Gulf of Mexico
via U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

MS - Unique ERDC facility allows researchers the opportunity for large-scale structural testing

VICKSBURG, Miss. – There are many ways to test the load-bearing capability of structures, and fortunately, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) has a unique facility to accomplish this task.

When building structures, from bridges to parking garages to office complexes, it is important to know that the structures will withstand the loads they were designed to bear. Usually, this is accomplished by following building codes and design guides, but new designs constructed of novel materials can require additional testing.

The ERDC’s Structural Strong Floor, operated by the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL), is a 120-foot by 40-foot indoor space with a floor constructed of two-foot-thick reinforced concrete. It has anchor points located every three feet on-center to facilitate full-scale testing.

Additionally, the floor is equipped with six actuators, each with a capacity range of 110,000 to 550,000 pounds. These actuators can run independently or together, using a computer-controlled manifold to simulate complex loading patterns.

“Although there are other strong floors around the country, the ERDC’s Structural Strong Floor is completely modular,” said Dr. Kennan Crane, research civil engineer in ERDC-GSL’s Structural Engineering Branch (StEB). This allows us to re-configure the actuators based on the test we are performing. We can test a variety of structures under varying load scenarios.”

The purpose of the Structural Strong Floor is to be able to push or pull on structures in any direction, with up to one million pounds of force. The floor is capable of fatigue/durability testing, impact testing, quasi-static testing and dynamic testing.

Two general scenarios are evaluated using the Structural Strong Floor. In some tests, the ERDC engineers and scientists use designs based on previous knowledge. These tests take pre-existing data and look to build upon existing design codes and models.

Other experiments evaluate new or cutting-edge structural designs or materials that have never been tested before. The ERDC uses the Structural Strong Floor to ensure the new designs and concepts will perform as expected in the real world.

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