Master of Science from Colorado State in Timber Structures and a Ph.D. in Mortise and Tenon Joinery from Stanford University. In his early years, Ben worked in the construction industry after acquiring his civil engineering degree from Cornell. His jobs included inspecting the concrete used in the Washington, DC, subway, and helping American Bridge build steel high-rise structures, long-span bridges, and steel mills. Tired of the bureaucracy involved with massive projects, he accepted an offer to teach at Colorado State, where his final project was a panelized and prefabricated timber-covered bridge.

Ready to take his show on the road, Ben was hired as lead engineer for a New York firm that designed log homes and manufactured housing. There he became a part of the revival of timber framing in North America, a passion that he took to his next post teaching at Bucknell, then later as a fellowship recipient at Stanford University. During his next three years as a teacher and Ph.D. candidate, he learned the niceties of surveying, design, and construction management.

With degree and two new sons in tow, Ben headed for the East Coast, where two years of teaching at the University of Connecticut finally got the professor bug out of his system; he dived into the business world as head engineer at Benson Woodworking Co, where he was able to help elevate engineering standards within the fledging timber framing industry. During his twenty years with Benson, Ben oversaw the engineering of more than $100 million in timber frame construction, and served on the Board of Directors for the Timber Frame Guild of North America.

Recognizing the time was ripe to start his own venture, Ben reconnected with his former student and colleague, Mack Magee, and started Fire Tower, which quickly evolved into one of the timber frame industry’s most ambitious and respected design and engineering firms.

John Buday:
John Buday's perfectly reasonable career as a residential carpenter starting in the late 1970s became significantly sidetracked after a chance encounter with timber framing, in the person of one Mark Witter, which led to participation in a 2002 Guild project in Sechelt, British Columbia. Later, in 2006, came the Guild project for the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial for which John was the local hero. Timber framing remains an occupation and preoccupation. Currently, John is most preoccupied with the design of his own house in Port Townsend, Washington.

Chris Koehn:
Over the years, Chris Koehn has had the great fortune to wear lots of different hats within the timber framing universe. He's worked with companies that transitioned from hand-cut to automated operations with the advent of the Hundegger. He's worked with start-ups that are hyper-local, done historic restoration, and worked for himself in partnership with his wife Ruth, a talented designer. In truth, Chris has done as much general contracting as he has hands-on timber framing, and that balance has always felt right to him. Of late he's formed a partnership with a local design/build carpentry firm, doing fun and challenging stuff for good folks, including lots of traditional and contemporary timber work.

The consistent theme throughout his career has been to identify how timber fits into the entire build program: what are the client’s goals; what is the budget; how does the team interface and harmonize with other elements of the build while being sensitive to the vernacular mores, local conditions, and materials that (should) drive the design and the build.

Steve Lawrence:
I have been timber framing since 1990 with Carpenter Oak and Woodland Co. in the UK. Moving to Canada in 2005, I founded and operated Macdonald & Lawrence Timber Framing. I now work freelance as a part-time contractor, consultant, and project manager and am based on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I joined the Guild in the late 90s and have been a member ever since and a semi-regular Community Building Projects participant. I was a director of the Guild from 2015 to 2022, mostly as treasurer, and am now proud to be Community Building Projects Program Director and running the Community Building Program with the help of many others.

Joe Miller:
Joe Miller, PhD, PE, PEng, is a structural engineer specializing in the design and engineering of timber framer structures. As partner with Fire Tower Engineered Timber, he heads up the Michigan office located near the shore of Lake Superior. Catching the timber framing bug early in life when helping restore the familial homestead, Joe gained academic experience through graduate engineering degrees in mortise and tenon joinery as well as key-laminated timber beams. He had hands-on experience working with several timber frame companies, both in the office and in the shop, before working as a consulting engineer, licensed throughout the United States and Canada.

Elevating the design of timber structures
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