WJE Opens New Technical Center

Wiss Janney Elstner Associates opened the Janney Technical Center (JTC) at the company’s Northbrook, Ill., headquarters in late July. The 70,000-sq-ft applied research facility includes a full array of chemistry, petrography, metallurgy, concrete and mortar, corrosion and structural testing laboratories and environmental exposure chambers. The technical center also includes an 8,000-sq-ft structural laboratory with a crane and rail system for large-scale testing of everything from full building wall samples to bridge retrofits being tested before field placement.

“We [previously] had several buildings where a lot of testing was done, and over the past three to five years, we’ve been reviewing how to update those spaces, including renovating our existing office,” says Steve Zimmerman, associate principal at WJE. “At the end of the day, it was decided that getting everybody under one roof in a brand new facility was the best way to achieve our objectives and serve our clients.”

The original JTC laboratory in the Chicago area was constructed in 1962 and was one-fourth the size of the one that’s replacing it. WJE also has laboratories in Austin, Texas, and Cleveland.

Zimmerman said that allowing WJE’s architects and engineers to mingle and work directly with the firm’s scientists and other laboratory staff was another reason to co-locate. 

“In addition to testing, this building includes spaces where we can calibrate or set up equipment that might be deployed in the field, like accelerometers, data acquisition systems or building health monitoring systems,” Zimmerman says. “Putting sensors and monitors together, writing a program for data acquisition, that all happens here. The guys that are out in the field, whose offices are all here, can just walk over and work with the scientists now.”

From the specialized laboratory spaces in the new addition, WJE’s architects, engineers and materials scientists can use tools such as electron microscopes to study both materials and processes. The services the Janney Technical Center can provide include structural testing and evaluation, materials testing and evaluation, facade testing and evaluation, petrographic and microscopic evaluation, thermal analysis, chemical testing, metallurgical testing, corrosion analysis, fatigue and fracture analysis, nondestructive testing and evaluation, instrumentation and load testing, code compliance testing and testing and identification of Chinese drywall.

“With the testing we can do here, you can prep and grind samples of stone and concrete so thin that light can pass through,” Zimmerman says.  “Light is actually coming through it under the microscope. Some of the colors give you the different minerals that might be within the stone or concrete samples. That’s the level of detail we can get here.”

In addition to the new lab space, the technical center also serves as the data center for all of WJE’s 26 worldwide offices. The company built its network and data storage space to increase WJE’s server space, upgrade its equipment and improve security and reliability.

“All of the data that we collect in the building itself and everything we are bringing in from the field is stored here,” Zimmerman says. “We just have a lot of data that we have to store and keep for a while.”

The new addition also allowed WJE to reorganize its office space and display some museum pieces from the firm’s history, such as the original HP desktop calculator computers that its engineers used in the 1960s.

Certifications that the technical center meets include ASME NQA, ISO/IEC 17020 (2012), ISO/IEC 17025 (2005) and AASHTO Standard Practice R18, City of Los Angeles approved testing agency and Miami-Dade County test laboratory certification.