Auburn debuts $22 million state-of-the-art structural engineering laboratory

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Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory

Auburn University strengthened its reputation as the premier destination for structural engineering research on Monday by opening the doors on a $22 million state-of-the-art laboratory that will provide solutions to the nation’s growing infrastructure issues for years to come.

“The new Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory is a revolution in structural engineering,” said Andy Nowak, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “What was impossible is now possible.”

Located at the corner of West Samford Avenue and Shug Jordan Parkway, the 42,000-square-foot Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory, or ASEL, includes a high bay laboratory with a strong wall and strong floor specially engineered to handle extreme structural testing loads; a geotechnical chamber within the strong floor; a concrete materials research and testing laboratory; wind testing capabilities that can replicate hurricane-level loads; and faculty and graduate student spaces. 

Another attractive aspect? Ease of access. Due to its location, the university’s previous structural testing laboratory in the Harbert Center could only accommodate elements up to 40 feet in length. The new facility allows for elements up to 140 feet long.

Additionally, the new lab’s floor is twice as large and features anchor points that hold more than 10 times the load as the floor in the previous lab. The former structural laboratory in the Harbert Center will be repurposed for other academic and research use.

But the ASEL’s most unique feature may be the 4,700-cubic-foot geotechnical test chamber within the strong floor footprint—one of the few test chambers in the nation included in a university laboratory—that will allow the department’s geotechnical researchers to conduct testing on foundations, anchorages and towers previously only possible in the field.

“In addition to helping us secure research grants and projects, the ASEL will help us to recruit the best faculty and the best students,” Nowak said.

Steve Taylor, Engineering’s associate dean for research, agrees.

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

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