Understanding Wood and Wood Products Course

Learn in this online course about wood as a building material from its cell structure to its properties. Understand the many ways to protect it, and the wood-based materials that are available for today’s buildings. This course is available to anyone on a per-credit fee basis.

Where To Sign Up

You can find this course and register for it here:

Course Description

Wood 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 bio-deterioration.

This course introduces students to the physical and mechanical properties of wood. It provides an overview of wood-based products and exposes students to structural systems in wood. Basic techniques for physical measurement and mechanical testing are introduced by conducting and analyzing several laboratory experiments.

You can take this course on its own or part of the Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Building Construction or our Master’s in Sustainable Building Systems.

Weeks / Topics

  1. Introduction / History of Wood Construction
  2. Where Does our Wood Come From? / Wood and Sustainability
  3. Wood Anatomy: Tree Features and Grain Figure
  4. Wood Anatomy: Cells and Microstructure
  5. Physical Properties: Wood and Water
  6. Why Wood Shrinks and What We Can Do About It /
    Density and Other Physical Properties
  7. Mechanical Properties: Intro / How Strong is Wood?
  8. Mechanical Properties: Anisotropy and Strengths
  9. Mechanical Properties: What Affects Strength
  10. Wood Durability and Protection / What “Creepy, Crawly and Hot” Stuff Does to Wood
  11. Wood and Fire / Protecting Wood
  12. Wood-Based Products and Their Properties: Sawn Wood Products
  13. Wood-Based Products and Their Properties: Engineered Wood Products

Learning Outcomes

  • Appreciation for the qualities of wood as a building material through evaluation of its properties, manufacturing techniques and aesthetic appeal
  • Awareness of properties that affect the performance of wood. In particular, understanding of the wood-moisture relationship
  • Understanding of typical and potential applications of wood
  • Awareness 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
  • Awareness of importance of experimental verification of material properties
  • Introduction into structural testing equipment, wood drying, and laboratory measurements


None, but students should have a previous degree (in any field) or be current graduate students.

Course Format

This course is delivered online through the UMass Amherst learning management systems. A lab component included in this course can be completed virtually. This course can be taken asynchronously or synchronously.

Dates and Cost

Fall Term (September-December, 13 weeks)

  • ECO 624: $1,893 ($631/credit) plus an $85 term fee (2024 rates)

Where To Sign Up

You can find this course and register for it here: