MALAYSIA - The Malaysian Timber Council (MTC) is collaborating with Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) to develop the country's first span tables for glued laminated timber (glulam) produced from Malaysian timber.
Span tables are developed by structural engineers to establish the maximum load a wooden beam of a specific length (a 'span') can support.
Before a span table for a species of wood can be developed, various tests need to be conducted with different lengths, depths and width of the wood under examination.
The species chosen for this pioneer work is Mengkulang (Heritiera spp.) Pilot trials for the Mengkulang glulam were recently concluded at the Heavy Structure Laboratory in UiTM's Civil Engineering Faculty.
The test, the first ever conducted on the wood, was an attempt to determine the maximum load it could safely support.
"The test is a good indicator as it tells us a lot about the ability of Mengkulang wood to withstand sheer stress," said UiTM Institute of Infrastructure Engineering and Sustainable Management director and project director for the Mengkulang glulam tests Dr Zakiah Ahmad.
"The test also provided valuable data to determine the optimum location of finger joints for different lengths of Mengkulang timber," said Dr Zakiah, referring to the interlocking joints used to join lamelas into a solid piece of glued laminated lumber.
Meanwhile, MTC chief executive officer Datuk Yeo Heng Hau said the laminating process used on glulam enabled longer spans to withstand heavier loads than non-laminated timber.
"However, no tests have been conducted on glulam made from Mengkulang or any other Malaysian timber species, and currently no span table exists for designers to use when determining load-bearing applications from this species of wood.
"Without a span table for reference, the utility of Mengkulang and other tropical species would remain restricted to non-load bearing applications."
With the static bending test concluded, Dr Zakiah and her team will move on to analyse the laminate and lamination process used on the beam. Pilot trials are expected to be completed in three months.
The Mengkulang tree is native to South-East Asia and can be found in abundance in Malaysia.
Wood from the Mengkulang tree is commonly used for flooring, stairs, work panels, as well as door and window frames.
Although relatively new in Malaysia, buildings constructed from glulam may soon be commonplace in the Malaysian architectural landscape, due to on-going efforts of the MTC to promote this versatile timber construction material.
Glulam is extensively used in many countries as structural components, especially when long, pillar-less spans are desired, such as in the construction of sports stadiums and bridges.