Auburn University dedicated the new standard for structural engineering research laboratories today.
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Located at the corner of West Samford Avenue and Shug Jordan Parkway, the new $22 million Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory (ASEL) is a state-of-the-art 42,000-square-foot facility that 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.
The lab allows for elements up to 140 feet long and features a 4,700-cubic-foot geotechnical test chamber within the strong floor footprint — the only such test chamber 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.
Auburn University President Jay Gogue, one of several university officials who spoke at the Friday afternoon event, described the ASEL as “a beacon for research, leading the nation and the world in groundbreaking technological advancements in structures and load resistance testing.”
“The Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory is the next step in elevating Auburn University’s prestige,” Gogue told the more than 200 attendees. “It will allow for our exemplary faculty to find life-saving solutions to extreme events by creating more sound buildings, bridges, towers, pipelines and machinery that can withstand the forces of nature. And the new Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory provides a unique, hands-on learning experience for our students.”
Auburn University Trustee Charles McCrary, ’73 mechanical engineering, also took the podium to praise the lab’s potential.
“This is a world-class lab that in my opinion is second to none,” said McCary, retired president and chief executive officer of Alabama Power Company. “We can make this world a safer place because of this facility. It's an engineer's dream."
Though that dream has been a reality since the ASEL opened its doors late last year, College of Engineering administrators postponed the dedication due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christopher B. Roberts, dean of engineering, thinks the delay may have worked out for the best.
“While this dedication ceremony was delayed, I am actually glad it is taking place now that the laboratory is already being utilized,” Roberts told the audience. “Now you can see the equipment we have set up across the laboratory, and I would challenge you to find a graduate student after our program and ask them about the great projects they are undertaking in this space.”
The only thing graduate student Dan Jackson, who will graduate this fall, dislikes about the ASEL is how little he’ll be able to use it.
“I won’t have much of a chance to really use this facility,” Jackson said from the podium. “But this lab will definitely be a draw to top graduate students all around the world as it provides the opportunity to work at a state-of-the-art facility and participate in innovative research.”
Steve Taylor, associate engineering dean for research, agrees.
“We now offer one of the best laboratories in the country — if not the best,” he 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.”