Wood Sciences Expert Todd Shupe Says Material ‘Is Good Medicine’

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I have been fascinated by the recent non-traditional means to improve patient recovery. Over the years, I have read about the benefits of natural sunlight, plants, water elements, rooms with a view of nature and even the color of the room and design of the bed. “As an animal lover, I have been intrigued by the “pet” therapy in which cats and small dogs are brought to patients to hold and pet,” says Todd Shupe, LSU’s former wood science professor who oversaw a testing lab seeking patent approvals for related products.

However, my curiosity was really piqued after reading a study, “Wood as a Restorative Material in Healthcare Environments” by Sally Augustin and David Fell which was published in 2015. The goal of the report was to attempt to draw a link between the use of wood in the built environment and positive health outcomes. The researchers reported that “early evidence suggests that the human relationship with wood is similar to previously investigated responses of humans to other natural materials. According to Todd Shupe, wood is believed to b a biophilic material that reduces stress reactive when present. The biophilia hypothesis also called BET suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984). He defined biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.”

The Augustin and Fell report reports that “the mind and body are looking for a connection with nature when it is absent the type of nature and the type of building are secondary. Wood is a natural building and finishing material and therein is the fit with using it more in healthcare settings.” The goal of any natural material in a health care setting is to reduce stress. I think people associate wood paneling and flooring with a natural, warm environment and feel better connected to nature. “In our modern society, there is something intrinsically attractive about simple inherent natural beauty,” says Todd Shupe. “This could be found in natural sunlight, puppies, and even wood. If I end up in a hospital room, please get me a room with a view of a park, knotty pine flooring, and a cute puppy to pet!” We all know that wood is good – now, we now that is good medicine.

Todd Shupe Explains Significance of, and Market for, Bio-Based Spray Foam Insulation

todd shupeA viable bio-based spray foam industry is likely to lead to economic development opportunities due to the growing interest in spray foam insulation and increasing consumer demand for green products. The successful utilization of agricultural and forestry residues will benefit the agricultural producers, wood processing industries and forest landowners. These sectors combined contributed $4.1 billion to the Louisiana economy in 2013 (LSU AgCenter 2014). The state has more than 14 million acres in forests and another approximately 2 million acres in agricultural plant commodities. “Most of this land is located in rural communities and consequently, this project has great potential for rural economic development in these areas,” says industry expert Todd Shupe.

Agricultural commodity prices are depressed from their recent historical highs and most experts predict that situation to continue. As expenses continue to rise, profit margins for farmers are therefore smaller and there is keen interest in adding value to residues (Guidry 2014). Louisiana has approximately 238,000 workers (9.4 percent of the labor force) employed full-time or part-time in the food and fiber sections (LSU AgCenter 2010). Workers employed in Louisiana in forest products manufacturing earned $750.4 million in 2013 (LFA 2014). Therefore, any improvement or advancement in these industries can have a great multiplier effect. Increasing value-added processing of agricultural and forestry residues is important to the viability of rural economies in Louisiana. Todd Shupe further notes that the wages and salaries paid to hire farm workers, as well as the profits earned by farmers, typically return back to the local economy through household spending – thereby helping rural businesses (LSU AgCenter 2010).

In addition to rural economic development related to the feedstock, there is also economic development potential related to the product – spray foam insulation. The insulation market in North America was an $11 billion dollar market in 2012 and growing each year. Spray foam comprises 9 percent of that market is the fasting growing segment of the market, estimated at an annual growth rate of almost 5 percent. There is a rapidly growing “green” market for numerous goods and services. This is particularly evident in the housing market as consumers are increasingly demanding that lumber that is used for new home construction be harvested from a certified managed forest (Green Home 2014). Consumers are demanding green products for their housing, transportation, energy, food and cosmetics. The common belief years ago, as Todd Shupe remembers, was that people would not pay extra for green products and while they may remain true to some extent, there is a growing market that is keenly interested in green products. These markets are particularly evident in more affluent, urban areas.

CCA-Treated Guardrail Posts, Piles and Poles: Good for the Environment and the Economy

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Our highway and interstate system is a critical component of our nation’s infrastructure and economy. These are essential for the transportation of goods and services, emergency responders, commuting to work and family vacations, says Todd Shupe. It is imperative that our highways provide safe travel for all. Highway guardrails, as you can see, are an important safety component of our highways. They typically consist of a galvanized metal rail, treated wood block, treated wood post and fasters. However, steel blocks and posts can also be used.

Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) has a long history as an EPA-approved wood preservative for numerous applications such as posts and blocks used in the guardrail assembly. “Numerous independent studies have shown that CCA is an environmentally-safe wood preservative and has very minimal leaching,” writes LSU’s Todd Shupe, a wood sciences expert and former lab leader.

Dr. Kenneth Brooks wrote in Pressure Treated Wooden Utility Poles and Our Environment, “pressure-treated wood utility poles pose no greater risk to the environment than growing the wheat used to bake your next loaf of bread, and present far less personal risk than driving to your local grocery store to purchase that bread.” Similarly, Dr. Paul Morris has written, “There are environmental risks associated with everything we do and with all of the material used to construct utility structures. For instance, the leaching of zinc from steel utility poles.”

The Treated Wood Council commissioned an independent study of the environmental impacts associated with the national production, use and disposition of treated wood and galvanized steel highway guard rail posts using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies. The results for treated wood compared to galvanized steel guard rail posts were significant (© Treated Wood Council, 2013).

  1. Less Energy and Resource Use: Treated wood highway guard rail posts require less total energy and less fossil fuel than galvanized steel highway guard rail posts, Todd Shupe commented.
  2. Lower Environmental Impacts: Treated wood highway guard rail posts have lower environmental impacts than galvanized steel highway guard rail posts in five of six impact indicator categories assessed: anthropogenic greenhouse gas, total greenhouse gas, acid rain, ecotoxicity, and smog-causing emissions.
  3. Offsets Fossil Fuel Use: Reuse of treated wood highway guard rail posts for energy recovery will offset the use of fossil fuel energy and thereby reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

“Here’s the bottom line,” says LSU’s Todd Shupe.CCA-treated wood is a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure and economy. It is safe for the environment and has a long history of EPA approval for both the environment and human exposure.”

The alternatives (steel and concrete) are not renewable and require more energy to produce than CCA-treated wood, he adds. Last but not least, CCA-treated wood is more cost effective than the alternatives. CCA-treated wood is good for the environment and the economy!

LSU’s Todd Shupe Explores Importance of Wood Moisture Content in Subfloors of Residential Houses

todd shupe lsuOur houses are often our most valuable financial asset. Of course, nothing is more precious than children and grandchildren. Affordable, durable, and green housing are important issues for all homeowners. In the southern region of the U.S., all three of these issues are of growing importance. This area of the country has high temperature, humidity, flooding, and wind that really can test a house, says LSU’s Todd Shupe, a wood sciences expert and former lab leader.
“Some houses are built on piers and elevated above the ground. I have seen the elevation range from as little as 1 foot to 5 feet or much more, especially near water bodies. The premise is to elevate the house and decrease the risk of flood water entering the house. The problem is that the moisture content of the subfloor may become high enough to facilitate wood decay. Also, there is concern that these houses are energy inefficient,” Todd Shupe, of Baton Rouge, says.

Damp subfloors can lead to numerous problems such as wood decay, insect infestation, mold growth, corrosion of metal fasteners and buckling of wood flooring. Insect infestation is not the focus of this study, although moisture control can limit infestation risk. In untreated wood, the rule is that the moisture content (MC) needs to exceed the fiber saturation point (approximately 30{008418fa022621a2763fa9d266232055702aae032d1d0630e21bb21e294d80ab} MC) for decay fungi to initiate propagation. At levels below 20{008418fa022621a2763fa9d266232055702aae032d1d0630e21bb21e294d80ab} MC, their propagation is completely inhibited. The traditional guideline for protection of untreated lumber from decay has been to keep the moisture content below 20{008418fa022621a2763fa9d266232055702aae032d1d0630e21bb21e294d80ab}. For protection of wood surfaces against mold propagation, it is recommended that the surface relative humidity (RH) be kept below 80{008418fa022621a2763fa9d266232055702aae032d1d0630e21bb21e294d80ab}, and studies have shown that mold growth can occur on wood at moisture contents above 15 to 18{008418fa022621a2763fa9d266232055702aae032d1d0630e21bb21e294d80ab}. Corrosion of metal fasteners in treated wood can occur when moisture content exceeds 18 to 20{008418fa022621a2763fa9d266232055702aae032d1d0630e21bb21e294d80ab}, but this varies widely based on the type of metal, coating and coating thickness. For all moisture-related failure modes, duration at a particular elevated moisture level is also a key factor.

Expansion and/or contraction damage depends on the magnitude of the change in moisture content and the sensitivity of the particular wood product to such changes, says LSU’s Todd Shupe. The main sources of moisture exterior to a house include rain, surface water, groundwater and atmospheric humidity. Indoor sources include occupants (respiration and transpiration), pets, plants, and activities such as showering, bathing, cooking, cleaning and more. Plumbing leaks can occur inside or outside the house, adds Todd Shupe, a resident of Baton Rouge.

“Site grading and management of roof runoff can largely determine how wet the soil becomes under the structure,” says Shupe. There is no substitute for a 3-foot overhang (soffit) and soil graded (sloped) away from the house. Ventilation of the crawlspace with outdoor air may raise or lower wood moisture content depending on outdoor vapor pressure, crawlspace vapor pressure, and wood surface temperature. Other factors that affect moisture levels in wood floor members include indoor temperature during the cooling season, floor insulation and interior floor finish.. “My PhD advisor at LSU, the late Elvin Choong, found that a soil cover had no discernible effect on moisture levels in wood floors over open pier foundations,” says Shupe. “Because this type of foundation is very open to airflow, the air temperature and humidity in the crawlspace may differ only slightly from outdoor conditions. In contrast, houses with wall-vented crawlspaces tend to have a significant thermal coupling to the ground and lower rates of air exchange with the exterior.” These studies were conducted in southern New Jersey (Stiles and Custer 1994), east-central North.
Carolina (Advanced Energy 2005a; Davis and Dastur 2004), and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Dastur et al. 2009), have shown that, with the perimeter walls and soil covered with a vapor retarder (thereby eliminating these sources of moisture), during the summer months outdoor air served as a moisture source for the crawlspaces, rather than a moisture sink. Admission of outdoor air during summer months led to high relative humidity in the crawlspaces and, in some cases, in significant moisture accumulation in the wood floor members.

An alternative method of construction is the closed crawlspace, which has perimeter foundation walls without vents. With regard to air and water vapor flow, the crawlspace is treated as part of the interior and is intended to be isolated from the ground and the exterior. The ground and perimeter walls are covered with a vapor retarder, and the crawlspace may be provided with conditioned supply air. A number of studies in various climates have shown that this type of crawlspace can remain safely dry (Advanced Energy 2005b; Dastur et al. 2009; Davis and Dastur 2004; Dutt et al. 1988; Duff 1980; Moody et al. 1985; Quarles 1989; Samuelson 1994; Stiles and Custer 1994).

Note: This blog was largely based on the report “Moisture Performance of Insulated, Raised, Wood-Frame Floors: A Study of Twelve Houses in Southern Louisiana” by the US Forest Products Lab.

Todd Shupe Discusses a Greener Alternative to Traditional Insulation

todd shupeWhen Todd Shupe thinks about some of his favorite research projects at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA, it was bio-based spray foam insulation. Many homeowners are aware of spray foam. For starters, it can be bio-based or not. Regardless, it is an excellent product because it creates an air seal and is a great vapor barrier. According to Advanced Foam Insulation Co., no other type of insulation creates this seal.

Converting attics into a semi-conditioned space in hot climates by closing soffits, gable and ridge vents is a positive design approach in reducing the moisture loads in houses and buildings. This can be achieved by moving the insulation from the floor of the attic and applying spray foam to the underside of the roof deck to seal all the vents. According to LSU’s Todd Shupe, this is the preferred method. This design prevents the moisture-laden outside air from entering the attic and subsequently from getting into the living area of houses and buildings. The air seal also prevents the radiant heat from migrating into the living area. The lower humidity levels create indoor air quality that is much more comfortable to live in. This is very important in all higher-humidity climates such as the coastal regions of the United States.

According to Advanced Foam Insulation Co., combining these insulating methods with “Low E” glass in the windows will help to lower utility bills by 40 percent to 60 percent compared to a building that has conventional insulation. Not only is spray foam insulation an excellent thermal and moisture barrier, the indoor air is also much cleaner. According to wood sciences expert Todd Shupe, spray foam greatly reduces pollen and dust from entering your home or office building, thus decreasing rates of occurrence for allergies and asthma.

Currently, bio-based spray foam has a small percentage of “bio” and a large amount of “non-bio.” This finding is based off of Todd Shupe’s research at LSU in Baton Rouge, LA. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are health concerns associated with the non-bio portions of spray foam. Most spray foam formulations contain isocyanates and polyols. According to the EPA, spray foam contains a side A and a side B. For side A, isocyanates are the primary compound of interest and are a class of highly-reactive chemicals with widespread industrial, commercial and retail or consumer applications. Exposure to isocyanates may cause skin, eye and lung irritation, asthma and “sensitization.” Isocyanates are irritants to the mucous membranes of the eyes and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Direct skin contact can also cause marked inflammation. According to Todd Shupe, there is no recognized safe level of exposure to isocyanates for sensitized individuals. Isocyanates have been reported to be a leading attributable chemical cause of asthma in the workplace.

Side B contains a blend of proprietary chemicals that provide unique properties in the foam and may vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Amine catalysts in SPF may be sensitizers and irritants that can cause blurry vision, also known as a halo effect.

Flame retardants, such as halogenated compounds, may be persistent, bioaccumulative, and/or toxic chemicals (PBTs). Some examples include:
– TCPP -(Tris(2-chloroisopropyl)phosphate)
– TEP -(Triethyl phosphate)
– TDCP -(Tris (1,3-dichloroisopropyl) phosphate blend)
– Blowing agents may have adverse health effects.
– Some surfactants may be linked to endocrine disruption.

LSU’s Todd Shupe Explores Expanded Application Of Timber In High-Rise Construction

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No matter the industry or specialized task, it will always be someone’s job to ensure that cutting-edge developments pass every conceivable test before becoming publicly-available. While with LSU, it was up to Todd Shupe and his wood product testing lab to ensure that developments in the wood sciences sector met certain important standards before going to market. Given his immersion in the industry and his existing consulting wood science business, continued updates when it comes to practical uses of specially-treated wood still grabs his attention.

According to a November 2017 article from The Architect’s Newspaper, the applications of cross-laminated timber (CLT) could be expanding significantly in the coming years. The article states that CLT could eventually be used in mid-rise buildings as it grows from applications that are more commonly close to the ground, such as your typical residential two-story home. The article goes on to state that increased usage of CLT for new construction projects will be heavily based on the amount of work industry experts put into analyzing current construction codes. “With CLT, everything rotates like a rigid body under seismic stresses,” John van de Lindt, of Colorado State University, told  The Architect’s Newspaper. “Panels do not deform enough to dissipate energy and suck load right into them,” he added.

The construction of CLT requires the cutting of timber, accurate layout, adhesive application and then pressing the final product together. For Todd Shupe, LSU’s former quality manager of an EPAISO 17025-approval testing lab, it’s the adhesive aspect that has him the most interested. That’s because he and a team of four scientists would perform bond integrity tests on new or existing wood-based products. According to the article, the use of adhesives sometimes includes either melamine urea-formaldehyde resins or polyurethane; the former can hardened when exposed to heat while the latter will soften. Short of a structure fire, the way that builders know of this behavior is through the testing that Todd Shupe and company did at LSU.

During his 20-year research-and-development career, Shupe took much time to learn about the practical applications of wood science and the effects that some chemicals used during processing can have on the environment. It’s one of the reasons why he took further steps to learn about lean manufacturing, development of metal-free wood preservatives and ways to keep such items from ending up in landfills. Backing up his knowledge of the subject – and sincere interest in seeing Earth-friendly alternatives developed – include his bachelor’s degree in forestry, master’s degree in wood science and Ph.D. in wood science.

Todd Shupe On Anxiety, Waiting: Have Faith, For ‘God Is Our Partner’

todd shupe lsuWaiting is a daily occurrence: We wait in line at the grocery store, post office or on the phone. Sometimes, we are waiting long-term for news regarding a loved one who has suddenly become ill or was in an accident. Waiting is also a part of joyous occasions such as the birth of a child or marriage. In any case, worrying almost always leads to anxiety. Todd Shupe, former LSU wood sciences professor, lab director and Christian ministry volunteer, has five favorite scriptures that he refers to in times of waiting.

1) In Isaiah 40:31, it says: “…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

According to Todd Shupe — whose leadership roles at LSU and Christian groups such as Gulf Men South and Iron Sharpens Iron — we follow God and he doesn’t follow us. The Lord is promising us His stamina if we have faith in Him. Our faith is demonstrated by maintaining our faith while waiting and knowing that he will act.

2) In Psalm 46:10, He says: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

“This is calming scripture in times of worry,” says former LSU professor Todd Shupe, who adds that the above passage has been his “’go-to’ verse in times of uncertainty.” Moreover, he encourages you to meditate on each word of “Be still, and know that I am God” and the peace that surpasses all understanding shall be yours.

3) Matthew 6:26-27 reads: “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
Our God loves us more than we can begin to comprehend. God will provide His daily bread to us all.

4) In Philippians 4:6-7,it states: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Once we have prayed and given our worries to God, we are freeing ourselves from the chains of anxiety. God will take our worry and replace it with a peace that cannot be described with mere human words, according to Todd Shupe.

5) In Matthew 11:28-30, it reads: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God is our partner and once we accept His yoke and let Him work in tandem with us, we can accomplish so much more, says former wood science professor and LSU lab director Todd Shupe.

“When a friend helps you through a difficult period, he or she is acting as the body of Christ and providing His yoke to you. In turn you will hopefully pass the yoke on to somebody else when they are in need,” Shupe says.

In summary, remember that you are loved by God and He wants you to come to him in prayer and unburden yourself of worry and fear. You are far more valuable than the birds in the air and the lilies in the field. In fact, you are a child of the risen Christ.

Todd Shupe Says Steps Still Remain In Effort To Find Safe Substances For Wood Treatment

todd shupeWhen it comes to construction, wood of many forms quite literally lays the foundation of the process. You’d be hard-pressed to build a new home without sheets upon sheets of plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) to cover the walls and roof. The planks of wood that go into framing those walls or constructing the porch or deck are also copious. It’s this unavoidable aspect that’s a concern to Todd Shupe, a former wood science professor at LSU. That’s because so much wood used today for construction purposes has been treated with chemicals to ensure durability and resistance to the elements that will eventually test the limits of its longevity. Given that Todd Shupe also holds three degrees in forestry and wood science and was a lab director for years, it’s clear that he’s well-versed on the subject and can inform readers about the dangers of chemically-treated wood. “Todd directed a quality academic testing lab with an industrial sense of urgency,” Mike Freeman, a Memphis, Tennessee-based consultant, recently said.

In a recent article that appeared in The Chippewa Herald, a municipal government recycling specialist sounds off on the dangerous surrounding open burning of trash – including wood. The reason for her warning surrounding backyard burning is that the chemicals released during the process are sent straight into the atmosphere and aren’t treated like they would be at a specialized facility. According to the article, “untreated wood” can be burned with a permit from your local government office. Unfortunately, as Todd Shupe can tell you, untreated wood is hard to come by unless you just chopped the limb off of a tree. The chemicals used to treat wood for non-residential purposes included heavy metals such as chromim, copper, and asenic, pentachlorophenol and creosote. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all wood preservatives are subjected to periodic reviews. That’s with good reason, says Todd Shupe, who notes that creosote is absorbed into the body through breathing and can remain there after being stored in fat. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that this chemical can cause “burning in the mouth and throat as well as stomach pain.”

Fortunately, the EPA and other entities have realized the dangers of treating wood with chemicals that have an adverse effect on human health. Fortunately, there are government agencies restricting use or ditching harmful chemicals altogether. From a science standpoint, Todd Shupe says that the solution is to either dispose of chemically-treated wood in a responsible manner or find metal-free preservatives. He’s similarly encouraged by the ongoing development of metal-free wood preservatives and the use of small diameter timber for the bio-energy sector.