Course Syllabus

Course description:

image002Wood is an amazing building material: It is beautiful and warm to the touch. It is easy to machine and abundantly available. It is light, yet strong and stiff. And best of all: It comes from a renewable source. To build with wood, however, requires understanding its peculiarities: the variability of its properties, its interaction with water and the possibility of biodeterioration.

This course introduces students to the anatomy and the physical and mechanical properties of wood. Deterioration and proper uses of wood are discussed. It provides an overview of wood-based products and exposes students to structural systems in wood. Basic lab techniques for physical measurement and mechanical testing are introduced by conducting and analyzing several laboratory experiments.

Meetings: Fall Term – Tue/Thu 1:00-2:15, Design Building 162
Credits: 3
Sections: (all sections meet at the same time)

  • BCT 304 – 01 is for BCT majors only
  • BCT 304 – 02 is available for any student

Students will gain from this course:

  • Appreciation for the qualities of wood as a building material through evaluation of its properties, manufacturing techniques and aesthetic appeal.
  • Understanding of all properties that affect the performance of wood. In particular, understanding of the wood-moisture relationship.
  • Understanding of typical and potential applications of wood.
  • Understanding of structural systems for wood and methods to plan and manufacture these.
  • Understanding of wood-based products used in construction, their manufacture, properties and peculiarities.


  1. The Material Wood (wood use, wood anatomy, defects)
  2. Physical Properties (water in wood, shrinkage/swelling, specific gravity, other properties)
  3. Mechanical Properties (anisotropy, wood strengths, effects on mechanical properties)
  4. Protection and Modification (fungi, decay, insects, fire, wood protection)
  5. Wood-Based Products (primary/secondary products, sawing process, engineered products, adhesives)
  6. Structural Systems (overview)

Course components:

  • Class Meetings: Two weekly 75 min. meetings (Tu, Thu) will provide a platform for introducing and reviewing key concepts, case-studies, and examples as well as for discussion of related current issues.
  • Readings and Quizzes: Students are expected to have reviewed assigned readings before class and must have completed a short online review quiz (three attempts, highest grade) on the readings.
  • Assignments: 5 assignments in total will be handed out on a semi-regular basis. These expand on the practiced work.
  • Lab Component (group work): Throughout the semester, some classes will be devoted to lab work, where students will be required to complete experiments that allow for hands-on experience with the material. These labs must then be documented in a graded lab report.
  • Exams: Accumulated knowledge is tested in two exams: a midterm and a final exam. Both are closed-book exams and feature multiple-choice, true-false and short essay/illustration questions.

Required Materials:

  • Forest Products Society, “Wood Handbook – Wood as an Engineering Material“. The 2010 (“centennial”) edition is required – don’t get any older editions. You can get it from:
    • Online version of textbook. You have free full-text access to it via this link: View and download (PDF version). Please Note: This book is an excellent low-cost reference on wood. I strongly encourage you to get a printed copy for your reference library as well.
    • You can purchase a printed version of the book through UMass Course Materials ($28). ISBN-10: 1484859707
    • A reference copy will be available in the UMass library.
  • You will need a 15x or 20x loupe for inspection of wood samples.These are very inexpensive and you can get one from UMass Course Materials.

Optional Literature:


Alexander C. Schreyer, M.A.Sc., Dipl.-Ing.
Senior Lecturer and Program Director BCT 

Office: Design Building 318
Office hours: Sign up at
Email: (Click on the dots to reveal the address)
Phone: +1 (413) 545-1976

TA: TBA on Moodle

Rules, Exams and Grading:

Course Pre-requisites: None.

Course Co-requisites: None.

Contact with instructor: Office hours will be announced at the beginning of the term (in class and on Moodle). Aside from these times, students can arrange meetings with the instructor via e-mail or simply state the problem in an e-mail (faster response).

Computer skills: Students should be familiar with computers (this is not tied to a particular operating system, but some familiarity with Office-type products would be advantageous – particularly Word, Excel). Students must have internet access to download some course material, communicate via e-mail and access the course website. On-campus computers are available in many locations, for example in Design Building 260 (printers available).

If students have any problems with this, contact the instructor early on so that arrangements can be made.

Course website: This course’s main communications platform will be the course Moodle site. Students will need a username and password to access some of the content of this site. Both will be announced in one of the first classes.

Attendance: Regular class attendance is expected but not mandatory. Attendance is mandatory and will be recorded for labs and lab components (e.g. guest lectures and presentations) only.

Absences: Whenever possible, unavoidable absences for labs and exams need to be discussed with the instructor prior to the lab or the exam (in person or send an e-mail). Appropriate documentation will be required. After-the-fact notifications will only be accepted if no possibility of prior submittal existed. If students must miss an exam due to a university-accepted reason, the instructor must be contacted before the exam (if possible) to arrange for a solution to this problem. Other than for accepted reasons, make-up exams will not be given.
Students are responsible for obtaining missed course material. Only portions of the full lecture content are available on the course website.

Late hand-in: Due dates will be set at the time of assignment and are published on the question sheet. Assignments and lab reports must be submitted on time. Late submittal (without prior instructor approval) will incur the following grade adjustments: -5% per day (including weekends) until the day, when the solutions are published and/or the corrected work is returned. After that point, students will receive 0% (an F) for the missed hand-in.


25% – Assignments
5% – Online quizzes on the readings (multiple attempts, highest grade)
20% – Lab Component (participation + reports) (small group work)
25% – Midterm Exam
25% – Final Exam

Letter Grading:

A ≥ 93.0 % | A− = 90.0-92.9 %
B+ = 87.0-89.9 % | B = 83.0-86.9 % | B− = 80.0-82.9%
C+ = 77.0-79.9 % | C = 73.0-76.9 % | C− = 70.0-72.9 %
D+ = 67.0-69.9 % | D = 60.0-66.9 %
F < 60.0 %

Grievance Procedure: If students feel that an awarded grade is not accurate for whatever reason, they may dispute it by submitting a written explanation together with the marked material to the instructor within two weeks of receiving the marked material.

Special Needs: All reasonable efforts will be made to meet the individual needs of the student. If students have a learning disability or need special accommodation please make an appointment with the instructor to discuss your needs. I also encourage students to contact me if they are international (or otherwise new to the English language) in need of help for climbing the “language barrier”.
All discussions will be kept strictly confidential.

Academic Honesty: The University Academic Honesty Policy applies. This policy can be found in the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities (at and covers plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, and facilitating dishonesty. Occurrences of any of those practices will be dealt with according to university policy.
Original write-up of homework is required by each group/individual (as applicable) for a given assignment or lab report.

Classroom Behavior: As per building policy, it is not permitted to consume food in the classroom. Smoking is also prohibited. Students are strongly encouraged to turn all cell-phones or other electronic communications devices (or such software if you are using a computer) off during class time.

Any disruptive behavior will be sanctioned appropriately.


No component of the course (printed and online materials, lectures, labs, discussion sessions etc.) may be recorded (audio or video), broadcast or re-published without the written consent of the instructor.