Editor's Message: Bracing Origins

SBCA Magazine,

Did you ever wonder where today’s BCSI booklet came from?

One of the most important documents in the component manufacturing industry is the Building Component Safety Information (BSCI) handbook and the based on its contents. In 2023, as SBCA celebrates its 40th anniversary and as its Engineering & Technical (E&T) Committee begins the process of revising BCSI, it’s timely to delve into the history of this critical industry guidance publication.

When J. Calvin (Cal) Jureit patented the first modern steel connector plate for wood trusses in 1956 (see SBCA Magazine March/April 2022), it’s likely he didn’t anticipate the extent to which temporary and permanent bracing would be vital to the adoption and widespread use of wood trusses. It was actually Cal’s vice president of engineering, John Meeks, who realized early on that the lack of bracing guidance in the field was cause for concern.

In the late 1960s, Cal’s company, Automated Building Components, experienced a truss collapse on a project during installation. As John recounted (see SBCA Magazine May 2006), he went to investigate the collapse and realized he didn’t know enough at the time to understand why the trusses had fallen.  As he expanded his investigation, he heard from many other truss manufacturers who had experienced similar collapses. 

This prompted John to pursue the topic with a passion and to begin the process of trying to develop guidance for the field on how to effectively brace trusses during installation. He wrote his first article on truss bracing in 1976, which became the foundation for an early field bracing document, the “Green Sheet,” published by the Truss Plate Institute (TPI).

This early guidance focused heavily on the “triangulation” truss that bracing creates within a truss system. It provides resistance to trusses buckling out of plane and toppling prior to the application of sheathing. John, who became known as the “grandfather of bracing,” brought a valuable combination of technical understanding and practical real world experience to bear in the creation of early industry guidance.

John served on TPI’s Technical Advisory Committee (TPI TAC) for several years and became a driving force behind the creation of TPI’s Design of Structural Bracing (DSB-89) and its successor, Handling, Installing & Bracing of Metal Plate Connected Wood Trusses (HIB-91). These documents led to the proliferation of the orange six-page HIB-91 Summary Sheet, which became very popular in the field.

In 2003, SBCA published the first version of BCSI, broken into the 11 B-Series Summary Sheets, which was intended to replace the HIB-91 booklet. The B1 sheet was a combination of information contained in the HIB-91 Summary Sheet and the WTCA-B1 Warning Poster, and continues to serve as the anchor of today’s jobsite packages. The eight-page B2 sheet replaced the TTB WTCA-B2, and provided a more comprehensive approach to the application of temporary bracing during installation.

The biggest change contained in the original BCSI was the culmination of years of collaboration between TPI and SBCA to develop a way to incorporate the use of individual spacers as top chord temporary bracing, which was becoming a common practice in the field. The key element allowing for this change was the emphasis on diagonal bracing within the truss webs and the inclusion of ground bracing for the first set truss.

Over the past two decades, BCSI has gone through several revisions to reflect changing building codes, advancements in the industry, and feedback from the field.  Thanks to John’s early leadership and passion, and the dedication of countless industry experts who have contributed their knowledge and experience, BCSI remains well established in the building code and in the minds (and hands) of building officials.

SBCA’s E&T Committee is currently establishing working groups to review and recommend revisions for the next edition of BCSI.  If you have the same passion for truss handling and bracing as John did, please submit an application to join a working group at sbcacomponents.com

Sean D. Shields, Managing Editor