Go-to Software Tools for Mass Timber Structural Analysis

31 October 2023

Ricky McLain, WoodWorks US: Who doesn’t love a good excel file or software tool to speed up our iterative design process as structural engineers? But, it’s extremely important that we also know what’s going on “under the hood” of these tools. 

Thanks to the time, efforts and financial support of a number of organizations and individuals, our roles as structural engineers and architects designing mass timber buildings can be greatly simplified by using these tools. Here is my list of go-to resources for doing quick mass timber member sizing, grid option comparisons, and material utilization gut checks. Let’s get into it 👇 

➕  Fast + Epp‘s Timber Bay Design Tool:
What I like: the ability to simultaneously check panels, beams and columns. And the timber volume tools are pretty slick (you know I love a good check of those volume ratios!). User note: the calculations are currently only in metric and run per CSA 086 design. Sarah E. FitzMaurice, P.E., S.E.Robert Jackson

➕ EQUILIBRIUM’s CLT Design Tool:
What I like: materials properties for every single PRG 320 certified CLT manufacturer have been pre-loaded into the spreadsheet so the user simply picks the appropriate option from the drop downs and runs some quick calcs. Matt Kantner, PE, SEAnish Kekre, P.E

➕ Timber – Tool:
What I like: A few simple drop down menus allows the user to input design parameters and by clicking “Update Model”, member sizes are shown to the right. The Sketch-Up style rendering of the grid, which can be spun and turned any which way, is a nice add. User note: this one doesn’t provide all of the details behind the calculator, so I’d suggest you run some of your own calcs to get comfortable with what it’s doing. Jake Elbrecht

2 Bonus Options That I’m Looking Forward to Trying More in the Future:

➕  Generate ‘s design system:
What I like: A combination of visual representation (renderings) in 3D format, quick structural sizing, and assembly selection, this tool looks to meet all members of a mass timber design team with quick iterations and illustrations for client (developer) communication. John KleinJohn Fechtel

➕  CLT Toolbox ‘s CLT and GLT design software:
What I like: While I have not tried this one yet, I have spoken with the founders and seen enough to be intrigued. I am looking forward to trying out the variety of options within the design tool, from connections to glulam beam penetrations, general member sizing and more. This one is currently only for Aus and NZ designers, with a European option coming soon, followed by broader expansion. Adam JonesRingo Thomas

P.S. All of the above tools are free or have a free version. Jump on it today and get started with your own mass timber designs!


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