BCT 304 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 https://alexschreyer.youcanbook.me
Email: schr@umass.edu (Click on the dots to reveal the address)
Phone: +1 (413) 545-1976
Department: http://eco.umass.edu/people/faculty/schreyer-alexander-c/
Web: www.alexschreyer.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alexschreyer
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/alexschreyer
Twitter: www.twitter.com/alexschreyer

TA: TBA on Moodle

Rules, Exams and Grading:

Course Pre-requisites: None
Course Co-requisites: None

Contacting 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 or simply state any questions in an e-mail (faster response).

Course Website / LMS: This course’s main communications platform will be its Moodle site. Students must make sure they can access it reliably. While the Moodle site is usable on phones and tablets, some tasks may require the use of a computer.

Computers: While there is no requirement to bring a personal computer to class, students must have access to one and be familiar with common office-type applications (e.g. Word and Excel) and email. If this course requires acquiring and installation of software, it is the student’s responsibility to make sure their computer is capable enough and then perform the installation themselves. The instructor can provide advice for common computing questions, but ultimately it is up to the student and UMass’ IT help desk to resolve any issues. On-campus computers are available in many locations, for example in Design Building 260 or 235 (printers available) or any IT classroom computers.

Students must also have a means for storing and exchanging files such as an external hard-drive, USB stick, UMass Apps (GDrive), BoxUMass U-Drive, or any other removable storage. If you use removable storage, write your name and email on those (they are frequently left behind)!

If a student has any problems with this, contact the instructor early on so that arrangements can be made.

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 in an e-mail). Appropriate documentation will be required. After-the-fact notifications will only be accepted if no possibility of prior submittal existed. If you have to miss an exam due to a university-accepted reason, contact the instructor before the exam (if possible) to arrange for a solution to this problem. Other than for approved reasons, make-up exams will not be given.

Students are responsible for obtaining missed course material. Only portions of the full course content are available on Moodle. Students are encouraged to copy someone else’s notes and to contact the instructor only if they are still missing any material after that.

(Late) Hand-in: Due dates will be set at the time of assignment and are published on Moodle. Assignments and lab reports must be submitted to Moodle on time and (unless stated otherwise) email submissions will not be accepted. 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 the corrected work is returned. After that point, students will receive 0% (an F) for the missed hand-in. It is the responsibility of the student to make sure that work is uploaded to Moodle.


25% – Assignments
5% – Online quizzes on the readings (three attempts, highest grade, lowest dropped)
20% – Lab Component (participation + reports) (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 %

Grades will be calculated based on the rules set up in Moodle’s gradebook. Letter grade conversion then follows without any further numerical rounding.

Grievance Procedure: If you feel that an awarded grade is not accurate for whatever reason, you may dispute it by submitting a written explanation together with the graded material to the instructor within two weeks of receiving the graded 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 they are encouraged to make an appointment with the instructor early in the semester to discuss their needs. All discussions will be kept strictly confidential.

Academic Honesty: The University Academic Honesty Policy applies (see here: https://www.umass.edu/honesty/).  It 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. Students must also silence all phone, text, and other communication tools during class. Any disruptive behavior will be sanctioned appropriately.

Copyright and Privacy: No component of the course (printed and online materials, lectures, labs, discussion sessions etc.) may be recorded (audio or video) except for personal use, broadcast, published, or re-published without the written consent of the instructor. Violations will be considered a copyright infringement and sanctioned appropriately.