As the Trussed Rafter Association (TRA) enters its 10th anniversary year it does so with a new secretary at the helm.

Susan Farrow, formerly a technical consultant with TRADA, has replaced Peter Grimsdale who, over the past eight years, has steered the association from being a fledgling organisation to a voice of authority in the industry.

This, Mr Grimsdale said, would not have been possible without the endeavour and unflagging support of the membership, adding that ongoing promotional effort has ensured that tens of thousands of users and specifiers are now aware of member companies and their services.

Mr Grimsdale said that one astonishing fact to emerge during his time as secretary is that the number of trusses produced for “room in the roof” construction has increased from probably less than 5% of the market for domestic trusses to around 30%. This, he said, reflects the change of habits in the housebuilding industry, with more builders now attempting to optimise space.

Another change, he said, is that around 40% of housing starts are now flats and apartments, reducing the number of potential roofs.

“How fortunate it is then that TRA and its membership have worked hard to establish products in the small commercial market such as supermarkets, schools, and offices,” said Mr Grimsdale.

“The upshot has been that the numerical market for trussed rafters has remained more or less steady, while the value for attic and commercial trusses has increased – a trend the TRA must continue to encourage.”

Health and safety initiative

But, said Mr Grimsdale, these trends bring their own difficulties. The increased size and weight of trusses led to increased pressure from the health and safety authorities – and TRA has taken the unprecedented step of working alongside the HSE to achieve a more consistent approach to the application of the rules.

Mrs Farrow said that the TRA now represents the manufacturers of the majority of truss rafters produced in the UK. It has undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at raising standards and developing best practice, including the condition that all members have to meet mandatory requirements for quality assurance and professional indemnity insurance.

The TRA also produces a range of publications such as the Site Installation Guide technical handbook and product data sheets covering issues including room in the roof trusses and the health and safety aspects of delivering and installing trussed rafters.

Mrs Farrow said: “These publications, together with the TRA’s website which receives more than 2,000 visits a month, provide an excellent information source for members, specifiers and builders alike, and also enables the industry to showcase some of the wide range of applications that trussed rafters are used for.”

She explained that while the majority of truss rafters are used in domestic roofs, they are becoming increasingly common in public, commercial and industrial buildings where increased spans and new configurations can be produced to provide exciting shapes.

“This ability to cope with complex designs and the availability of spans of around 20m enables them to compete effectively with alternative materials such as steel and concrete,” she said, adding that future growth in these new applications, and especially room in the roof trusses, looks set to continue due to the need to optimise building land.

Mrs Farrow said a key role of the TRA is to work closely with building authorities and relevant UK and European standards committees to ensure the needs of the industry are fully represented – and then disseminate the information to its members.

“This year has seen the replacement of BS 1059 with BS EN 14250, the product standard to which all trusses should be made in Europe and with that the option of CE marking.

“Other standards are being developed or revised, including BS 5268 Part 3 and its eventual replacement with Eurocode 5. The TRA has a role to play both in advising its members of the changes and raising issues that affect them through its representation on various technical committees,” she said.


Mrs Farrow’s first aim is to continue to promote the use of truss rafters to specifiers, builders and contractors. She also wants to increase TRA membership.

“Training is another area that the TRA is keen to promote,” she said. “People are a valuable asset and training has a central role to play in both their development and in business success.”

The TRA has recently commissioned research within the industry to identify the need and degree of support for specialised training. If members agree, the aim will be to develop a flexible and cost-effective training resource that will address their needs.

Mrs Farrow said another issue of increasing relevance to the industry is the environment.

“There is growing pressure from both private and public specifiers to use material from sustainable sources and trussed rafters, like other wood products, will need to show they have good environmental credentials.”

But she gave an assurance that the TRA will continue to act as a conduit on this and other issues to enable members to stay abreast of any changes.