Engineering lab loads Auburn University with testing prowess

The Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University, Alabama, has strengthened its reputation as a premier structural engineering research venue with the opening of a $22 million laboratory equipped to provide solutions to growing infrastructure challenges. The 42,000-sq.-ft. Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory (ASEL) includes a high bay expanse with a strong floor specially engineered to handle extreme structural testing loads on elements up to 140 feet long; concrete materials research and testing facilities; wind testing capabilities that can replicate hurricane-level loads; plus, faculty and graduate student spaces.

PHOTOS: Auburn University
Anchor-ready penetrations placed on 2-ft. centers enable the Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory strong floor (shown from top and under sides, above and right) and 28-ft. geotechnical testing chamber (above, right rear) to load major building or infrastructure elements to failure.
The new facility is equipped to evaluate concrete or steel members—primarily for transportation projects—up to 140 feet long, more than three times the size the former lab could handle.

The ASEL’s most unique feature is the 4,700-cu.-ft. geotechnical test chamber within the strong floor footprint, one of the country’s few such assemblies included in a university laboratory. Also referred to a strong wall, the chamber allows geotechnical researchers to conduct testing on foundations, anchorages and towers previously limited to field assemblies.

Auburn’s Rabren General Contractors placed the strong floor and strong wall during respective 595-yd. and 347-yd. pours, both part of a Ready Mix USA supply contract. The floor and wall structures have tie down points, each of 200 kip pull-out capacity, on 2-ft. square grids. The floor can take four 200-kip loads at any location. The critical load case for the wall is four 220 kip load at four corners of a square.

“The Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory is a revolution. In addition to helping us secure research grants and projects, [it] will help us to recruit the best faculty and best students,” says Ginn Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Chair Andy Nowak. “What was impossible is now possible.”

“We now offer one of the best laboratories in the country—if not the best,” adds Ginn School of Engineering Associate Dean Steve Taylor. “If I’m a student who wants to be a structural engineer, this is the best place to go to school in the nation.”

Ginn College has a long and rich tradition of excellence in engineering education, officials note, consistently ranking among the top engineering institutions in the country. With enrollment exceeding 30,000, Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for commitment to scholarship, interdisciplinary research, and a solid undergraduate education experience. Faculty and research partners collaborate to deliver science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs.