The University of Texas at San Antonio’s $9.95-million Large-Scale Testing Laboratory will provide space for students and researchers in the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering to test the structural integrity of systems in a realistic setting.

At the 15,000-sq-ft, 50-ft-tall facility, researchers will be able to test bridge and building components and new materials at near 100% scale.

“We do a lot of testing on things at smaller scale,” says JoAnn Browning, dean of UTSA’s College of Engineering. “It’s easier, it takes less space and it’s something that you can do with less cost. Some types of materials, especially for infrastructure, but also in other industries such as aerospace, where they use composites—those materials don’t scale as well, especially when you’re looking at a full system response, not just one element.”

UTSA’s lab has a 40-ft by 80-ft reaction floor, which ranges from 3 ft to 5 ft, 6 in. thick, providing researchers with the ability to test real-size structural systems and components, and the capability to apply test loads of up to 4 million pounds of force.

“The floor is a through-girder design. It’s one girder that’s hollow in the middle, and you can walk through the middle of it, and that’s like the basement,” Browning says. “And the top part of that hollowed beam section is the floor of the lab. It has holes in it, and you can tie down the structure that you want to test.”

Many of the tests will involve two areas of research—enhancing the resilience to extreme events of infrastructure, and smart city infrastructure, says Wassim Ghannoum, associate professor in the UTSA Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Current research funded by the Texas Dept. of Transportation is evaluating bridge strength.

The lab will fit large-scale systems and components with spans of up to 70 ft and features two 30-ton cranes.

The facility joins UTSA’s $95-million Science and Engineering Building as projects to be built at the school since 2014. SEB is still under construction and will be complete in May 2020.