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Trussed Rafter Association: Nick Boulton Interview

With trussed rafters a mainstay of the construction industry, we spoke to Nick Boulton, chief executive of the Trussed Rafter Association (TRA) about how they fit into the timber sector and the associations plans for 2022.

 The TRA and its members represent a key part of the construction sector. Trussed rafters provide the structural framework to support the roof fabric and ceilings for the vast majority of homes in the UK and as such are an essential element of the UK’s housing infrastructure. Metal web technology also provides an exciting opportunity for the floors, walls and roofs of the future where there will be a need to incorporate more services and increase thermal performance.

“The TRA represents the trussed rafter and metal web joist industry in the UK and Ireland by offering advice and guidance on technical issues, training, and health and safety,” says Nick.   “One of our objectives is to encourage architects, engineers and specifiers to choose trussed rafters and metal web joists as their preferred products.

“We collaborate with key organisations in the housebuilding industry to raise standards. Our members are committed to the TRA’s stringent standards of quality and service which means that if you’re a housebuilder buying trussed rafters from a TRA member, you get peace of mind in the knowledge that they have been vetted and approved by the industry’s leading professional association.

“Trussed rafters and metal web use similar materials and components, as both use structural timber and pressed steel connectors. However, the software and the types of connectors are very different meaning that each requires its own set of design skills and timber engineering equipment.  Most current TRA members provide both products although we are seeing an increasing number of new manufacturers who are specialising in metal web.”

Designing a new career
There are many career routes available to people who join the trussed rafter industry with the Careers in Timber Engineering campaign showcasing the wide variety of jobs on offer. How can timber engineering be presented as a more interesting and rewarding career choice for new entrants?

“There are roles for people of all types and at all levels,” says Nick. “There are jobs in management and support roles and work that’s creative or strategic. If you’re more interested in practical, hands-on work, then there are jobs on the factory floor that would really appeal.  People who want to make a positive difference to society can play their part as they’ll be contributing to a very sustainable, low-carbon method of creating homes. The great thing about our industry is that you can have a worthwhile career with plenty of opportunity to develop and gain professional qualifications.”

The TRA has been running online courses in association with Edinburgh Napier University for several years. It has now developed the Designer Development Programme – how will this be structured and how will it create a new generation of timber engineering specialists?

“The new Designer Development Programme bridges the gap between these online courses and everyday practical design skills, offering a structured professional development scheme for designers. Trainees work their way through designer training levels 1-4 by completing workbooks in real time using the design scenarios they are currently working on. These are assessed by a fully trained inhouse assessor. They then move to the advanced levels 5-7 where their work is assessed by a registered TRA designated assessor. We are now developing a similar training scheme to meet the needs of metal web joist designers.”

You can read the full feature in the Summer Timber Construction magazine

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